June 4, 2007 / 9:47 PM / in 12 years

Ottawa captivated by Stanley Cup finals return

OTTAWA (Reuters) - After waiting 80 years for the Stanley Cup finals to return to Ottawa, long suffering Senators fans have savored every moment of an ice hockey celebration that has captivated the Canadian capital.

Following an exhausting weekend of non-stop partying, Ottawa was gearing up for more fun on a rainy Monday while the Senators prepared to face the Anaheim Ducks in Game Four of the Stanley Cup finals.

Since the Senators claimed the Eastern conference title to reach the finals for the first time in the modern era, there has been no escaping the Stanley Cup fever that has whipped this normally staid city into a hockey frenzy.

From Prime Minister Stephen Harper to the city’s homeless, the Senators have commanded the attention of the 750,000 residents who make their home on the banks of the Ottawa river.

Harper, who is writing a book of hockey trivia, attended the Senators 5-3 Game Three win on Saturday before leaving for the G8 summit.

The Prime Minister’s office confirmed arrangements had been made for Harper and his entourage to watch Game Four in Berlin on Monday. The city’s homeless shelters have also been showing the games on television.

Politics and hockey appear strange bedfellows but are usually the two main subjects of conversation in the Canadian capital. Occasionally they combine, as they did last month when parliament debated long and hard over Shane Doan’s selection as Team Canada captain for the recent world hockey championships in Russia.

While there are few signs in Anaheim that the NHL’s showcase event is being staged in Southern California as well as in Canada, in Ottawa it is almost impossible to escape the buzz.

Senators jerseys are de rigueur while team flags whip from nearly every car and truck.

It is difficult to pass a store that does not have a ‘Go Sens’ sign prominently displayed in the window while one of the city’s main streets has renamed the “Sens Mile” for the Stanley Cup finals providing a place for fans to meet and party.

HOCKEY UNIVERSE

There is no disputing Ottawa lies at the centre of the hockey universe this week but Canadian interest extends well beyond the city limits.

While television audiences have been small in the U.S., in the north millions of hockey-mad Canadians have been watching, hoping the Senators can end a 14-year drought for the country where the sport was born.

The Canadian capital is the treasured trophy’s home.

The Stanley Cup was conceived in Ottawa in 1892 when the Governor General, Lord Stanley of Preston, offered to donate a challenge cup that ice hockey teams in the Dominion of Canada would play for each year.

Trailing the best-of-seven final after two one-goal defeats in Anaheim, the Senators returned home where they received a much need emotional lift from a capacity crowd at Scotiabank Place that helped carry them to a Game Three win.

“The crowd helped us out, no question,” said Senators captain Daniel Alfredsson. “It was a big lift. It’s the loudest I’ve seen this place.

“We’ve been sitting in the dressing room before warmup.

“We could hear them and they were chanting and they were definitely giving us a lot of energy.”

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