THEIR NAMES ARE carried on the winds out of western Canada, and Ontario and Quebec. Their legends are close behind.
These boys are known across every province of Canada, in every town and village and in those quaintly named Canadian cities of Moose Jaw and Medicine Hat and Red Deer.
They are the Great One or the Next One. They are the next great Canadian hockey players. They are the chosen ones, the ones who can skate like the wind, or shoot the puck with uncanny precision. They are graced with instinct like no others. They see the entire ice surface all at once, and they see plays unfold before they happen. They are strong in ways not defined by muscle. Their strength comes from within - a beating heart, a resourceful and willful mind.
Soon, American hockey fans know them. Soon, everybody knows them.
They are Bobby Orr. Wayne Gretzky. Guy Lafleur. Mario Lemieux. Eric Lindros.
They all are Stanley Cup winners.
As Philadelphians this week uncomfortably mark the 25th anniversary of the city's last professional championship, we are reminded of this. We had the Next One, Eric Lindros, in our grasp, wearing orange and black. He took the Flyers to the 1997 Cup finals, but no champagne.
That the relationship between Lindros and the Flyers ended with too much drama and not enough victories isn't relevant to our 25-year title drought. Hockey rewards the superstar with the shiny, silver Stanley Cup. That's the way it is, the way it always has been. That Lindros came up empty and so did the Flyers is a painful reminder for a city that hasn't won anything since May 31, 1983, a generation ago.
Now, in Pittsburgh, the next great one has arrived in Sidney Crosby, Sid the Kid. He is in the finals at age 21. A Stanley Cup looks to be part of his future.
Remember when we thought that, too? *
- Chuck Bausman