CHICAGO - All 24 of the Flyers' players sauntered into the United Center yesterday in dress pants and matching, loud orange sweat shirts. Just below their right shoulder, each player's number was pressed onto the sweat shirt.
A 2010 Stanley Cup final logo was on the left sleeve.
The sweat shirts are a long way from the T-shirts the Flyers have been wearing since April 12, the ones that said, "Don't Stop 'Till You Get Enough," the title of a Michael Jackson song that blares in their locker room after each win.
Those shirts had the Stanley Cup on the back of them. Now, the Flyers have landed in Chicago ready to play for it.
"I think it just started [to sink in]," Simon Gagne said. "I've been in the league now for 10 years, and I've never had a chance to be here. It's all new for me. To see all of the media, the attention . . . you realize that you're here right now and we're getting closer to Game 1."
The Flyers enter this series - seven games for Lord Stanley's mug - as enormous underdogs. They've seen the betting lines, they know that fans need to wager $240 on the Blackhawks just to win back $100. That's more than 2-to-1.
But that doesn't bother this team.
"We've been underdogs throughout these series," Michael Leighton said. "It doesn't change at all how we play."
"Obviously, we know that they have a good team. We respect that they have a good team," Danny Briere said. "But we can't give them too much respect. We still have to go out and get things done."
Chris Pronger said it does not come down to pitting underdogs against favorites - that those terms don't have any impact on the psyche of a team.
"Really, it's just knowing in the locker room you're going to win," Pronger said, "Having that sense, that feeling that you can win. I don't think we've ever felt we've been out of any game; no matter what the score, we always feel like we have a chance to win. Whether we're up 4-0, or down 4-0, we're going to play the same way and continue to fight."
Staring at a media gaggle surrounding him with voice recorders and microphones, Blackhawks star Patrick Kane said it finally hit him that he was in the Stanley Cup finals.
For Kane, 21, yesterday's media day was a different animal than the All-Star game and the Olympics.
"Right now it's setting in," Kane said. "It's a huge deal. Seems like it's bigger than the Olympics to me right now, to be honest with you. It's going to be a long series. It's not just one game.
"It's going to be exciting. How could it not be? The city's on fire. You walk around Chicago and everyone's rooting for the Blackhawks, everyone's expecting good things."
Kane wasn't the only starstruck Blackhawk yesterday. Many of the Blackhawks seemed tense, especially when compared to the Flyers - the heavy underdogs according to Vegas Vic - who were observed laughing and joking.
"It's felt like the longest week ever waiting for this game [tomorrow] night," Jonathan Toews said. "We're just trying to save our energy for now. Every time you think about the end result, it's still so far away. This is it. This is the big show."
Making history the wrong way
On Saturday, Chicago forward Marian Hossa will become the first player in NHL history to play in three straight Stanley Cup finals with three different teams. But he has never won.
Hossa represented Pittsburgh in 2008 and Detroit in 2009. That left him with an uneasy feeling yesterday.
"Obviously, it's very interesting being there three times with three different teams," Hossa said. "It's really unique. This is the time. I definitely want to win this time, and being in the finals, definitely want to touch the trophy. I want to make sure we have a better finish this time."
Hossa has dominated the Flyers in past playoffs, posting a 3-0 series record and 24 points in 16 games while with Ottawa and Pittsburgh.
No NHL coach has more experience and more playoff wins without appearing in the finals than Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville, whose playoff record is 63-57 in 120 career games . . . Just two players, Montreal's Roman Hamrlik (1,322 games) and Minnesota's Owen Nolan (1,265), have played more games without winning a Cup than Ian Laperriere (1,144) . . . The road team from each of the three Winter Classics played (Pittsburgh, Detroit, Flyers) have advanced to the Stanley Cup finals that year . . . The Flyers finished 18th overall in the NHL in the regular season, a full 15 places behind Chicago - tying the biggest gap between teams that have met in the finals. In 2002, runner-up Carolina was 15th and Detroit finished first.
"It's unfinished business. Yeah, we are happy with what we accomplished so far. But we still want more. We want the big trophy at the end. We've got 2 weeks left in our season, basically. And so we just have to put everything out there. We've got plenty enough time after that for rest." - Flyers forward Simon Gagne.