Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Strap on your helmets all you hockey fans

We're in for a really big day

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Good morning. Welcome to Judgment Day.After all, around 10 p.m. tonight, we could have ourselves the AHL champion Hershey Bears, the Stanley Cup champion Detroit Red Wings and, well, the NHL's Hamilton Coyotes.

So strap on your helmets as we take a peek at the consequences that could befall North American hockey fans by sunset...

Let's begin with Game 5 in Hershey, where the Manitoba Moose are up to their antlers in trouble trailing the Hershey Bears 3-1 in Manitoba's first Calder Cup final.

Come on, this isn't the way it's going to end, is it? All the way in Pennsylvania, after just two rowdy nights at the sold-out MTS Centre? I mean, when the Moose trundled down to Hershey after splitting Games 1 and 2, the overwhelming consensus was, at worst, the Cup would be decided in Winnipeg. After all, neither team was expected to sweep in Hershey.

Yet here we are, with the Moose managing to score just one goal in two successive losses against a 20-year-old son of the Czech Republic named Michal Neuvirth.

Bad enough that Saturday and Tuesday's games were scheduled up against the Wings and Penguins, but the prospect of a third straight Moose loss -- against the alternative of hosting Games 6 and 7 at the MTS Centre -- might be too painful for the club to comprehend.

Imagine the buzz a prolonged series would generate in Winnipeg. Heck, just imagine the gate it would generate.

Besides, while only three teams in AHL history have survived trailing a series 3-1, how many of them would have played the final two games at home in front of 15,000?

Monumental

Talk about a monumental, watershed moment for a 13-year-old Moose franchise.

Other than that, there's not much riding on Game 5.

Then there's Game 6 in Pittsburgh, where the Wings are threatening to oust the upstart Penguins for the second consecutive year. (Boy, there's going to be some hockey played in Pennsylvania tonight, eh?)

In order to prevent a Wings repeat, Sid and the Gang will have to manage consecutive victories over a team that seems to have to continually remind the doubters of its incredible, unyielding depth.

Seriously, have you seen Darren Helm lately? We know he's not a household name, for the most part, outside of the family home in St. Andrews. But Helm has been a significant factor in the final. He's got world-class wheels, leads the Wings most night in hits and chips in with some monster goals every so often.

No, not a superstar. But Helm is Kris Draper with better hands. And to think he was picked 132nd overall in 2005. In fact, in the last three years, Helm has been to a Memorial Cup final (with Medicine Hat), won gold for Team Canada's juniors in Leksand, Sweden, captured a Stanley Cup with Detroit last year and is now one victory away from a second. And he's only 22 years old.

Finally, we close with Chapter 11 in Phoenix, where today Judge Redfield T. Baum is expected to decide the fate of the Phoenix Coyotes -- even though you get the sense Baum would rather not, given the potential consequences.

It's not an outcome that will involve parades or championship rings or kissing large, silver trophies. But it could go a long way in shaking the pillars of every professional sports league in North America to their foundations.

But, hey, that's Jim Balsillie's, Gary Bettman's and Judge Baum's problem.

Go Moose.

randy.turner@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition June 9, 2009 B7

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About Randy Turner

While attending Boissevain High School in the late 1970’s, Randy Turner one day read an account of a Winnipeg Jets game in the Free Press when it dawned on him: "Really, you can get paid to watch sports?"

Turner later graduated with a spectacularly mediocre 2.3 GPA from Red River Community College’s Creative Communications program. 

After jobs at the Stonewall Argus and Selkirk Journal, he began working on the Rural page for the Free Press in 1987. Several years later, he realized his dream of watching sports for a living covering the Winnipeg Goldeyes and Bombers.

In 2001, Turner became a general sports columnist, where he watched Canada win its first Olympic gold medal in men’s hockey in 50 years at Salt Lake, then watched them win again in Vancouver in 2010.

He also watched everything from high school hockey and volleyball championship to several Grey Cups, NHL finals and World Junior hockey tournaments.

In the fall of 2011, Turner became a general features writer for the paper. But he still watches way too much sports.

Turner has been nominated for three National Newspaper Awards in sports writing.

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