STEINBACH -- One former NHLer will get his chance here today, but it's the one who has been denied that's perhaps the most interesting storyline.
Russell's Theoren Fleury, who spent his winter shuttling between Calgary and Steinbach in a bid to win an Allan Cup, saw all that time and effort extinguished last night as his North Stars club fell 4-2 in the semifinals the South East Prairie Thunder.
The result is a dejected Fleury will have to watch today as Grunthal's Thunder take on Brent Sutter's Bentley Generals in the final of the Allan Cup, the 101-year-old symbol of senior hockey supremacy in Canada.
Fleury, who reprised his role as agitator last night in what ultimately proved to be a failed bid to get a disciplined Thunder squad off their game, said late last night he had no regrets about his Allan Cup run this year.
"It was fun to play, it was fun to compete again and it was great to play in front of sold-out buildings," said Fleury, a Stanley Cup champion and Olympic gold medallist. "The tournament was a success and I can take a lot from that -- that I was here and people came out to watch me play. It was a lot of fun."
And intense, particularly after the second period last night when Fleury first called out the entire South East team and then, on his way off the ice, took a couple steps into the stands to yell at some spectators
Fleury was philosophical in defeat.
"I've been fortunate to have a lot of winning experiences... I'm OK with it, I'll move on and look forward to the next opportunity."
The next opportunity for the Thunder is the best opportunity they may ever get -- a chance to win it all this afternoon.
But to do that, they'll have to be even better today than they were last night to beat a Bentley team that has looked every bit a juggernaut.
But they've defied expectations this far and goalkeeper Brent Zelenewich -- who was spectacular once again last night, turning away 42 of 44 shots -- said they'll need to do it just one more time. "No one has had very high expectations of us, but we know in that room what we're capable of."
There's no question in anyone's mind here this week what the Generals are capable of.
Sutter's team is like the coach and his famous hockey family -- tough as nails, relentless, disciplined, a bit nasty and very, very passionate.
It's a team in Sutter's own image and it looks big and scary heading into the final having outscored their opponents 22-5 in three games at the Canadian senior hockey championship this week.
The Generals hammered Thunder Bay 8-1 in the semifinal last night to advance to today title game.
Today's final will be broadcast live on TSN-2 beginning at 3 p.m. and then tape-delayed at 11:30 p.m. on the full TSN network.
Sutter, the oldest of the six pro hockey playing brothers from Viking, Alta., has a rare opportunity to do something no one in his family has ever done before on a sheet of hockey ice, win the Allan Cup.
And that's saying something in a family that has won six Stanley Cups and played a combined total of more than 5,000 games in the NHL.
"When I was a little boy, winning an Allan Cup -- besides winning a Stanley Cup -- that was it," says Sutter, who ranches just 15 kilometres from the town of Bentley, near Red Deer. "The Allan Cup means a lot to me."