OTTAWA (CP) - Eighty years of pent-up frustration was released into the streets of Canada's capital Saturday, propelling even some of the country's most staid citizens into what could only be described as extreme equanimity after the Ottawa Senators earned the right to fight for Lord Stanley's mug for the first time since 1927.
Tactical police were called out after thousands of red-clad Senators fans spilled out onto the city's bar and restaurant strip on Elgin Ave. But they wore smiles along with their dark uniforms and black leather gloves.
Asked if he was expecting trouble, one idle officer unfolded his arms long enough to chortle.
"Are you kidding?" he asked, from behind his wrap-around shades.
"We'll see what happens in the wee hours when people have finished drinking."
But there was none of the drunkenness of Edmonton's Whyte Avenue. There was none of the nudity that studded Calgary's Red Mile.
There were honking horns and sun-splashed revellers caked in Senators'-red grease paint high-fiving strangers wandering through the middle of a thoroughfare that was suddenly closed to vehicular traffic.
And there was a dancing senator of the parliamentary variety rather than the hockey variety.
The celebratory ditties wafting out of the open doors of Hooley's bar were enough to compel Senator Jim Munson into what might be kindly construed as a latter-day funky chicken in mid-boulevard. That earned him the approbation or admonition of a passing parliamentary staffer unused to seeing the member of the chamber for sober second thought looking so unparliamentary.
Senator Munson, clad in shorts and golf shirt, was unperturbed.
"Never in my life have I been so proud to be an Ottawa senator."
The pride replaced near-panic during the game. A spectacular Saturday had windows open across the city. The groans and gasps spilled out into the streets after Ottawa fell behind 1-0, sprinted to a 2-1 lead late in the second period and lost that lead in the third when the Buffalo Sabres tied the contest and sent it into overtime.
Too often the Senators had gone into the playoffs as favourites and emerged as gagging goats choking on playoff pressure. Twice they've faced the loathed Toronto Maple Leafs in recent years and twice they've suffered ignominious defeats.
But the roars rained down on the Rideau canal after Daniel Alfredsson scored the overtime goal that ended the Buffalo series and sent the Senators to the Stanley Cup final.
Down went the BlackBerrys and out came the Senators flags as Ottawans waded onto Bank Street, Elgin and onto Parliament Hill to celebrate.
Many of them insisted there was never a doubt in their minds.
"We were confident they could do it," said Barb Kates, who headed to Elgin Street along with pal Tara Shields, after celebrating with a glass of champagne. "That is why the Veuve was on ice. We uncorked that baby as soon as Alfie scored that sweet goal. We are going all the way this year."
The players appeared to enjoy the burst of enthusiasm from their fans. Several hundred lined the road outside Ottawa's airport in the evening after the Senators' plane touched down from Buffalo. Several of them rolled down the darkened windows of their BMWs and Range Rovers to smile and wave at their public.
"This is the year Ottawa found itself on the world map," said Tara Shields.
"I am out of my mind with happiness."