By Nick Bakay
Page 2

It has been a decade since a Canadian team has even reached the finals, but the Calgary Flames upset three division champs to earn the right to hoist a nation's hopes on their shoulders. They also get to square off with the Tampa Bay Lightning -- a team that, despite its rabid local following, embodies the way American has stolen the game. Think about it: Canada's national pastime is going head to head with a team from ... Florida?

Canadians must be experiencing that same shtoinky feeling we had when the Blue Jays won the World Series, and can you blame them? Current TV ratings indicate that the average American thinks "Laying hands on Lord Stanley's Cup" is the kind of DVD best kept away from the young 'uns.

It's a damn shame. The NHL offers the greatest playoff game going -- 60 bucket empty minutes of passion, contact, and skill, yet its stateside popularity languishes in a Nielsen quagmire somewhere between "The Weather Channel" and reruns of "MacGyver." It's no wonder Canada wants the cup back, and why this year's final goes beyond the game into the delicate territory that is nation against nation.

Full disclosure time: Growing up five minutes from the Peace bridge in Buffalo, I've been on the business end of hurtful comments from my Canadian neighbors. That being said, my mom's Canadian -- born in Alberta, which is also home province to the Flames. Throw it all in the gumbo and it makes me twisted, conflicted, and objective. So let's get it on: America versus Canada, let's see how they stack up at the tale of the tape ...

Tale of the Tape: USA vs. Canada
Populations:   300 million, legal.   30 million and change.   Canada. Have you tried driving to Vegas on Memorial Day lately?
Jinxes:   Andreychuk didn't touch the conference champ trophy   Iginla did   America
The last five minutes:   In the NBA, the last five minutes means 17 intentional fouls and the excitement that is the free throw!   In hockey, the refs throw away their whistles and let 'em play!   Canada
Arena banners:   A sun-bronzed cup with the admonition "Stanley needs a tan!"   "Americans think Icing is what Tony Soprano does to his mistress when she talks too much"   Canada
The ice in June:   Slurpy   Slicker than a Tim Hortons glazed cruller   Canada
Insults that could cause a donneybrook in the loge:   Any chance we could trade Celine Dion back to you guys for future considerations?   Nice war, eh?   Push
What locals feverishly wish for:   Jessie Palmer to go back to Canada   American TV   America
Nation's current popularity world wide:   One step below Omarosa   Huh? Who?   Canada
Our long national nightmare is over:   Trump's eyebrows in prime time   The neutral zone trap   Canada
We have them to blame for:   Musical theater.   The Mullet surviving Y2K.   Push
Top export:   Everything good that the world wants!   Um ... Bachman Turner Overdrive?   America
Phrases they have added to the English language:   "Seacrest out!"   "Kick save and a beauty!"   Canada
Televised images they can never un-see:   A Fear Factor model eating a maggot fritter   Don Cherry's wardrobe   Canada
Stolen video vixens:   Paris Hilton   Pamela Anderson   Canada
Yes, people really buy tickets to see:   NASCAR   Professional Indoor Lacrosse   Push
Rousing stadium anthems:   Van Halen, the David Lee Roth years.   Mr. Gordon Lightfoot, the "Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald" years.   America
Kids dream of:   Growing up to be a rapper   Growing up to be a stay-at-home defenseman   Canada
Anthropomorphism:   The Vermont Teddy bear   That talking Labatt's bear   Canada -- Hey, like a talking cat's gonna dis a talking bear?!
End their sentences with:   "no'm say'n?"   "eh?"   Push
Shame on us:   We want to rule the world   Quebec wants rule itself   Push
Great moments in leader peccadillos:   President cavorts with an intern   Prime Minister's wife cavorts with Jagger   Canada -- together, Maggie & Mick didn't outweigh the intern ...
Riddle me this?:   Many speak Spanish but use American dollars   Many speak French, but have pictures of the Queen of England on their money   Push
Haven't been the same since:   The Miracle win of the 1980 Olympics   SCTV went off the air   Push
Salutations:   Refers to Canada as 'our friends to the north'   Refers to USA as 'our slap-happy cousins to the south'   Push
Free:   Hoagie with every ten purchased   Medical care   Canada, as long as you don't mind a six-month wait for an aspirin
Perfect summer read:  
Nick Bakay's tale of the Tape, available in bookstores now!
Nick Bakay's tale of the Tape, available in bookstores now!
  Everyone with the guts to buy it!

So there you have it; it's all so simple when you break things down scientifically. In a triple-overtime stunner, the advantage ... goes to Canada! That being said, Lightning in six, now let's all line up and shake hands. Until next time, I'm Nick Bakay reminding you the numbers never lie ...

Humorist Nick Bakay, currently a writer for the CBS sitcom "King of Queens," is a regular contributor to ESPN The Magazine and Page 2. His book, "Nick Bakay's Tale of the Tape," is now available from Hyperion/ESPN Books. He has a website at