Curses, optimism among troops watching Stanley Cup final in Afghanistan

Most were self-confessed die-hard hockey fans who’d been up before the crack of dawn for all five games of the Stanley Cup playoffs, saying their love for hockey trumped the need for sleep.

“You’ve just gotta keep smiling,” said one soldier at the end of the first period, with Ottawa trailing.

Squeezed into the old Canada House and spread out in the new one, the soldiers stamped their feet and cheered when Ottawa scored the only two goals of the game.

Attendance dwindled as the game clock ran on, with only a handful of soldiers left for the cringe-inducing third period.

When Antoine Vermette got a chance at a penalty shot, soldiers moved to their edge of their Ikea chairs and leather couches, only to slump back in dejection as he lost control of the puck.

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And as the sixth goal by Anaheim was scored with minutes left, stamps of frustration echoed off the wooden floor.

“It sucks that Anaheim won but they played really good, it looks good on them,” said Bombardier Stephen O’Brien from Cape Breton.

“It’s not good that Ottawa lost but it’s all fun.”

Lt.-Col. John Woodgate from Halifax said he’s been a Sens fan for 10 years and the disappointment of watching them lose was tempered by the fact that there’s always next year.

“Hopefully they still get a good team, it was good to see them make it this far this year,” he said.

“They’re sure a lot better that Toronto, anyway you look at it.”