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The hometown hockey heroes that polarized Cape Breton

When the Stanley Cup finals were underway in 1989, local loyalties meant two towns in Cape Breton were cheering for opposite sides.

Local boys were in 1989 Stanley Cup final that pitted Montreal against Calgary

Hockey fans have two local boys to cheer for in the 1989 final -- on opposite sides of the red line. 2:33

They were cheering in Calgary. They were cheering in Montreal. And they were cheering in Cape Breton.

Before Al MacInnis became an NHL star, Port Hood'ss greatest claim to fame was having the "warmest waters in Eastern Canada." (1st Edition/CBC Archives)

In 1989 — the last year that two Canadian teams made it to the Stanley Cup finals — the Calgary Flames and the Montreal Canadiens were facing off to hoist the Cup.

To the east of both, a smaller drama played out in two Cape Breton towns. 

"Cape Breton has two native sons playing in this year's Cup final," explained CBC reporter Paul Withers.

Flames defenseman Al MacInnis hailed from Port Hood, population 600.

"They used to brag about being home to the warmest waters in Eastern Canada," said Withers.

"He's playing for everybody," said an Al MacInnis fan at the local bar in Port Hood. (1st Edition/CBC Archives)

Now the town had something else to be proud of, and a plaque inside the arena attested to it.

Bringing the NHL home

"Sometimes you think the NHL is a different world," said one of MacInnis's neighbours, watching the game at a local pub. "In a small town like this, when you have a guy playing, it just brings it a little closer."   

Canadiens winger Mike McPhee, meanwhile, called River Bourgeois home — and they were behind him all the way.

"It's mayhem as Montreal puts one in," said Withers as fans were seen and heard cheering in a tavern. 

At McPhee's parents' home, his dad Stan wore a Habs sweatshirt and watched calmly as mom, Monica, became animated by the play on the screen.

Stan McPhee said neighbours enjoyed talking about how son Mike was doing in the NHL. (1st Edition/CBC Archives)

"It's a real thrill to see him on TV," Stan said.

Over at the MacInnis place, Withers judged his parents to be "more restrained, but no less proud" of their son.

But they cheered happily when Calgary scored, and the report cut away to Stan's chagrined headshake.

"On this might, things would improve for Stan McPhee," said Withers. "Montreal went on to win, but they play again tonight, and you can be sure they'll be going through it all again."