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Canada recoups

THOSE cheers heard in Edmonton, Alberta, over the weekend - and throughout much of the rest of Canada - were well deserved. In defeating the New York Islanders in a four-game-to-one series, the new National Hockey League championship Edmonton Oilers have brought the Stanley Cup home.

Hockey, after all, for all its increasing popularity in the United States, is still the dominant Canadian national sport. The Oilers' decisive win - based on a swashbuckling, no-nonsense style - was reminiscent of the glory days when Canadian teams, particularly the Montreal Canadiens, dominated the old six-city league before the expansion clubs like the upstart Islanders and Oilers came along.

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Edmonton's 1984 victory will be long remembered for the dazzling performances of Wayne Gretzky and Mark Messier, among others. And it showed eastern Canadians that westerners are as much at home on the skates as on a farm combine.

Meantime, there need be no sense of loss out on Long Island. In winning four championships in a row - from 1980 through 1983 - the New York Islanders must already be reckoned among the roster of truly great athletic teams in general.

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