Chris Phillips is set to play his 1,000 NHL game on Thursday against Nashville, and like Alfie, all 1,000 have been with the Senators. 1,000 games in the NHL remains a special feat, made more special when it is with one organization.
Over the years we have seen Phillips mature and develop into one of the NHL’s elite shutdown defensemen when paired with Volchenkov and have (mostly) supported him as his play has declined in recent years.
My first memories of Phillips were not in Senators red but wearing the red of Canada’s World Junior teams in 1996 and 1997. I have always had a soft spot for most NHLers who have played for Canada, but noticed Chris more the second year, when he was tournament all-star. Both times, Philly won gold for Canada.
I had his 1996 World Junior hockey card. Still have it. I remember thinking both on that card, and at the 1996 Entry Draft when he went first overall, that he looked like he was 30, not 18. He always seemed to have a maturity to him.
For me, Phillips was best when he was a physical, dominant, shutdown d-man. My most clear memory of this Phillips was the first round series against the Penguins during the Cup run in 2007. Phillips and A Train were fantastic shutting down the Pens young guns. I specifically remember Phillips welcoming Sidney Crosby to the intense atmosphere of the Stanley Cup Playoffs with several thundering hits and frustrating The Kid.
On this site we’ve discussed how the Sens 20th Anniversary celebrations haven’t highlighted the modern franchise’s history as much as some would like. I think Phillips is a big part of that history that can be celebrated. Do I think that he deserves to have his number retired based on his performance and loyalty to the club? No. The first modern Senator to have his number retired has to be Alfie. But I would like to see the team celebrate Phillips’ contribution to the modern team, and I would like the club to start building its history by acknowledging people like Phillips. I would like to see the Senators have a ceremony to “honour” Phillips when he retires, something similar to what they do in Vancouver with guys who were important members of the team but not significant enough to retire their numbers.
When such milestones are achieved, it’s natural to reflect on a player’s legacy and meaning to his team. While it might be tempting to be negative (Cup winning goal anyone?), given the occasion, let’s fondly remember some of Big Rig’s highlights and memorable moments of more than a decade spent in white, black, and red. What are some of your favourite Big Rig moments?