I freely admit that I haven't watched much of the playoffs this year. I've had a lot on the go, and my interest wasn't what it usually is with Ottawa missing the second season. That said, in spite of having a 4:30 rise this morning, I decided to sit down and watch what turned out to be the final game of the season.
A funny thing happened: I was entertained. It didn't matter that I had no vested interest in either team; it was a good game, and I enjoyed watching it enough that, when regulation couldn't produce a victor, I stayed up and watched the first overtime period. (I copped out and went to bed after that, but given what time the game ended I'm glad for that decision). It wasn't the best game that I've seen, but there was enough action and suspense that I was thoroughly entertained.
This morning, as is liable to happen at hours when the sun's only up because of what time of year it is, my mind began to wander as I read through some of the posts and comments of the past couple of weeks (a week and a half vacation had me nice and behind on current S7S content). All of the negativity and vitriol on account of the Sens' current situation seemed, to me, in stark contrast to my experience last night, and that got me thinking about what hockey is to us. Fans are, by definition, fanatical about their teams, and the community on S7S is absolutely no exception to that. But, on a larger scale, we are also fans of the game of hockey. Supporters of the Ottawa Senators have been witness to great things here in Ottawa, and not all of them have been in favour of the team we cheer for. Opposition teams and players have reached milestones in our arena; players have played their last game, either in Canada or in their careers, on our ice. We've been dazzled by the brilliance of an opponent's hands as he made one or more of our players look foolish, and we've witnessed homecomings of former heroes making their returns.
With that in mind, I have a challenge to this community. In spite of any uncertainty of this team's future, I want you to celebrate the joys of being a hockey fan by acknowledging moments here in Ottawa that have stuck in your mind. Be it a great individual effort or an emotional salute, I want you to think of things that you've been privileged enough to witness under our lights, no matter what the name of the arena at the time. But I want you to do it as hockey fans, not as Senators fans. In that spirit, in the moments I want to celebrate here, the spotlight should fall on visiting players, not on those whose jerseys we pull over our own heads.
To get the ball rolling, I have two moments that I want to share. The first is one I would be shocked if some of you didn't guess by my above phrasing of players who played their last game in Canada in our rink. On February 15th, 1999, my dad and I were looking at games for the months of March and April to attend in the Family Fan Zone as we drove in to Kanata to stand in line to buy tickets. On a whim, my dad picked out a Rangers game that would take place two months later to the day, having no idea of the significance that it would hold. I will never forget the adoration and respect that poured out of the crowd during an ovation that lasted almost 20 minutes, watching Wayne Gretzky take two curtain calls after being named the first, second, and third stars of the game. People say that Ottawa's fans are a quiet bunch; nobody that was there that night would ever believe that.
The second moment is one that I doubt anybody but me remembers. The Ducks were in town, the puck deep in their end. Teemu Selanne, for one reason or another, was out near the red line, and an Ottawa defender had drifted out to cover him in the unlikely event of an Anaheim breakout. Selanne must have seen that one of his teammates was about to gain control of the puck, because he seemingly randomly tripped the Senator out at center with him just before the pass was rifled out to him. Needless to say, Selanne didn't miss on a breakaway when the nearest Senator wasn't even close to the Ottawa blueline when puck hit twine. That moment always reminds me of the competitive edge that drives each and every NHL player: they will do whatever they can to gain the upper hand.
So, what moments are etched in your mind?