How did I become a Sens fan? Well, on the surface, it's a simple story. I grew up in the Ottawa Valley. When the Ottawa Senators played their first game, I was three years old. I knew only the Senators growing up; it was a natural process. But there is more to how my fandom grew from a simple hobby to a passion.
It all began in the small town of Deep River, a town with a population that consists of a moose, two deer and a hitchhiker who gave up. It was in this town, at the age of five, that I told my father I wanted to play hockey. As much as I would like to say that I had a great epiphany one day and decided that hockey was my destiny, my decision was a little less epic.
was am a tomboy, and I had a lot of guy friends as a child. When we turned five, the age that you could begin playing hockey in Deep River, all my friends were signing up. I saw the cool equipment they were getting from Canadian Tire, and I was jealous. I wanted that stuff too! So, I asked my dad if I could play hockey. With that simple question, I made my dad's day, and broke my mother's heart. Her fantasy of a girly girl daughter went out the window.
After gearing up in hand-me-down equipment from my father's friend's children (gross!), I stepped on the ice. While I had skated for a few years at this point, the other hockey skills did not come so easily. This is a nice way of saying that I sucked. But that didn't matter. I fell in love with this game.
Over the years, my love for hockey grew, as did my love for the Ottawa Senators. Like most children, my attention focused on the captain, Alexei Yashin. He quickly became my favourite player; I loved him, and I wasn't too sure why. We moved to Arnprior a few years later, which I thought was a step-up to the big city compared to Deep River. I continued playing hockey, of course. Moving closer to Ottawa meant more access to Sens games. We went to one game per year, on average, and it was enough. I loved every minute of it.
Then came Yashin's departure, and my broken heart. I didn't really understand why he left, despite my father's attempt to explain to me that hockey was a business and players wanted more money. Call it naivety, call it hopeless optimism, but I continued to believe that hockey players played for the love of the game. The Yashin situation was painful, but I moved on. Booing him when the Islanders came to town certainly helped.
My fandom turned into an all-out obsession in the summer of 2009. I was between my second and third years of university, and the summer was off to a slow start. I was working part-time, waiting for peak season to hit at the restaurant so I could work full-time. I spent my days watching the IIHF World Hockey Championships, and my nights watching the Stanley Cup Playoffs. With the Sens out of the playoffs, I followed every Senators blog, podcast and website I could find, just to get my Sens fix.
Later that summer, when my life resolved around hockey and nothing else, Dany Heatley... well, you all know what Dany Heatley did. Much like the rest of the city, I felt burned. I was livid. Never in my years as a fan had I felt this kind of hatred towards a player. But despite my unrelenting anger, the situation made me an even bigger Sens fan. I continued to research everything about this team, its players and the league around it. The internet helped; blogs and podcasts make keeping up with the NHL much easier than in previous years.
Despite the ups and downs of the years since then, I remained infatuated with this team. School brought me all over southern Ontario, including Toronto. Wearing my Sens hat in public did not make me the most popular person that year, but I loved it! Defending your team on a regular basis does wonders to your fandom.
While this is my Senators story so far, it will always be in flux. Every year we encounter new stories and obstacles as Sens fans, and our fandom will always change. This year was a challenge, but who knows what next year will bring.
If you haven't already done so, share your Sens story in the comments below. I would love to know how you became a Sens fan!