So here we are; the day before the beginning of one of the most interesting Ottawa Senators seasons in the last few years. I won’t recap what has happened since last November and I definitely won’t tell you what an emotional roller coaster the past 10-11 months have been because we’ve all been there and both Brandon and Beata have put all these feelings of sadness, anger and despair out there for us to just nod our heads along to. I want to say I don’t care about the season starting, I want to not be excited and nervous for that opening game but I can’t. It’s like no matter how much this team drains me, I keep on giving and you know what? I have lived to embrace it, at least for now.
I don’t want to seem over-dramatic but sometimes certain things just make you click, they just set something in you that could very well be an overreaction but you hold on to it nonetheless. For me, it wasn’t specifically the Smith waiver but a certain reaction that came out of it; an innocent video from Brian5or6 that started a conversation with Hayley Thompson (Stone’s girlfriend) and ended with two tweets from former Senators member Marlee Hammond that just felt like a kick in the stomach and a stab to the heart all at the same time. Now, I have nothing against her and I usually love how outspoken she is and I completely understand her intentions on both tweets but they hurt me, they hurt me hard because we are not Eugene Melnyk. This city and the fanbase are not an extension of all the horrible things he’s done and I hate that some people lump us all into this one circle whether intentionally or just as a figure of speech.
Buuuuut like he’s going to get claimed and go somewhere that will love him. And be so much more appreciated. Huge fucking mistake.— Marlee Hammond (@marlee_kat) September 25, 2018
I love Zack Smith, his teammates love him and while a large portion of the fan base is frustrated with his production, Smitty is not someone who isn’t appreciated or loved in Ottawa. I know the intention was mostly pointed at management but when you see people on the outside relieved that players will get the chance to play elsewhere, it’s just a nasty feeling. Then came her humorous response to Hooters being closed down:
Ottawa gets rid of all good things— Marlee Hammond (@marlee_kat) September 25, 2018
This absolutely killed me. Again I get it was a joke but the obvious reference was there. I just felt insulted that Melnyk has turned this team and city into this; a punch line for people to mock and laugh about. After a few days, I came to the realization that Marlee Hammond actually did me a huge favour, and so did the rest of the league who did not claim Zack Smith. Melnyk is NOT why we have always loved the Senators, he was never a factor. He was never the reason we stayed up for late games, cried over losses, spent hundreds on merchandise and tickets or literally shaped our entire days around games. It was never about him and it should never be; at least not in the grand scheme of things. I want my Senators back and if that means holding out from attending games and buying jerseys that’s a sacrifice I’m willing to make for the eventual good of the team. So Marlee Hammond, maybe Melnyk did get rid of all the good things in Ottawa but Ottawa will fight back to prove that the good things are actually bred here. It is Ottawa that embraced the Hamburglar, Ottawa that for the longest time filled (or almost filled) the arena with minimal corporate support, Ottawa that would greet the players at the airport as late as 2am, Ottawa that turned a series of funny videos by a passionate fan (Brian5or6) into a charitable cause that not only has reached to the fans and community but the players and their families as well, it’s that Ottawa that came together to raise over $10K just for a #MelnykOut sign to be raised around the city, Ottawa that came together to raise over $250,000 for tornado relief in less than 10 days when the city needed it and it’s that same Ottawa that will come together to make sure Melnyk doesn’t stay here for much longer and I promise you that.
So why am I so excited? Why do I still think something good can come out of this season when even the most loyal of fans have given up? It’s hockey, baby! It’s where true magic can happen at any given point and because we have suffered enough and we deserve to enjoy this team. It’s easy to be cynical, to expect the worst; believe me I know but what if, by some miracle, this season isn’t a complete waste? What if, Cody Ceci ends up surprising everyone by having the season of his career? What if Zack Smith really proves everyone wrong and shows that he can still be worth his contract? You don’t like the what ifs? Fine, how about the certainties that Mark Stone, Matt Duchene and Brady Tkachuk will just be incredibly fun to watch? The general consensus is that two of these three may not finish the season with the Senators but can we just focus on them being here right now? Them being a part of keeping this ship afloat and maybe by some stroke of luck they actually stick around? You cannot tell me Alex Formenton doesn’t get you excited or that you’re not cheering hard for Craig Anderson to have a comeback season worth bragging about. I’m not saying the Sens will make the playoffs (although maybe they could), but I will say this with the all the confidence in the world: the Sens will not be a bottom-5 team this year. I will take all the heat if the result is otherwise but for now, I will at least hold on to this one hope for the season.
You know what else I’m excited for? This fan base, the fans who didn’t renew their season tickets, the ones who called into the radio until 2am after the Karlsson trade, even the fans who will take the heat and go to every game because the players deserve to hear some cheers at home. I’m excited for what we can do, will we really be able to drive Melnyk out? How much more can we handle from this team on and off the ice and still support them? After all is said and done, once the sun finally shines how will all this define us as a fan base?
I know it hurts, but I’m also excited for Erik Karlsson finally getting the recognition he deserves and knowing all along that we loved him first, we knew him first and we certainly appreciated him first. I’m excited for another Karlsson idea going through my head that I’m too afraid to even say out loud because I cannot handle another crush to the heart. I am excited for Karlsson to see how much he meant to us, how him leaving re-shaped this team and fan base forever. I truly wonder sometimes if Karlsson realizes how emotionally draining and devastating his trade is on the fans and probably will be for a very long time.
Like I said before, it’s easy to be cynical but it’s also exhausting. I’m so tired of feeling sad and angry all the time so let’s try something new. Let’s truly start a new page and just forget about Melnyk for a minute, if only a minute let’s take it back to the team we love, the players who matter and the wins that we all want to see even if some of us can’t admit it. The story of the Ottawa Senators seems to be already written, finish dead last in the league and have the Avalanche draft Hughes with our pick. I don’t like this story, I don’t want to read it so I’m just going to ignore it. I can’t do much to re-write it but I can at least wait till the new story writes itself before I completely give up. As cliche as it sounds, I still love this team and I only want them to do well, to prove everyone wrong.
Maybe this is a whole lot of rainbows and unicorns but it’s how I’ve been feeling the past few days and while my intention for this piece initially was pure rage, I found myself slowly backing away from that. There’s a lot left on this team worth cheering for and it seems there’s still some energy left in me to be drained. Just close your eyes for a minute, remember the good Alfie times, remember those playoff run feelings, how happy we all were frozen cold watching the Sens demolish the Habs, how maybe we can get this feeling back even for a few games? Now open your eyes and tell me that didn’t feel good for a change, I dare you.
Go Sens Go