Perhaps I’m not the best person to write about Ottawa Senators jerseys. I’ve only ever owned a handful of jerseys in my life, one of them the much-maligned SNES iteration of the mid-2000s. So when SB Nation launched Jersey Week, I wondered what I might write about. Sens jerseys have been ranked before by more authoritative sources than myself. Nor would I consider myself a jersey historian. I wear a Sens jersey when I play outdoor hockey, which in Toronto sometimes gets me a few snickers, I wear the jersey when I attend games in person, and I wear the jersey for watching play-off games at home. That’s about it. For whatever reason, I’ve never gravitated towards the merchandise and until only a few years ago I’d never owned a jersey with a nameplate. Everything was generic, team-branded attire. I think that part of the reason for that is that I was waiting for a player that I deeply identified with before I took the plunge. And that’s where Mark Stone comes into the picture.
For those of you that have been following the site since 2014, you are surely aware of my feelings for Stone. I’ve been one of his biggest boosters since Day 1. 2014-15 was my first full season of writing for Silver Seven Sens, and it was Stone’s first full year in the league. You could say that we came up together.
For those of you that follow me on Twitter, you may recognize the jersey from my long-time profile picture:
Daniel Alfredsson was the first Senator to really grab my attention, and Marian Hossa and Erik Karlsson will always hold a special place in my heart, but Stone was somehow different. The reasons I love Mark Stone are probably much the same as the rest of you: he is a perfect mix of unbridled enthusiasm, dedication, and elite hockey skills. On the surface, it’s hard to imagine a more likable player.
I try to stay away from commenting on players’ character since we know so little about them — narratives are manufactured that create heroes and villains in situations that probably require a lot more nuance than the majority of sports writing can convey. But I will say that no one has ever had a bad thing to say about Stone, either publicly or from what’s been relayed to me privately. If you’ll forgive a personal anecdote, my mother ran into Stone a few years back at a hair salon. Here’s how she tells the story:
I went to Texture in the Market to get my hair done. I was having my hair washed when Stone walked in with a young woman. The owner greeted him in a friendly manner, as did his stylist. Nobody else paid any attention. I recognized him but didn’t want to be embarrassing so I didn’t say anything right away.
I went to get colour put in and remarked to another woman that it was Mark Stone. She didn’t know who Mark Stone was so I explained. My stylist said yes, he comes regularly. He did have a very bushy mop.
When I got up my courage I said loud enough to hear “Aren’t you Mark Stone?” I thought of you (nkb) and knew I had to say something. I wished I had your jersey with me to sign or something. He acknowledged that he was indeed the hockey player. I said we were big Sens fans and that my son was a big fan of his in particular and even had his jersey. He was very pleased and gave a big thumbs up, saying “Awesome “!
I’ve always had such a clear image in my mind of what Stone must have looked like as he gave that thumbs-up. It fits so well with everything that we know about him.
Sometimes at Sens games, you’ll come across creative attempts to re-brand jerseys of departed players; so many beloved players have left in recent years that it’s hard to blame anyone that tries to salvage their expenditure. My wife and I were in town in December to celebrate Christmas with our family and we attended the game against the Sabres on the 23rd. We particularly enjoyed this effort to transform a Kyle Turris jersey:
(If whoever did this is a reader of the blog, please know I admire your creativity!)
They’re not wrong to do so. It stings to look in the closet and see the jersey of a player that is no longer in Ottawa for whatever reason. But for me, personally, I chose the Stone jersey because I cheered for the player as much as I cheered for the team on the front. I love the Ottawa Senators, but my devotion is to more than just the laundry.
I’m going to keep wearing the Stone jersey when the occasion calls for it, and I’ll keep cheering the Sens while remembering the time that Stone was such a big part of my fandom. Meanwhile, I’ll be waiting for the next player whose name I want to broadcast to the world. Here’s to hoping they arrive soon.