If I write the word “Pageau”, you may end up with a song in your head. If I write “Pageau, Pageau, Pageau”, you definitely have a song going through your head. His name has become synonymous with that chant, the chant turning his name into a legend. We know the chant is legendary, because even Islanders fans knew to do it in his first game on Long Island:
The Pageau chant lives on. Thanks @Senators fans #isles pic.twitter.com/hzb39K53Ka— YESUV (@IslesWhiteSUV) February 26, 2020
Pageau is far from the best player in franchise history, or the most iconic, and yet he easily had the most iconic cheer. So for today’s rewind, let’s look back on how exactly that cheer was birthed.
Jean-Gabriel Pageau was a fourth-round pick in the 2011 draft—and incidentally was the last player from that draft to remain with the Sens, interesting since eight Sens picks from that draft have seen NHL action. He was from Ottawa, and played junior hockey for the Gatineau Olympiques, but was hardly heralded as a pick because he was only 5’ 9”. He hardly set the world on fire in his first season with Binghamton (29 points in 69 games), but was defensively responsible enough to earn a late-season call-up to the injury-depleted Ottawa Senators. He quickly established himself as responsible, and even scored four points in nine games to end the season, earning the right to stay with the big club through the playoffs. The unheralded prospect was about to play in some of the biggest games for the franchise in years.
After splitting the first two games of the opening round 2013 series against the Canadiens, the Sens returned home, and fans were excited. I remember being alone in a basement suite in Mississauga I was living in that summer, streaming the game on my laptop. The first period gave us little indication of what was to come, with Daniel Alfredsson scoring his first of the series, but then Rene Bourque (remember him?) tying it up on the powerplay. The only thing that period really taught us was that it was going to be a chippy period, with the Sens taking five penalties and the Habs taking three. One of those was Pageau finding his way onto the scoresheet for the first time in the playoffs, taking a late slashing penalty.
The second period was where a legend was begun. Just under five minutes into the period, Pageau found himself on a partial break, took a high-stick to the mouth from P.K. Subban, and still managed to beat Carey Price.
It was an incredible first career playoff goal, made all the more memorable by the fact that he played it calmly, looking for his tooth in the corner, rather than celebrating. Chris Neil got the honours of looking extremely excited for his goal.
Then to open the third period, Pageau extended the lead with another beauty of a wrist shot that just beat Price cleanly
What’s incredible to me, looking back, is that Pageau scored his hat-trick while playing on a line with Neil and Colin Greening. Not to disparage either of those players, but they were hardly known for putting up multi-point games. Anyway, with Pageau having two goals in the same playoff game, against possibly the best goalie in the world, and without having played enough regular season games to even qualify as a rookie, fans realized they were seeing a special moment. It was then they developed the greatest spontaneous cheer in Sens history. And you all know how it goes:
For a team that is usually made fun of, for having an arena in the suburbs of Kanata, for having that dreadful Spartan intro, for having great regular season teams that choked in the playoffs, this was an incredible moment. A rookie no one had ever heard of was lighting up the most storied franchise in NHL history. The fans took advantage of the moment to rub it in the Canadiens’ faces, and it was incredible. I believe the Pageau cheer was pure genius. It was great because it was lyrically simple. As any Blackhawks fan will tell you, having a cheer people can sing no matter how drunk is crucial. Habs fans singing “Olé, Olé, Olé” is already suspect since it’s a soccer song in Spanish, and the Montreal Canadiens are neither a soccer team nor from a Spanish-speaking region. Sens fans taking a song that they shouldn’t sing anyway, and singing it about a player who torched them was incredibly potent. It would’ve been clever if people had time to discuss it on Twitter and prepare it for Game 4. The fact that it developed organically during the game made it so much sweeter.
Of course, the third period of that game went incredibly. The Sens scored three more times, en route to a 6-1 victory. Pageau, of course, got the final goal, completing his hat-trick on the powerplay:
Game 3 also featured the infamous line brawl, so many ejections that we got the greatest Jakob Silfverberg gif, and the best Paul MacLean moment in his history with the team. Without a doubt, the most entertaining non-overtime playoff game in Sens history. And of course, we got more of the Pageau chant after the game, including from his teammates.
The Pageau chant grew to be more than a little overused from there. I can remember cheering it in the streets of Toronto after Game 4, after watching the Sens win in overtime while watching at Grace O’Malley’s, even though Pageau had nothing to do with that game. Sens fans chanted it regularly for years after that, and people definitely grew tired of its overuse. I can understand the fatigue of hearing it for no reason in games where all Pageau did was jump on the ice. Still, I think there’s no question this is the best spontaneous cheer in the history of this team. The fact that Pageau continued to haunt the Habs, and scored four goals in a playoff game against the Rangers, just further contributed to the legend of the cheer. JGP may have moved to a different team, but the impact he had on Sens fandom will live on in infamy.