Two wins might not amount to much over an 82-game schedule but you wouldn’t know it around these parts. And rightfully so! You can feel something palpable and different about the Ottawa Senators this season, and after two back-breaking losses on the road, we got two way-too-close-for-comfort wins to validate our impressions. A lot will change between now and April but if nothing else, a winning record feels possible (and dare I say probable?!). Anyways, I don’t need to tell you all of this. You’ve lived it too. So as we bask in the reprieve of a possible ending to five years of dread, let’s look back at some of Ottawa’s other successful home openers.
October 8th, 1992
Obviously we have to start with the Maybe-Rome-Was-Built-in-a-Day game. The first game in modern franchise history bore seemingly infinite potential and captured the hopes and dreams of an entire city of hockey fans. The Sens rewarded those who had forfeited decades of Habs and Leafs fandom for a proper home team with one barn burner and approximately a billion subsequent losses. Neil Brady scored the first goal of modern franchise history on the powerplay in the second period, and the Sens had to fend of several Montreal comeback attempts in what ended up a narrow 5-3 victory over a much more talented Canadiens team. Who even cares if they followed this one up with a 20-game losing streak?
October 9th, 1996
Opening night at the Corel Centre after four seasons of mediocrity, kicking off Jacques Martin’s first full season as head coach and their first full season in the suburbs, the Sens and Isles tied three-three in an extremely 1990s match-up. Some guy named Daniel Alfredsson scored the first two home goals of the season in the second and third periods respectively. Alfie recorded his third point of the night setting up Alexandre Daigle with just two seconds left in regulation to even the score and force overtime. What ever happened to him? The Sens would go on to their first post-season appearance (and their first in an 11-year streak of making the playoffs).
October 9th, 2003
Fresh off a 52-win, president’s trophy-winning season and having gone all the way to the conference finals that spring, the Sens had fully entered the era of expectations heading into the 2003-04 season. Now firmly on the other side of the Alexei Yashin era, and with a core including Alfie, Marian Hossa, Martin Havlat, Radek Bonk, Wade Redden, Zdeno Chara, and rookie Jason Spezza, winning had gone from novelty to necessity. The Senators didn’t disappoint at their 2003 home opener as they once again defeated the Habs, but this time more handily with a final score of 5-2 and Patrick Lalime outdueling Jose Theodore. In poetic fashion, Spezza opened up the season scoring at home off an assist from Alfie, and Alfie scored the fifth goal of the night on a Spezza assist. They were pretty good.
October 8th, 2005
Having lost out on a crucial year of their competitive cycle due to the lockout, the Senators returned to business having swung a massive trade to acquire Dany Heatly and with one future hall-of-famer Dominik Hasek between the pipes. Whatever expectations fans had had up until this point paled in comparison to the 2005-06 Senators. Spezza was entering his prime, Ottawa had one of the best top-fours you could draw up, and Bryan Murray looked prepared to deliver his hometown team to the promised land. While the season didn’t end the way we would have hoped, opening night at the Corel Centre did not disappoint as the Sens dismantled their post-season nemesis (and Hasek’s old team), the Buffalo Sabres, in convincing fashion with a 5-0 victory. Spezza and Redden each had three-point games and Hasek made 35 saves for the shutout.
January 15th, 2021
The Sens had their share of highs and lows (one Stanley Cup finals appearance and eight head coaches) in the years between, and the bizzaro-world 2021 campaign felt the like start of something new and extremely different in Ottawa. In the midst of the pandemic, with the return of their classic jerseys, in front of no fans, the Sens began their trek into depths unknown. With the core of the last decade’s roster completely disassembled and with freshly-drafted Tim Stützle ready to inspire the next generation of folklore, the Sens introduced the most motley lineup you could have ever imagined (to the empty arena), and all they did was defeat their arch nemesis on national television in what should have been a layup for Toronto. Brady Tkachuk, Josh Norris, and Drake Batherson all had multi-point nights in a sign of better things to come (never mind the nine-game losing streak that followed immediately after).
Of course, as Beata explained very eloquently, last year’s home opener deserves a spot on this list too, and I imagine lots of folks remember different home openers for different reasons. We have had thirty of them, after all. Where does this year’s triumph over Boston rank for you? Which home openers do you recall most fondly? Will the euphoria ever end?! (Yes.)