Over the next few weeks, we will feature some personal stories from some of our writer about how we became Senators fans. This off-season has been a tough one for fans and we felt that telling our stories would be a nice change of pace. All of us have a story of how we gravitated to this team and what the team means to us. Please feel free to share your stories in the comments!
A Little Girl and Her Grandfather
I grew up in a small town in the Ottawa Valley and was raised by a single mom with help from my wonderful grandparents. While my mom was at work I'd go over to my grandparents, since we lived down the street from them. It was during this time that I had my first introduction to hockey.
My grandfather was a phenomenal hockey player according to all of the folks in my hometown. Everyone who saw him play said he should have made it to the NHL. They've told me that he was one of the best players they've ever watched. He played junior hockey in Peterborough (now known as the Petes) as a young man and played against guys like Frank Mahovlich and Johnny Bower. He was also scouted by NHL teams. At the time, however, he was coming home hurt, he was broke, and he was faced with an ultimatum: hockey or his young family. He chose his family and came back to his hometown to play on local teams and coach minor hockey.
I think it was my great-aunt who initially told me that Grampa was a good hockey player and that I should ask him about it. So I did because I was curious and kids ask question. So there we were, this four-year-old girl sitting on her grandfather's knee listening to stories about hockey. I wasn't quite sure what hockey really was yet, but I knew that I was in love with it because of Grampa. Essentially, my grandfather replaced my father and for that, I was his biggest fan.
That year, my mom bought me a pair of skates and would bring me to the outdoor rinks. I have to brag here a little bit: I was the most improved skater in my kindergarten class. A few years later, my grandfather bought me my first hockey stick and away I went to the outdoor rink every chance I could. I didn't technically start playing organized hockey until I was 14. That year, my friend's dad (unbeknownst to my mother and I) wrote a letter to Canadian Tire because they had a sponsorship program for children who couldn't afford equipment but should be in hockey. I guess he wrote some nice things because I was selected and received free hockey equipment. My mom and I couldn't believe it. My dream was about to come true. By the end of high school, I was playing on three different teams and spending the rest of my time at the outdoor rink. To this day, I play recreationally in a couple of leagues and I've taking up coaching as a way to give back to the sport that's given me so much.
The Start of Something Beautiful
Given my insatiable love for hockey, I was doomed to become a crazy fan too. When I started asking my grandfather about hockey, I also started paying attention to the NHL. My great-aunt was a big hockey fan, so she introduced me to this new team called the Ottawa Senators. She said she had always cheered for Montreal but wanted to give this new team a chance. I guess I thought that was a good idea too, because I never looked elsewhere. I ended up loving hockey and the Senators so much that would ask for anything to do with the Senators as gifts, but as you know, memorabilia is pretty expensive. So my mom, the awesome mom that she is, would search high and low for Senators hand-me-downs and she would even paint the logo on clothes for me. Then, for my eighth birthday, she saved and bought me my most-prized childhood possession, an Ottawa Senators jersey. I would also watch hockey whenever I could at my grandparents and I would listen to the all of the Senators games on the local country music station if they weren't on TV. It's where I was introduced to the infamous, "SCRAMBLE!"
Since the Senators were still relatively new, they held promotional events around the Ottawa Valley. One year, I think it was 1997, they held an open practice in Arnprior and my mom brought me to it. I was amazed - Bruce Gardiner even threw me a puck over the glass. Once the practice was finished, my mom sneaked me in behind the ice where the players were coming out of the dressing room. She asked the players coming out if they'd sign my jersey. Most of them did and then HE came out: Alexei Yashin. He smiled at me and signed both my hat and my jersey. I don't think I could talk. At that time, Yashin was the bee's knees and I believed that I would one day be Mrs. Yashin. I mean, obviously he'd wait for me, I was already eight. He was my favourite player, I even named my cat after him. Fast-forward a few years later and I guess you can imagine how heartbroken I was.
That same year, my aunt brought me to my first Sens game. It was against the Montreal Canadiens and the Senators won 3-1. I remember the night before the game, I was so excited that I got physically sick and didn't sleep a wink. How could I? I was going to the big rink that I used to stare at as we'd drive through Kanata and Yashin was going to be there. I'm pretty sure I was convinced that the players lived there.
I remained the same little Sens fan and once Yashin left in 2001, my heart turned to another. I had then decided I was going to be Mrs. Alfredsson. I ended up loving him far more than Yashin, probably because I was also older and understood the game better. I tried to model myself after Alfie on the ice, especially when I was chosen captain of different teams. I wanted to be a leader like he was. So yes, if you're wondering, I cried when Alfie signed with Detroit last year. I'm not sure I'll ever cheer for another player the same way that I cheered for Alfie. He was and will always be my favourite hockey player.
Throughout my teenage years and now into my mid-twenties, nothing has changed in my love for this team. I'm probably even crazier about the Senators than ever. I save all of my spare pennies to buy tickets and when I can't go to a game, I make sure it's on the TV or streaming live. I analyze everything they do, from trades to free agent signings to on-ice plays. I read whatever I can about the team and I started writing about them here for fun. It's more than just a fan thing though. As life throws curveballs sometimes, I've always had the Senators to provide solace to me through whatever was going on in my life. Watching them was and is often a way for me to escape from stress, at least for three hours. Hockey, in any form for that matter, has always been a way for me to take time and reflect on life. It provides me peace, believe it or not.
Lastly, hockey is also how I remember my grandfather. He may have past away when I was 17, but I feel like a piece of him is always with me whenever I lace up my skates or put on that red jersey to watch the Senators. Sometimes I swear I can hear him chuckling at me when I fall off the couch in excitement when the Sens score. I guess I'm still his little girl at heart.
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