Finding peace after difficult playoff loss

Sens still No.1 for this fan

Tuesday, April 7th, 2009

Senators' captain accepting the Prince of Wales trophy

ONE TROPHY SHORT OF A PERFECT SEASON. While the Senators were only able to snag the Prince of Wales trophy, they can be proud for bringing Ontario its first meaningful hockey achievement in 40 years.

I have a long-standing relationship with the Ottawa Senators. Ever since I attended my first NHL game " back when Scotiabank Place was still the Palladium and Alexei Yashin was still a star " I was hooked.

During this 10-year love affair, there have been some ups and downs. The ups include a decade of outstanding regular season play, several decisive wins over the Maple Leafs and more than a few trips to the playoffs. The downs...well...let’s just say Ottawa has a history of early playoff exits.

In attempting to explain my feelings about the Senators to the non-hockey fans in my life, I’ve often likened the Sens to that boyfriend who disappoints you time and time again, yet you always, inexplicably, take him back.

Each April, I told myself I should have known better, that they always do this to me, but every September I was filled with renewed hope. They’ve changed. They’re different this time. They’re not the same team they were last year.

However, at the conclusion of the 2005-06 season, I’d had enough. I’d been burned too many times.

Determined to resist the allure of a young team with a potent offence, I entered the 2006-07 season skeptical of the Senators’ chances. As the season progressed, my suspicions were confirmed. By mid-November, the Sens sat below .500, with a disappointing 7-11-1 record.

Several key players " including Jason Spezza, Mike Fisher and Antoine Vermette " were sidelined by injuries. For the first time in 10 years, it seemed like the Sens would not make the playoffs. In the back of my mind, I could hear the Leafs fans already.

How wrong I was. After an undeniably rocky start, the Senators came back to win nine of 13 games in January and never lost more than two consecutive games for the remainder of the season.

Something clicked and Ottawa discovered the chemistry and character that were wholly absent from the first half of the season, finishing the year with a 48-25-9 record, a playoff spot and a chance to silence their critics once and for all.

As the playoffs began, the tension in Ottawa was palpable. Fans were certainly excited, but many seemed all too aware that the Senators campaign could come to an end at any moment. However, Ottawa crushed Sid the Kid’s playoff hopes in just five games, before defeating New Jersey and Buffalo in as many games.

It seemed almost unbelievable, but, for the first time in the franchise’s modern history, the Sens were going to the Stanley Cup final. In that moment, Ottawa came alive in a way that is near impossible to describe.

The streets were flooded with thousands of fans, leading an impromptu parade up Elgin Street, since dubbed Sens Mile, to Parliament Hill.

Crimson-clad revellers overtook the bars and the horns could be heard long into the night. For the following two weeks, Ottawa was Hockeytown.

I’m sure you all know what happened after that. If you don’t, allow me to fill you in: Ottawa lost to a tough, tight-checking Anaheim squad in just five games. But if you ask me, that’s not what matters. You might be thinking that after 10 tumultuous years together, I’ve become blind to the Senators’ faults, that I’ve taken them back one too many times. But that’s not it.

While I’m normally quick to dismiss trite expressions like “Success is a journey, not a destination,” in this case, the saying holds true. Although the Senators did not bring Lord Stanley home, they went farther than almost anyone thought they would go.

They proved they have the tenacity, the skill, and (finally) the goaltending to be serious competitors in the NHL. Lastly, they infused a city with a decidedly conservative reputation with excitement it has never known before.

Is it better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all? After years of uncertainty, I can finally say, yes. Yes, it is.

Share this article on:

Facebook | DiggDigg |

Copyright © 2008 The Gazette