As a Wade Redden fan, I’ve had my ups & downs.
Lots of good days & lots of bad days.
The past five years or so? Not such good days.
Redden’s last few seasons as an Ottawa Senator were a struggle, as they chose to keep him over Zdeno Chara, much to the chagrin of many. I still think they made the right decision, but there wouldn’t be many who would agree with me. While his contract increased, his play went on the decline, and he became the whipping boy for many local reporters, thus feeling the wrath of a legion of Sens fans.
It was a tough time to be a Wade fan. I was once tormented by a guy at a game. It started out as a nice chat with the slightly-inebriated older gentleman in the seat next to me, until I confessed to him that Redden was my favourite player. I spent a whole period listening to this guy rant and rave and make fun of me, to the point where I thought I was going to pop him one right in the nose. Clearly, he sensed my disdain, as he took off for a beer between periods and never came back…
I cried the day Wade Redden became a UFA and signed with the New York Rangers. My Senators were no longer “MY” Senators. And it brought me great frustration and disappointment to see his career dwindle away in the Big Apple, until they finally sent him down to the minors in 2010 to unload his hefty contract from their books.
I thought it was over for him. I really did.
So when my brother sent me an email a couple of weeks ago, as the NHL season belatedly got rolling following the labour dispute, to tell me that due to a rule in the new CBA, it looked like Wade might get the chance to get back in action – well, my heart just soared. The Rangers would buy him out, and he’d become a UFA. Of course it was too much to hope that the Senators would want him back, but when I heard that he’d signed with the St. Louis Blues to a one-year, $800,000 deal, I was relieved.
After 2 years of riding the bus and grinding away in the minors, Wade was finally back in the NHL, with a clean state and an opportunity to prove himself all over again. Even better, he’s playing for Ken Hitchcock, a guy who can’t seem to say enough good things about him.
This morning, I woke up to a post on my Facebook wall from a friend telling me she thought I’d be happy to read this heartwarming story about Wade. Then, I got a text from my brother telling me to tune into Sportscenter this morning because they did a feature on Redden, who will be playing his 1000th game tonight.
That’s right, folks. Today is one of those “good days”.
1000 games. He should’ve hit this milestone a long time ago. Still, it’s not one that all that many players reach, and I doubt few who reach it have been put through the ringer to get there the way Redden has.
It’s a day of pride for him. He’s gone from being one of the best defencemen in the league, to a fallen star, to digging himself out of the trenches, catching a lucky break, and being given an opportunity to shine once again.
It’s a day of pride for me.
Wade & I? We’ve come a long way.
It really doesn’t seem so long ago that the Ottawa Citizen ran a page-full of player pictures and brief bios on the eve of the Senators very first play-off round. As a young thirteen-year-old, I scanned that page and picked one out. A strikingly-handsome, baby-faced young man, and I declared, “This guy is HOT. He’s my favourite. Wade Redden.”
This morning, as I watched him on TSN reflecting on his career and the struggles he’s faced, I noticed that he’s starting to look old. His hair is thinning; a little more grey in the scruff on his face. More wear-and-tear etched into his features, more scars than I remember.
I guess that’s bound to happen over a 17-year-career. He isn’t that 19-year-old kid anymore.
Today, I feel no shame. I’m thrilled to stand up and say that I’ve been his #1 Fan for 17 years, and I’m so glad that he’s back in the NHL where he belongs.
Tonight, he will lace up for his 1000th game, and I know I will be beaming with pride for him.
Congratulations, Wade!! I’m very happy to still be able to say… you are #6 in my program, but #1 in my heart!