I am an Ottawa Senators fan. I have been for 18 years now. They are my team, and that will never change, I can guarantee you that.
But I have to admit that, since our beloved captain Alfie left this team as an Unrestricted Free Agent in the summer of 2013, I have been a bad Sens fan. I have been a disenchanted, disgruntled, begrudging Sens fan. And I hadn’t been paying a whole lot of attention to my team as the struggled and faltered through much of this current season.
My mom, on the other hand… she’s a good Sens fan. A loyal, never-miss-a-game type of Sens fan. And so it was that in early February, I was forced to move in with her due to on-going renovation issues at my place, and thus I was forced to watch hockey games.
At the time, the Sens were circling the drain, down near the bottom of the barrel in the NHL standings. They had fired coach Paul MacLean, of whom I was a big fan, and to be honest, I was so disconnected from the team at that point that I didn’t even know who half of these young guys were on my team. Chiasson? Hoffman? Stone? Who the hell were these lads, and where did they come from?
Then, we ended up with a goalie crisis when BOTH of our top 2 netminders went down to injury, and they brought up this AHL goalie named Hammond.
I confess that I had written them off. I had no hope. It was going to be an early summer for this squad, and quite frankly, I didn’t care.
Even so, I was watching hockey again, because I was pretty much living with my mom, and, as I said, she never misses a game.
And wouldn’t you know… we kinda actually started winning games.
Momentum started to build. Dreams started being sparked. The Legend of the Hamburglar was born, and with each win to his name, it grew legs. This kid of ours, Mark Stone, was lighting it up, and his name started coming up as a possibility for the Calder Trophy, handed out every year to the Rookie of the Year.
Was it possible? Could they actually make the playoffs?
With each win, the hope grew. It grew, and blossomed.
And against all odds, the Ottawa Senators culminated a magical, improbable run on Saturday afternoon, when they defeated the Philadelphia Flyers in their final game of the regular season, ending up with an amazing 23-4-4 record in their final 31 games.
They managed to crawl their way back after being 14 points out of the playoffs on February 10th. NO team has ever mounted a comeback so big before.
It’s been epic. The kind of thing hockey dreams are made of.
This morning, I woke up with that giddy feeling, the butterflies stirring in the pit of my stomach. Tonight, we will take on the Montreal Canadiens in Round 1, Game 1.
A week ago, I still wasn’t convinced that this would actually happen. I wasn’t allowing myself to believe that I could actually be part of the playoff hype.
But now, it’s here. We’re in. I still can hardly believe it.
Last week around this time, a Habs fan that works in our office said to me, “The Sens are so hot… If they actually make it in, I don’t think anyone’s going to want to go up against them.”
Yesterday, they were given even more incentive, albeit in a very sad way, when Assistant Coach Mark Reeds lost his battle to cancer at age 55. It was a tough day for the team, on the eve of the playoffs. They’ve been playing for Reeds, and they’ve been playing for GM Bryan Murray, as he’s been battling Stage 4 Colon Cancer.
10 days before his death, Reeds addressed the team one last time, and his final message to them was to just keep winning. “Let’s win it all,” he told them.
This morning, anything seems possible.
No matter what happens, I can tell you this: my love for this team has been refreshed and renewed. They have managed to draw me back in and make me a believer once again. It’s been nothing short of miraculous, and I couldn’t be more proud of these guys.
Now it’s time to take it one step further.
The Stanley Cup does not seem impossible today.
Let’s win it all.