I have to be honest, I find it surprising just how quickly this team has spiraled downward into absurdity and total dilapidation. As a hockey fan, I understand the rich history of hockey in Ottawa, which dates back professionally to the late 1880′s, which is why I feel sorry for this great city. The organization won the first stanley cup in 1903 actually, and in a single playoff game in 1905, the dazzling Frank McGee scored a rather impressive 14 goals. The first NHL goalie to ever wear a mask, Clint Benedict, began his career in Ottawa back in 1914.
Needless to say, there is some history in this city when it comes to this great game. When the team left Ottawa in 1934 due to bankruptcy and moved to St. Louis, the franchise lasted only one more season. That is, until the new Ottawa senators came into the league and began play in the 1992-1993 season. Led in scoring by the always dangerous (haha) Norm Maciver, and with the unstoppable tandem of Peter Sidorkiewicz and Daniel Berthiaume between the pipes, the Senators only really could go up from their unimpressive 10-70-4 record, even though it took them until 1996-1997 to make their first playoff appearance. Just ten years after their re-emergance, the once pathetic (to put it nicely), now was filled with the names Marian Hossa, Martin Havlat, Daniel Alfredsson, Todd White, Zdeno Chara, Wade Redden, Jason Spezza, with great goaltending from Patrick Lalime. They went from worst to first in those ten years, winning the President’s trophy only to fall to the New Jersey Devils in the Eastern Conference finals who went on to win the cup in an amazing 7 game series over the Mighty Ducks. The team has been flirting with greatness since 1998-1999 due to great drafts (mulligan on Alexandre Daigle), and trading Bryan Berard for Wade Redden. As good as the franchise has been in the last ten years, they never could get the job done in the playoffs. since 1998 the team has surpassed 100 points 6 times, yet only made it to the Eastern Conference finals twice, and the Stanley cup finals once. Some blame the coaching, and when Bryan Murray took them to the finals in 06-07, that was his first time in 14 years as an NHL head coach he has ever made it past the second round of the playoffs.
One by one, the team lost it’s pivotal players like Chara, Redden, Emery, just to name a few. The team now is a mere shell of its former self, and aside from the all star line of Heatley, Spezza, and Alfredsson, nobody is contributing like they should. They have just fired Craig Hartsburg, and named Cory Clouston head coach, who was the head coach of their AHL farm team, as the teams 4th head coach in just three years. What else is wrong with this team? The depth that the team once had is gone. The great defensemen who would contribute handidly in the scoring department are gone. Finally, the guys between the pipes who would actually, ya know, stop the puck when it was shot at them…are gone. The team is just getting NO contribution from guys like Antoine Vermette, Chris Phillips, Mike Fisher, Andon Volchenkov, and Jarkko Ruutu. Jason Smith is an absolute joke this year. One point in 47 games is all he has. I feel sorry for the coaches, because it’s not their fault, these guys just aren’t that good afterall. There is some good news I suppose, just like after the 1992-1993 season, you guys have nowhere to go from here…but up. Congratulations on having to rebuild your team after almost winning the Stanley Cup one time
I don’t know about you, but I for one am getting rather spent from all of the skeptics who totally oppose alternate uniforms on our teams. These kooks are convinced when franchises employ these oft-times “exotic” uniforms, it’s for the SOLE purpose of the league and said franchise to milk you, the hard working, die hard, loyal fan for a couple extra bucks. These people are the same ones who implore you to let Jesus into your life before the world ends in 2012. It’s like refusing to eat the new calamari appetizer at your local restaurant, because it’s rather clear they only put it on the menu to make money; it’s not like they truly care about your taste buds and palate. Now that I’ve made it rather clear how ridiculous these morons are, I should stop complaining before I start sounding like Sidney Crosby.
I know, I know, the die hards out there probably don’t like the fact that they feel obligated to dish out $100 for that Kevin Walter alternate jersey, but hey, everyone has to sow their oats as fans. I would have to say that the ascension of alternate jerseys started with the intrigue of the retro jersey, or throwback, which became more commonplace to see on the back of someone towards the latter portion of the 90′s. While you cannot point the finger at a singular source, it’s rather apparent that the hip-hop culture helped the cause with urban fashion using many throwback jerseys in its arsenal, particularly basketbal and football. Around this same time, the NHL started integrating 3rd jerseys (yes, I’m fully aware that this was not a NEW concept but rather something on a much larger scale), with the first one being the New York Rangers Statue of Liberty jersey, followed by that unusual Boston Bruins yellow “Bear” jersey. Last year, the only MLB teams who did not have an alternate jersey were the Detroit Tigers and New York Yankees. Most NBA, NHL, and quite a few NFL teams as well have additional jerseys to compliment the pedestrian “home and away”s.
All I’m saying to you conspiracy theory jackaloons out there is don’t ruin it for the rest of us. Whether a team laces up in a throwback to honor tradition, an alternate color scheme to try something new, or if you’re the Lions doing it because you’re just sick of losing in the same uniform week in and week out, most of us are all for the alternate jersey.
Growing up in a hockey family, surrounded by fellow hockey nuts, it came as a shock to find out just how badly the NHL was doing in the mid to late 90′s. A once great game was now a mutated form of itself almost entirely due to the New Jersey Devils and their contribution to the game of hockey, the trap. The trap was a sort of defensive strategy implemented by the Devils where they would basically bore a team until a defender yawned, skate by the player as he dozed off, and try to score on one of the many mediocre goaltenders of that time (case in point: Stephane Fiset had a starting job). All this did was inflate goalie stats, kill scoring, and kill off many casual fans.
Since then, the NHL has been searching for answers as it took them quite a while to realize that there must be some correlation between a dip in scoring, and a dip in attendance. Ever since the greats of the 80′s and 90′s retired or just got too old, like Gretzky, Lemieux, Messier and Francis, the league just has not been the same. The names of today just do not have the same ring as those aforementioned players. The league had been desperate to find a savior, one who they could convince the masses was the next coming of “The Great One”. Onto the scene comes a young, rosey cheeked, pretty boy donning the moniker Sid the Kid. A guy with the skills to woo back previously abandoned fans and bring in some new ones alike. We watch, we awe, we are still left unfulfilled in our quest to bring back that same feeling we used to get from watching a GREAT game of hockey. You see, it’s something that a single person cannot do himself. I don’t care how great the guy can stick handle or pass the puck; it’s just ONE part of the game. The guy gets hit and cries like a girl who didn’t get a pony for Christmas because no penalty was called. We realize that there is more to the game than mere finesse. Hockey fans want physical play (oft referred to as “violence” by skeptics and radicals) in addition. Find me someone who would not want to see a game that ends 6-5 with nothing but great goals scored and about five fights during the course of the game, with hard hitting checks all around. The sound of the boards crashing, blistering slap shots, the raw emotion of the game, that is what the league needs.
Watch the Flyers. That is really all I can say. If I ran a team, this is exactly how I would want them to play. At the time of this article, only the Vancouver Canucks had more fights than them (46 to 44). The team is in first place in their respective division, 4th in goals (league-wide), and have some of the most gorgeous jerseys to finish off the deal. They intimidate you, score on you, and beat you. This is how the game is meant to be, that simple. It is an old school style that should have NEVER been abandoned in the first place. Instead of the league crossing over to a more finesse style (or “skilled” game, as they euphemistically put it), combining the two polarized styles would do wonders for this sport, and that is exactly what these 2nd generation Broad Street Bullies are doing.