I know I said 5 before but some of these are too good not to share. The winner will be drawn from these seven on Monday.
1. I've coached minor hockey for several years and a few years ago my team was one of the groups chosen to have a practice at Scotiabank Place. The team even promised we'd get one of the players on the ice with us. The kids were stoked and spent weeks discussing which player we'd get. You can't imagine how excited they were when one of the team officials ducked his head into the dressing room and said we'd be skating with Mike Fisher. When we got on the ice, Fisher skated over to me and told me to just run the practice and he’d go through the drills with the kids. Not surprisingly, he was awesome with them, doing all the drills and goofing off. I nearly shat myself when the kids told me they wanted to slide on the ice and Fisher slid right along with them, not wearing any equipment, knees on the hard ice, weeks before the playoffs. At the end, he and Chris Neil hung around signing autographs and high fiving the kids. You can see that they both really enjoyed the experience and the kids got memories to last a lifetime.
2. Although the Senator players themselves were merely those among many at Scotiabank Place, my favourite memory, albeit a simple one, took place on April 15, 1999. I stood there with my father on his birthday as we applauded and paid our respects to the greatest player and ambassador the game has ever seen. I speak of course about Wayne Gretzky. The building was charged with an energy that I had never felt before and will probably only ever feel again some day as #11 gets hoisted to the rafters where it ultimately belongs. I vividly remember looking over to my father as I saw a single tear fall from his face (something according to my mother has only ever happened once before, that being the day I was born). That moment will undoubtedly stay with me for the rest of my life.
3. “Alfie! Alfie! Alfie” is often heard at Scotiabank place. Our captain, our leader and our hero, few people have endeared a fan base like Daniel Alfredsson. There is one “Alfie” chant that will be forever etched into my memory, and that time is the closest I, or any of the 20,000 fans at Scotiabank will ever come to assisting an NHL goal. It was the first game of our series against the New Jersey devils in the 2007 playoffs. The Devils had broken our hearts before and there was a special atmosphere at Scotiabank place that night. The crowd wanted redemption, we were eager to dispel the myth that we were not a playoff team. Early in the first, the crowd erupted in one of our trademark “Alfie!” chants. What sets this one apart was the response from Alfie. A battle along the boards and a drive to the net resulting in a goal mid chant was nothing short of extraordinary. Alfie heard the chant and he delivered to the crowd who then rewarded him with the loudest cheers I have ever witnessed. To me, this was the goal that sparked our run to the finals.
4. My best Sens memory at SBP occured on April 12, 1997. Having been a Sens fan since their inception, I felt blessed at the chance to be at a game where the Sens had the opportunity to clinch their first ever playoff berth. It was definitely the most nervous I had ever been at a sporting event, and I don’t think I was alone; the tension in the arena was palpable. When Steve Duchesne scored the go ahead goal late in the third all the tension in the arena erupted into pure joy. Strangers everywhere were high-fiving and hugging. This was the type of atmosphere that I had never been a part of before and may never be a part of again. Although this already would have been the memory of a lifetime, the most memorable part of the evening occurred after the game. My father and I headed downstairs to catch the Team 1200 post game show. About halfway through the show, the doors opened and in stepped Ron Tugnutt and Steve Duchesne (among others) who popped a couple of bottles of Champagne, sprayed everyone in attendance, and then made their way through the line of fans to shake everyone’s hand. All I remember thinking was how small Ron Tugnutt’s hand was. I couldn’t believe this man who was only just taller than I was had just pitched a shutout in the most important game in Sens history. An amazing experience for a 15 year old.
5. Game 3, 06-07 Finals, Ottawa vs. Anaheim. I made my way to SBP to show my support. Arriving early I scored a white plastic chair on the man-made beach next to Bert’s Bar. I was close to the large video screen as well as and the hot tub outside featuring ladies in bikinis. Not bad view all around. I spent the first 2 periods, pounding back some tasty beverages, cheering heavily with Ottawa holding on to a 4 - 3 lead. At the intermission I downed my bevy and strolled towards the main gate where a co-worker of mine was walking out. He was on-call, got paged and wasn't able to stay. He unenthusiastically gave me his ticket and I ran like a schoolgirl to find my seat. I witnessed the vicious Pronger elbow on McAmmond and also saw Volchenkov score the lone 3rd period goal resulting in Ottawa’s 5–3 win. Being at my first ever playoff game (which I lucked my way into) and seeing them win was very special. I’ve been to many games since then, but I’ve never heard the Ottawa crowd cheer as loud as they did that night, I’ll never forgot it.
6. The setting...2004, Game 6, Toronto @ Ottawa. I had the pleasure of sitting beside my 68 year old grandmother during this game and I'm quite certain I didn't speak to her for 4 periods. I've never felt so nervous watching a hockey game in my life. I could just picture my leaf fan friends tormenting me with every passing minute. I remember giving up basically all hope and sitting back in my chair for a second and then Big Z started a rush up the right boards and began to go around the net...I inched a little further in my chair when I saw this beast of a man decide to take the game into his own hands...when he took that backhanded shot I was sure it was going in; I think I jumped about four feet in the air as it did...when Fish finished them off in the second OT it was just icing on the cake (pretty sure I jumped 4.5 when that went in). After all that wonderful stuff my world came crashing down the next night but game 6 was AWESOME.
7. After finishing our first 3 seasons dead last in the league, the 1995-1996 season felt different once January rolled around. We had some hope for the future, a shiny new arena, a new head coach in Jacques Martin, some rookie named Daniel Alfredsson, and a trade that landed Damian Rhodes and Wade Redden. We started being more competitive and winning some games and finally had a goalie that would end the season with a GAA under 3 (2.77) and a save percentage over .900 (.906) On April 3rd, 1996, Florida took a 2-0 lead after the first period, but Ottawa scored 3 times in the third to take the lead. Martin Straka was hauled down on a breakaway with about 10 seconds left in the third, and a penalty shot was awarded. Everyone was on their feet as Straka (who was part of the package that landed Rhodes) skated towards Damian Rhodes, skated around him with a forehand deke, only to see Rhodes put the paddle down to stop the puck on the goal line. The crowd exploded with cheers and the Corel Center was rocking to the end as we won 3-2. Still my favourite memory to this day.
8. “My favourite Senators rink memory was at what was then the Corel Centre in April 1997. Things were looking up for the Senators organization after growing pains since the inaugural season in 1992-1993. So much that on this night, we had a shot to make the playoffs for the first time! Now this having been 14 years ago and me having been only 11 at the time the memories might be a little bit fuzzy but I do remember that it was the last game of the year against Dominic Hasek and the Buffalo Sabres. It was a tightly contested game and you could feel the buzz and the anticipation in the arena. When all was said and done, our Senators had pulled out a 1-0 victory clinching them their first ever playoff spot. The most vivid memory I can remember from that night is the pure noise that erupted from the rink when the lone goal was scored and especially when the scoreboard clicked off the final second of the 3rd period. From up in the nosebleeds, it felt as if the stands were shaking. Nothing since has felt quite so special to me while sitting inside Scotiabank Place.”