Across the City tonight people will be gathering in front of their televisions, sitting together in pubs and restaurants, cheering on our Ottawa Senators as they begin their playoff match-up against the Montreal Canadiens.
This match-up is exciting and not just because Mayor Jim Watson has bet some BeaverTails on the outcome.
It’s exciting because there were so many moments of wondering whether it would even happen. I know my Facebook feed was filled with my friends who are huge fans complaining about aches in their hearts and fearing stress would overcome them in true hockey-fan hyperbole.
But the Ottawa Senators came together with rookie goalie Andrew “Hamburglar” Hammond to capture the berth and the attention of even the most fair-weather fans in this city.
As you might be able to tell from the limited way in which I can speak about the game I would count myself among that category of fan.
Don’t get me wrong, I love the Ottawa Senators. I love the organization for its community involvement and dedication to supporting the vulnerable in Ottawa including children battling serious illnesses, people fighting cancer and people living with mental illness. I’ve met many of the players through my work as a reporter and they’re great guys. It’s inspiring to watch the way they take on Ottawa as a home and work tirelessly in our community to make it a better place.
There’s another very important reason that I love the Ottawa Senators: They bring people in this City together.
You saw it last Thursday on Jeans and Jersey Day when fans across the City donned their Sens gear to cheer on the team.
You saw it on Saturday when fans PACKED the Canadian Tire Centre to watch the Sens crush the Flyers for our hard-earned playoff spot.
You saw it Sunday afternoon when fans came out to watch the installation of Sens Mile signs along Elgin Street.
You saw it when the entire city cursed Rick Chiarelli’s name for trying to get those signs up early when everyone thought he’d jinxed the team.
You’ll see it today as people put those jerseys on once more, fly Sens flags from their cars and find somewhere, anywhere, to watch the game tonight.
And the fans that keep track of every point, every goal, every penalty, players’ plus-minus scores, every assist may not appreciate that the band-wagon jumpers are all piling on for the play-offs.
But I think we should focus on the positive for one moment.
Sure, we’re jumping on last-minute but many of us made the leap during the Hamburglar’s stunning streak that saw him allow no more than two goals per game in his first 12 starts in the NHL.
I am not a hockey super-fan. I love going to games with my friends and family at the Canadian Tire Centre. I’ll even watch the odd game at the bar or at home if it’s an important enough game.
I also love the playoffs. And, like many fans, I love a winning streak.
Let’s hope that this one continues and that the team continues to bring joy and togetherness to the fans in Ottawa and across Canada because, really, that’s the spirit of the game.