This article originally appeared in the October 27 edition of Sportsnet magazine. Subscribe here.
It’s pretty great being an Ottawa Senators fan. The team goes to the playoffs more often than not. Ticket prices are reasonable. And since Ray Emery left, our players hardly ever get accused of trying to run residents off the road and swearing at them.
But sometimes being a Senators fan is not so pretty great. Here’s why:
THE NAME Nothing about the name has ever made sense. When efforts to rekindle the franchise first gained steam, Senators merchandise featured an image of the Peace Tower—because hey, who wouldn’t want to associate their sports club with a chamber of sedentary, toadying bagmen?
But then the team was all like: Whoa, we’re not named after those senators! We’re named after Roman senators and possibly that’s better maybe? Here’s the thing: There remain plenty of violent, intimidating creatures whose identities have not been adopted by an NHL team: Tigers. Falcons. Baldwins. Instead, we’re stuck with a name that conjures the mental image of Mike Duffy in a toga. Not a strong selling point, guys.
THE NICKNAME Sens is the worst team nickname ever. In fact, you could create a new franchise called the Buttheads, adopt the nickname Butts, and Sens would still be the worst nickname ever. For years we’ve had to endure being referred to as members of the “Sens Army.” Little-known fact: This is the only army in which thousands of soldiers go MIA the moment their team loses three in a row.
THE OWNER Eugene Melnyk comes across as a guy who got into sports ownership because he enjoys being called “Mr. Melnyk” by other full-grown adults. “It’s very easy to increase payroll,” Melnyk said, defending his decision not to spend to the cap. “Any idiot can do it. Lots of idiots do.” Yep, they sure do. Last year, many of these “idiots” wound up in a place called “the playoffs,” and one ended up winning a big silver trophy.
IN-GAME ENTERTAINMENT Let’s take you inside Senators HQ:
• OK, folks: What should we do between periods this season?
[Eight minutes of silence. Somewhere a coyote howls.]
• Uh, we could shoot some lame T-shirts into the crowd.
• We’ve done that forever.
• But maybe we could fire them into the crowd harder?
• We are done here!
THE BANNERS Take an out-of-town friend to a game in Ottawa and you live in constant anxiety that your companion will eventually look up. “Uh, are those Stanley Cup banners? Because your team has never won the Cup.” And then it becomes your job to get all defensive and go, “Sure we did! You don’t remember one-eyed Frank McGee lighting it up against the Rat Portage Thistles in nineteen-aught-five?”
The Senators take awkward, obsessive pride in associating themselves with a team that won its titles back when everyone used a spittoon for a goalie. (Historical fact: No fewer than two spittoons rank ahead of Pascal Leclaire in franchise save percentage.)
Like many teams, the Senators these days raise a banner to celebrate almost any “achievement”: first place overall, first place in the division, Stanley Cup quarterfinal “participant.”
SHOWMANSHIP Remember the half-naked Village People reject at centre ice before the big playoff game in 2008? They gave him a shield and a sword. They gave him an oversized helmet that kept slipping down over his eyes. They gave him a DVD copy of 300 and told him to write down the good parts. His task was to exhort the Sens Army to “rise up.” The result was “painful to watch.”
This season, the Senators swiped an idea from the Washington Nationals and created 10-foot-tall mascots in the image of four former prime ministers. They are meant to entertain and teach children. With their massive heads and stitched-up faces, mostly they will teach children that history is terrifying. Twenty years from now, today’s young Senators fans will still be awaking from nightmares in which they are hunted for sport by Zombie Robert Borden.
The Senators should employ someone whose entire job is to walk into a promotional brainstorming session at the very last minute and go: “Um, no.”