There is hockey life after Ottawa, as many ex-Senators have discovered over the past year and a half.
Kyle Turris, a former alternate captain in Ottawa and an overtime playoff hero in 2017, is one of 11 players gone from the Senators team that pushed the Pittsburgh Penguins to double overtime in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference final.
Traded last November in a three-way trade for Matt Duchene (the Senators also gave up prospect Shane Bowers, a first- and third-round pick in 2019 and goaltender Andrew Hammond), Turris and his family are now fully settled into Nashville and the Predators organization.
That mad scramble 11 months ago is a distant memory – Turris jumping on a plane to join his new team while his wife, Julie, organized three children under the age of four and planned out a massive move to Nashville from Ottawa.
Their baby boy, Cooper, was just a few months old at the time. With the help of her mother, who flew in from Minnesota to help, Julie kept the kids in Ottawa until she had researched a place to live in Nashville, with the help of the Predators. Daughter Teddie is now two. Oldest son, Beckett, then three (now four), would Skype his dad, whom he missed terribly.
“Can I come to Nashville, Dada?” Beckett would ask Kyle. He did, in a few weeks time.
The Turrises returned to Ottawa for most of the summer, but they’re all in Nashville now — golden retriever Leo, too. The family lives in Brentwood, about 20 minutes south of Nashville.
“It’s kind of nice to start down here from Day 1 this year with a good routine, instead of having to go through the period of time where we’re trying to adapt,” Turris says, from Nashville. “That was a very difficult transition.”
Julie and Kyle still have deep ties to Ottawa, and recently handed off their role as honourary captains of the Ottawa Condors hockey team to Tara and Mark Borowiecki. The Condors are a team of developmentally challenged youngsters first recognized by former Senators defenceman Matt Carkner and his wife, Kary. They passed the torch to Kyle and Julie Turris.
So incredibly proud to have @taraboro & Mark as the new honorary captains of the @condorsottawa! Honestly they have the biggest, most genuine hearts—they’ll fit right in with the Condor’s family. So much love & appreciaion for the Boro’s
— Julie (@julieturris) September 30, 2018
Turris and the Condors made national headlines during the 2017 playoffs when Turris scored the overtime winner in Game 5 against the New York Rangers, and then left the rink with Julie to attend the Condors’ year-end banquet. Turris received a Standing O at the Canadian Tire Centre, and then a spontaneous Standing O from the Condors, who were thrilled Turris didn’t forget them, despite the demands of his day job.
“It was like I got to enjoy scoring the goal a second time,” Turris says now of the Condors reaction.
The Condors, of course, had been watching the game on TV during their banquet, erupting in a “Go, Sens, Go!” chant as Ottawa trailed 4-3 late in the third period, before forcing OT and the Turris heroics.
To this day, Turris deflects attention from that event.
“Julie and I were talking about it after the fact. We were going to the banquet win or lose or however the game ended up,” Turris says.
“We got this attention for going after I was lucky enough to get the winning goal in overtime, we just didn’t think the attention was necessary because the banquet was going to be the highlight for us — we were going either way.”
In deference to his former teammates who have been through a difficult year, Turris doesn’t care to comment on the beleaguered Senators organization that traded him away. He remains in touch with several players and, of course, couldn’t help but notice his former teammate Zack Smith getting put on waivers last week.
“I didn’t see it coming,” Turris says. “He’s a great guy and a good friend and I hope it works out for him.”
Smith, who was not claimed, remains a Senators centre for now.
A certain other close Senators teammate, defenceman Erik Karlsson, was involved in a rather larger transaction last month, getting traded to the San Jose Sharks on the opening day of training camp. On the weekend, Karlsson scored his first Sharks goal of the pre-season, a slick re-direct on the power play.
“He’s going to do great,” Turris says. “He’s a good friend of mine, but even without that bias, I honestly think after being on the ice with him every day and seeing how skilled he is, he’s on another level. If he’s not the best player in the world, he’s definitely one of them.
“Anywhere he goes, he’s going to have a ton of success. And I hope he does because he’s a great guy.”
In the spring of 2017, defenceman Dion Phaneuf scored an OT winner. Karlsson set up Mike Hoffman on a play so pretty Sports Illustrated made a study of it. Turris, a popular Senators centre for six seasons, was a proven OT hero. Now they’re all ex-Sens, among others.
“I have good memories of that team, and what we went through to get to that point and how close we were, that’s something I will think back to – over the course of our lives, not just now,” says Turris, a third overall draft pick of Arizona in 2007.
“It was a neat group, but organizations move forward and move on, and that is part of the process.”
Despite more playoff heartbreak last spring with the Predators, Turris, 29, is loving life in Nashville. The two oldest Turris children are established in Montessori pre-school programs, Julie has made fast friends among the player wives and girlfriends in ‘Smashville’ and Kyle loves rubbing elbows with Tennessee Titans players, star musicians and golfer Brandt Snedeker.
“Everyone is very passionate about hockey, it’s a really cool atmosphere,” Turris says. “We get support from all different areas.”
Turris, who had 51 points in 76 games combined between Ottawa and Nashville in 2017-18, will soon see his ex-mates in rather quick succession. The Senators are at Nashville Dec. 11 and the teams meet in Ottawa Dec. 17.