Turris plays hero for Senators, youth hockey program on same night

Chris Johnston joins Kyle Bukauskas to discuss why the Ottawa Senators have looked like a different team at MSG, and how they’re trying to clear their minds ahead of the biggest game of their season.

NEW YORK – As a man of his word, there was no way Kyle Turris was going to miss the year-end banquet for the Capital City Condors youth hockey program.

Not even after Game 5 of the Senators-Rangers series stretched from Saturday afternoon into Saturday evening. Not even after he scored the overtime winner to move Ottawa within one win of the Eastern Conference final.

“We were going win or lose, goal or no goal,” Turris said Monday after practice at Madison Square Garden. “It just happened to work out real well that I scored and everybody was happy.”

Truth be told, the soft-spoken centre was a little uncomfortable with the attention he received for the gesture.

It speaks to the level of connection he has with the kids in the program. Each has a developmental disability that prevents him or her from playing the sport elsewhere and Turris is by now familiar with virtually everyone involved.

The organization’s website describes him and wife Julie as “full-fledged members of the Condors family” – a relationship that grew out of Turris taking on the role of honourary captain from former teammate Matt Carkner five years ago.

So it was that he found himself walking into the banquet room a little behind schedule on Saturday, freshly showered after making the short drive over from Canadian Tire Centre but still with one of the biggest goals in his career somewhere in the back of his mind.

Turns out he was far from alone. For a second time in a matter of hours, he brought the people to their feet. They serenaded his family’s entrance with chants of “Go Sens Go!”

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“It was another part of that night that I won’t forget,” said Turris. “Julie and [son] Beckett and I walked into the banquet hall – I mean it had to have been a couple of hundred people anyways – and all the kids come running at us and just bear-hugging us.

“Thirty or 40 kids, it was something I won’t forget.”

Even days later, he smiles wide while recounting the scene.

There is a great picture floating around of Turris holding his son while being surrounded by a couple members of the Condors. It’s one of those shots that conveys a thousand words.

Turris clearly treasures his work with the organization and bemoans the fact he can’t attend as many Condors games as he’d like because the Senators schedule rarely frees him up on a Saturday. It’s tough for the 27-year-old to properly articulate what he appreciates most about the chance to be part of the organization.

“It’s something you can’t really explain,” he said. “You kind of have to experience yourself. It’s just the love that surrounds everybody at the rink, and the atmosphere when you’re there, it’s incredible.”

It bears no resemblance to the highly competitive environment where he spends his working hours. According to Turris, it isn’t unusual to see members of both teams celebrate with a player who scores a goal.

“Just genuine happiness at the arena,” he said. “Like not a worry in the world. They’re just so happy to be playing hockey and doing something that all their friends can do that they didn’t have the opportunity to do before.”

Turris figures that he and Julie were even more excited about Saturday’s banquet than the Condors. He was initially concerned that Game 5 would get scheduled at the same time – the puck drop was only finalized a couple days beforehand – and then he had to work overtime after the 3 p.m. start to give Ottawa a 3-2 series lead.

Turris played an extremely physical game and wound up seeing almost 25 minutes in ice time. He looked exhausted while sitting back in his locker stall after speaking with reporters.

Soon enough, though, he was quietly making his way to a nearby hotel even though nobody would have held it against him if he decided to go home instead.

“Just because you played a game or scored a goal, I don’t think you don’t attend commitments you have,” said Turris. “It’s such an amazing group of kids and families. You know, we love spending time with them. I don’t think it was that big of a thing. All of the attention that the Condors can get, they deserve.

“They’re such an amazing group and Julie and I are lucky to be involved with them.”

And they, too, with him.

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