Dreaming of a day where the Senators are vibrant and competitive again

Ottawa Senators left wing Tim Stutzle (18) celebrates a goal against the New York Rangers. (Justin Tang/CP)

With the trucker occupation ended, the residents of Ottawa can get back to more mundane concerns, such as the Senators power play and restoring health to their injured starters.

Is that too much to ask, or even dream about?

A book from a Harvard Medical School dream researcher came across my desk recently. Deirdre Barrett, an assistant professor of psychology at Harvard, compiled dream data during nearly two years of pandemic dreaming. Not surprisingly, people dream more during times of a global crisis and the dreams tend to reflect reality, then sadistically torque things even further.

So it is that Barrett, in her online survey, heard tales of killer bug nightmares, and horrible mask-related scenarios that caused the dreamer to jolt awake in a state of anxiety. But then she delivered this silver lining. More recently, people are finding increasing joy in their dreams – dreams of being together with family and friends again, out socializing at our favourite restaurants and nightclubs. A brighter day, in other words. A fuller life again.

Barrett even offers tips on how to dream more positively. For example, one should maintain positive thoughts at bedtime and might want to keep an object or photograph of the desired dream near your bed as you go to sleep.

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For Ottawa hockey fans, we are imagining photos of local hockey heroes like Brady Tkachuk, Tim Stützle or Artem Zub.

On this Family Day, we carry that thought even further to dreams of a brighter future for the Ottawa community as it relates to the Senators franchise, which continues to pull itself out of a rebuild that has been fraught with injuries, crowd restrictions and massive game rescheduling due to COVID-19 outbreaks.

Over the weekend, the Senators finally opened the doors of the Canadian Tire Centre to half-capacity for games against the Boston Bruins Saturday night and the New York Rangers at twilight on Sunday (an overtime loss and regulation loss). That meant 9,000-plus could have attended each game and yet these Original Six teams drew gates of just 5,212 and 5,181. Temporarily, we are handing out mulligans for those attendance figures.

We picture a day soon when the hockey team doesn’t have to compete with the distractions of a trucker convoy that descended on the steps of Parliament Hill for three-plus-weeks of chaos; or the addition of postponed games during what was supposed to be the NHL’s Olympic hockey break.

And that is just the beginning of a Family Day/dream.

Enough is enough. Time to compete

We imagine a time when the Senators are contenders again. To use that inane expression: enough is enough. Ottawa is about to miss the Stanley Cup playoffs for a fifth straight season. The last time this team played meaningful games, Dion Phaneuf was on the blue line and Phaneuf and Kyle Turris were scoring overtime goals.

We picture, as early as next season, a time when Stützle doesn’t just dance and dazzle, but outmuscles opponents, too. It will be the day he reminds us of a young Marian Hossa.

We envision a day when the power play is a real threat again. It could come as early as next month when the hope is that Drake Batherson and Josh Norris are back in the lineup and providing a legitimate No. 1 line.

We dream of ‘stopper’ quality goalies who also stay healthy. Is that you, Matt Murray? Filip Gustavsson? Or will it be the moment the Mads Sogaard ship comes in? On the day after Andrew (The Hamburglar) Hammond’s triumphant return in Montreal, who can say with certainty where goalies are concerned?

A future blue line has Ottawa hearts aflutter. Thomas Chabot, Jake Sanderson, Lassi Thompson, Jacob Bernard-Docker and Tyler Kleven are among other potential starters here. No team gets taken seriously until it has a blue line that is a force. Think of the Cup-winning defensive corps of the St. Louis Blues or Tampa Bay Lightning.

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We imagine a home arena packed with fans, and not just the several thousand who own season’s tickets at the moment. A growing, talented team deserves support. This core group has skill, work ethic and personality. What is not to like when they are all healthy and – vitally – are properly supported by additional veterans and role players to give Ottawa four lines worth of depth?

Why limit the dream to a boisterous CTC crowd in Kanata? Why not imagine the Senators franchise where it should be – just west of Parliament Hill in the valley of LeBreton Flats. It isn’t too late for the Senators to be part of a “major event centre” in the Flats. A central location, near an LRT hub and downtown Ottawa and the Byward Market could revitalize the franchise while anchoring a development that has turned into a piecemeal, hodge-podge plan at the moment.

The Canadian Tire Centre, which was called the Palladium when it first opened in January of 1996, just turned 26 years old. It is tired, though efforts have been made to maintain it. Planning for a central venue in a new facility could drive plans for the organization.

Dream big. Dream small. Dream of a day when the Ottawa Senators are vital again.


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