No one ever promised any fan a rose garden.
Still, spare a thought for the bravest fanatics in sport: card-carrying, autograph-hunting, team-jersey-buying members of the Ottawa Senators fan club.
The definition of frustration? Trying to keep current in fan merchandise with a Senators team that in the past three years has:
A) turned over its entire roster, and B) just revamped its logo to a new 2D version, a remake of an early Senators logo.
In that instant, super fan Tim McKee of Eganville became the proud owner of nearly $10,000 in outdated Sens swag.
How he relished that No. 61 Mark Stone jersey, the No. 65 of Erik Karlsson and the No. 7 of Kyle Turris.
Gone, gone and gone. Collectors items, at least.
Don’t even ask him about defenceman Christian Wolanin staying with the club, only to change his number to 24 (for 2020-21) from 86.
“I reached out to him and told him he owes me two autographed jerseys,” McKee says.
Tim McKee, superfan of the Ottawa Senators, is the proud owner of a wide-ranging jersey collection. (Photo courtesy: Tim McKee)
We think he was kidding about Wolanin owing him. But no one could blame McKee for trying to recoup some losses.
Among the unwritten rules of extreme fandom: one does not wear a Maple Leafs sweater to a Senators-Canadiens game and, once a player has been traded, that numbered jersey stays in the closet.
“To me they’re done,” McKee says, of the nearly two-dozen obsolete, autographed jerseys he owns.
He did wear a No. 3 Ottawa Marc Methot jersey when the Dallas Stars came to town, but Methot was out with an injury that night. McKee also donned a Turris sweater for Nashville’s first visit with Turris after he was traded there. Now, Turris is an Edmonton Oiler, spoiling the fun of those who owned his No. 8 jersey in Music City.
Combined, Tim and his wife, Cindy, own 27 Senators jerseys — nearly all autographed by players long since traded or gone via free agency — plus 14 hats and assorted hoodies, T-shirts and jackets bearing outdated logos.
The man might be a masochist, and Cindy slightly less so, but they are no slackers. Cindy is doing contract work with Envari, an energy solutions company, after 37 years with Hydro Ottawa. Tim has been a top advertising salesman for many years in the challenging newspaper business. He’s 54 and among his credentials is a Mayor’s City Builder Award for outstanding volunteerism as commanding officer of the 3018 Royal Canadian Army Cadets Corps, and for being a board member and volunteer with the Orleans Chamber of Commerce.
We had to ask. What would possess an otherwise sane, accomplished individual to maintain this head-banging-wall, jersey-buying habit?
It is, after all, the modern equivalent of Sisyphus pushing the boulder up the mountain, only to have it roll back down again.
Senators superfan Tim McKee with former team goaltender Craig Anderson, holding a special edition green St. Patrick’s Day Senators jersey. (Photo Courtesy: Tim McKee)
“The answer is compulsion,” McKee confesses. “Most of mine were specialty jerseys. For Canadian Armed Forces Night, or cancer awareness night.
“My Craig Anderson No. 41 was the first of the St. Patrick’s Day jerseys. [Marcus] Hogberg I bought on the Chris Phillips jersey retirement night. [Thomas] Chabot’s was an all-star jersey.
“I have three Karlsson jerseys — one black, one red, and one from the Outdoor Game [December, 2017].
“I get them because they’re cool. I didn’t actually see risk, honestly, until Kyle Turris was traded.
“He was my first keeper jersey, a cool jersey, that got traded away.”
Turris was dealt in early November of 2017, about a month before the outdoor game versus the Habs. In exchange, Ottawa acquired Matt Duchene, signalling they were still going for it after reaching the Eastern Conference Final in the Spring of 2017.
But by the Fall of 2018 the rebuild was full on and the rest of the roster ultimately departed. Of that 2017 playoff lineup, only Colin White remains, and he was fresh out of college at the time, making a cameo appearance in a single game. Serendipitously, Cindy ran into White while wearing his No. 36 jersey and got him to sign it.
Cindy McKee, Tim’s wife and a Senators superfan in her own right, had a fortuitous meeting with Colin White while wearing his No. 36 jersey. (Photo courtesy: Tim McKee)
When Karlsson was traded, at the opening of camp in 2018, it reminded fans of the day Daniel Alfredsson bolted to Detroit in 2013. Alfredsson was McKee’s first jersey, since given away. When winger Mark Stone left at the 2019 trade deadline, fans reeled. There had been an expectation he would be the next Alfie, and the next captain.
“Mark Stone was the crush, because that was one I figured was going to be around forever,” McKee says. “I honestly, honestly believed that Mark Stone was going to be a Sen for life.”
McKee has suffered great cruelty. Like the time Bobby Ryan decided to switch to No. 9 from No. 6. Using his considerable persuasion, McKee got a supplier to change over his Ryan jersey to a Chris Wideman, since Wideman was then wearing No. 6. (Changing names is easier than changing numbers, which leaves marks). Beautiful. Done deal.
Then, just about the time the jersey gets remade, the Senators Uber story breaks. Uh-oh. Wideman, who played a bigger role in that trash-talking fiasco than he did on the Sens blueline, was persona non grata after that. His days were numbered. So was the time ticking on the relevance of McKee’s No. 6 Wideman jersey. Within three weeks of the Uber video release, Wideman was dealt to the Oilers.
Methot’s departure as a free agent in 2017 was especially painful. McKee was a huge fan of Methot, an Ottawa product, and thinks Methot is underestimated for the complementary role he played while Erik Karlsson did his thing.
“Anybody who is an Erik Karlsson fan needs to know that Marc Methot is the reason Erik Karlsson could be as great as he was,” McKee says. “That’s my personal belief. Erik in San Jose or even here after Marc left, didn’t have the freedom he did when he was partnered with Marc.”
Tim McKee holds up his autographed, military appreciation night Marc Methot jersey. (Photo Courtesy: Tim McKee)
McKee is no kid in the crowd, waving a fan poster, trying to get noticed. At six-feet, six inches tall, he towers over many of the players he meets. And he meets them all.
To use military parlance, McKee has done a superior job of infiltrating the ranks of the organization. He has been a corporate guest on team charter flights, attended Senators soiree galas, golfed with Turris and been invited to morning skates by general manager Pierre Dorion.
McKee once managed to sell newspaper ads to the Florida Panthers, which, of course, necessitated a business trip to Florida, where McKee not only attended Sens games but sat on the 50-yard-line, seven rows up for a Miami Dolphins-Baltimore Ravens NFL game (complimentary tickets from a business connection), and sat in the owner’s suite in Tampa Bay, mingling with the likes of Steve Yzerman, still GM of the Lightning at the time.
In Las Vegas, McKee combined hockey and a NASCAR race.
For all his forged connections, McKee lets those personal player jerseys do a lot of the heavy lifting. They are the synthetic gateway to conversation.
One of McKee’s most curious fascinations involved one Magnus Paajarvi. Seriously. When the Senators picked Paajarvi off waivers from Edmonton, to spend parts of two forgettable seasons in Ottawa from 2018-19, McKee inexplicably picked himself up a No. 56 Paajarvi jersey.
“That jersey gave us some really cool moments. We went to a game in Tampa a couple of years ago, he virtually hung out with me on the boards during warmup. Every time he wasn’t doing something, he would come over to where I was at the glass and hang out. Which was kind of fun.
“I became more of a Magnus Paajarvi fan after that and bought a couple more of his jerseys.”
Tim McKee gets his jersey signed by Magnus Paajarvi, a player who became one the superfan’s more curious fascinations. (Photo courtesy: Tim McKee)
Anticipating the arrival of prospects is a big part of being a fan, which was why McKee contacted Arizona State University to get a No. 35 Joey Daccord sweater and tweeted about it, tagging Daccord. Daccord retweeted it.
Now, Daccord was one goaltending shot in the dark that is paying dividends. Selected by Ottawa with the 199th pick of the 2015 NHL draft (only 12 players were selected after him), Daccord had a stellar career at ASU, was signed by the Senators and got called up for his reward with a spot on the roster in April of 2019.
McKee was ready for him. Knowing that Senators players not dressed for the game eat at the Lexus Lounge before going to the press box, McKee gave his Daccord ASU jersey to a hostess named Jan in the lounge and asked her to get Joey to sign it. When Daccord saw the jersey, he asked Jan, “Is this for Tim?”
McKee got a kick out of that one.
Curiously, McKee wasn’t always a diehard Senators fan. He had been a sort of fair-weathered Boston Bruins/New York Islanders booster, until he started working at the Ottawa Citizen in April, 2011. The newspaper was a presenting sponsor and McKee would take clients to games. He got hooked on the home team and the jerseys and gear followed. Alfie, then Craig Anderson, Bobby Ryan etc.
Despite the pain he has endured investing in transient gear, he isn’t yet cured.
This fall, McKee was out early, buying a new Adidas 2D Senators t-shirt even before the official logo launch at the NHL draft. He thanks his stars he held off on a No. 88 Tim Stuetzle jersey, because Stuetzle later announced he would wear No. 18 with the Senators.
As for his No. 7 Brady Tkachuk and any future Tkachuk jerseys he may buy?
Long may they run.