It’s Rivalry Week here at SB Nation, and I have been asked a simple question: Why do I hate the Ottawa Senators?
Well... how much time you got, buddy?
Everybody should hate the Ottawa Senators.
Canada’s alleged “capital city” is home to one of the most unlikable sports franchises in all of North American professional athletics (with all due respect to New England, Washington, and Dallas in the NFL, the Boston Red Sox, and pretty much anything emanating from New York City).
What makes the Sens so worthy of our hate? That special, Philadelphia kind of eternally-burning, passed-on-through-generations, J.D. Drew-esque hate?
We could spend this entire article detailing how much the Sens’ owner sucks.
Even with the Ottawa Sun’s corrections to its initial reports about shady dealings regarding the Ottawa Senators Foundation and The Organ Project does it seem like everything here is in line? Come on.
Now, am I exercising ethical journalism by mentioning retracted/contested alleged financial improprieties? Probably not. But do a quick search of Melnyk’s business history and I think you’ll see enough to draw your own conclusions about who he really is.
And if that’s not enough, watch this video. Tell me this dude is trustworthy. Go ahead, I dare you.
The Ottawa Senators are proud to share the vision for the future of our team and this organization. We are about to launch an exciting plan to rebuild our team and we are inviting you to be a part of our rise to new heights. #OttawaRising pic.twitter.com/hok2jYCUVi— Ottawa Senators (@Senators) September 11, 2018
But when we’re talking about teams we hate, it can’t simply be about the owners.
Do I hate Melnyk? Clearly.
Do I think he’s worse, personally, than 90% of his peers? Probably not.
But having a Snyder- or Dolan-level owner, puts the Senators atop the trash heap.
But there are plenty of other things to dislike about such a despicable organization.
So let’s start with their name.
The Ottawa Senators.
Oh cool, y’all are named after a branch of government. How inspiring!
When are the Manitoba Congressmen going to challenge you for parliamentary rule of The Great White North’s sacred sport?
I get it, the “Original Sens” predate the National Hockey League itself, and won a bunch of Stanley Cups back when hockey was pretty much just a drinking game for otherwise unemployed Canucks. Firestone wanted a recognizable brand to honor that history when they got themselves an expansion franchise for the 1992-93 season.
But damn. They had like 6 decades to come up with something cool to represent Canada’s glorious game in the country’s capital, and settled on Senators?
Sure, it’s not an overtly racist slur, and that makes it not the absolute worst team nickname for a country’s most popular sport in its nation’s capital. But at least other namesakes like Capitals or Nationals make sense for their region. And even the Washington Wizards have some alliteration going for them.
But the “Senators”? The “Sens”? Hideous.
To make matters worse, with that stupid Roman Empire general’s face as the primary logo, it’s like they’re ignoring the entire reason for the name, and just paying homage to an ancient civilization. And one that’s 4200 miles away! It makes exactly zero sense.
Ok. Had to get all that out. Moving on now.
Head-to-head against Philadelphia
A few weeks ago the BSH Radio crew discussed the worst Flyers games we’ve ever attended, and I ran down the deciding game of the 2002 Eastern Conference Quarter-finals, a 2-1 loss in game five at home to the aforementioned Ottawa hockey club.
The series saw the Flyers win one game, the series opener, in overtime, before dropping four straight.
Philly’s offensive ineptitude was historic, scoring only a pair of goals in the five-game set- one to win game one in OT thanks to Ruslan Fedotenko, and the second by Dan McGillis to open the fifth game’s scoring, before the Flyers gave up the next two, sending them home for good.
If my math and Hockey-Reference box scores are correct, that’s about 5 hours, 15 minutes, 20 seconds worth of hockey and only two goals to show for it.
That series right there should, if nothing else, count against Jeremy Roenick’s Hall of Fame bid.
The 2002 series got Bill Barber ousted, and in 2003 the Flyers managed to get by the Toronto Maple Leafs in seven games in the ECQF before again meeting Ottawa, but this time under Cup-winning bench boss Ken Hitchcock. Surely things would be different!
Well, for all the players who blamed Barber for the team’s misfortunes in the season prior, the switch paid off!
Philly managed to quintuple its goal output and double their win total against Ottawa from 2002 to 2003. Of course, this only meant falling to Ottawa in six games rather than five. Progress!
This may all seem like something a well-adjusted adult could let go after nearly two decades, but I’m not a well-adjusted adult. I’m a Philadelphia Flyers fan. Just thinking of this shit still makes me want to start something in the parking lot, just because.
I could blame the players, or Bob Clarke, or Ed Snider, or Santa Claus, or William Penn, but after all this time, I just want to fistfight Daniel Alfredsson and Patrick Lalime.
Seriously, I don’t even care how bad I’d get my ass kicked. It’d be worth just hoping to get one shot in. Chances are my effort looks better than the Flyers’ in ‘02.
But if you need more contemporary kindling to fuel your ever-burning hatred, let’s go back to December 7, 2019 when Brady Tkachuk decided he needed to attempt to injure Scott Laughton.
Gutless. Ottawa typical.
I made you go all the way through to get to this. Congratulations if you made it.
To fully understand my hatred for Ottawa, you cannot simply watch the highlights of the 419 (so close!) PIM game from March 5, 2004.
Although, now that I mention it, you absolutely should do that. Watch it to refresh your memory. I’ll wait.
Damn that was fun. Ok, where were we? Oh right, context.
No, it is not the brawl itself that took place on that beautiful spring Friday night to which I have taken exception over the last 16 years. But the circumstances around the game, dating back to the week prior- February 26, 2004.
In that contest, ultimately a 1-1 tie (go shootouts!)...
... Martin Havlat was assessed a misconduct, and later suspended another pair of games, for purposefully attempting to decapitate Mark Recchi (*worst person you know made a great point meme*) with a high stick.
Regardless of your personal stance on these “unwritten rules,” hockey is a game played within a certain code. Within that code there are agreed-upon means of conflict resolution that, while seemingly barbaric from an outside perspective, are, to reference The Wire, “all in the game.”
Remember when Brandon Manning got tangled up with Connor McDavid and Edmonton’s savior ended up losing out on the Calder Trophy because of a resulting collision with the boards?
Well, despite not doing anything actually dirty, a narrative was created that the Oilers HAD TO respond and, knowing how the game is played, Manning, to his credit, accepted his fate and took his beating.
“Everybody takes a beating sometimes.”
Instead of facing the consequences of his actions in the next game, ol’ Marty Havlat hid. He sat on the bench at the end of the game, then served another combatant’s penalty, keeping him out of the chaos, safe in the box.
And that’s not even the worst of it. When supposed tough guy Rob Ray was matched against Donald Brasher in the final 1:45, Brashear was begging his counterpart to drop ‘em with the Flyers up by three, and Ray took a shot at Sami Kapanen before being drug into a scrap with somebody he didn’t outweigh by 30 pounds.
Then, after Brashear already bloodied Ray, a couple of other Ottawa bums named Todd Simpson and Brian Pothier tried to jump Brashear while hiding behind the officials. Now, with Philly’s enforcer banished to the locker room after taking on three Sens, Ottawa chose to get even shittier.
Six-foot-nine Zdeno Chara dropped his gloves with Swedish D-man Mattias Timander.
Jason Spezza tried to take advantage of Patrick Sharp off a draw, but failed miserably.
Michael Handzus nearly had his head cracked by a Mike Fisher hip toss.
TL;DR the Senators conducted themselves like collectors for a cheap, second-rate, loanshark, while even skilled vets like Recchi and John LeClair stepped up for the orange and black.
After a couple embarrassing playoff efforts in a row by Philly, this game was a resounding pounding of a nemesis, and one of those tangible moments of camaraderie that propelled the Flyers to one of their deepest playoff runs of the last 30 years.
But no matter what, I’ll never let go of how truly awful Ottawa is, was, and forever will be.
And if that’s not enough for you, then you need to remember what Ottawa did to the entire hockey world in 2017... they made Chris Kunitz a legend.
Thank you, and good night.