Thursday, February 02, 2006


Scotiabank Place-Ottawa-New Name, Same Game

Don’t drive around the block too many times looking for the Corel Centre in Ottawa. It’s gone.

In its place you will find the remarkably similar Scotiabank Place---home of the Ottawa Senators. It is still a little west of Downtown Ottawa, off Highway 417. The population of the area surrounding the capital has tripled in the last 20 years. The number of highways is still the same. Give yourself plenty of time to get to the rink. And if you want some decent grub at the building, call ahead to book at Marshy’s or at Finnegans. Very popular spots. And they beat the hell out of the cold pizza at the concessions.

The Senators have iced one of the premier teams in the NHL this season. They have the complete package---one suited to the “New NHL”. Such a goofy expression. In a nutshell, it means that the team has players who can skate, handle the puck, shoot, and are bright enough not to tackle opponents in front of the many referees cluttering up the ice surface.

On the occasionally rare night, opponents come to town and have their way with the Sens. Such was the case recently when I attended a Sens-Bruins game.

It did not start well for Ottawa’s backup netminder Ray Emery. A bit of a free spirit, Emery had recently dyed his hair, received a tattoo---he asked the media to photograph the procedure---and had his mask repainted. For the game I attended, Mike Tyson adorned his facial protection. Emery knows and loves the fight game, and has had other pugilists on his mask. Tyson, apparently, was not a popular choice, once a picture was splashed all over the Ottawa media.

Emery allowed two first period goals by the Bruins. A Chris Phillips shoot-around to clear the zone was snared by Brad Boyes, flipped to Patrice Bergeron, and popped the red light. Boyes slipped a second goal by Emery to up the count to two just before the end of the period. How they hurt, those end of period goals.

Goal number three was shorthanded, in a two on one situation, with no help from his D. The fourth was banked off the middle of his back. The fifth resulted from a rebound that sat in the crease, ignored by three Sens in the area. A rough night for the young rookie who played his entire OHL career in the Sault.

To add insult to injury, there was an LCBO message about drinking and driving on the big centre ice screen late in the third period by the same Ray Emery. The fans booed mercilessly. And they applauded him derisively when he stopped a couple of easy ones in the third.

There are two of the things I do not enjoy at a major sporting event. But there are others.

1. Anthem singers who embellish their presentations. The OPP who sings in Ottawa does a good job, but he tends to get a little carried away with his performance. At least he knows the words, Robert Goulet!
2. Messages on the Big Screen telling fans what to do---“Make Noise”, or “Scream if you’re a Sens fan”.
3. Extended commercial breaks for television purposes. They can really disrupt the flow of a game.
4. Rude fans. If someone near you is wearing the opposition’s shirt, it is not necessary to challenge them to a fight.
5. The wave. That speaks for itself.
6. Referees with microphones. Fine for football. Idiotic for hockey. We see the signal for slashing. We see the number of the player in the penalty box. We hear the announcer, in both languages. It was once written in stone that the best officiated game was one when the referee was almost invisible. Not any more.
7. Dumb music. After the Bruins scored their third goal, they played “Help” by the Beatles.
8. Unsupportive fans. There were less than 3 000 fans left in the arena at the end of the game. Some of the corporate folk stay in the lounge for most of the game with their Martinis. Others simply scalp their tickets, and write it off.
9. Irritating mascots. Some are acceptable, but not many.
10. Intermission events that add nothing to the evening. In Ottawa, an elderly chap was placed in a glass booth, and tried to grab flying bills as they blew around in the box. He won $ 50.
11. Guns that shoot things badly. I once saw a sandwich gun firing meatball subs, which disintegrated as they neared the fans. Hot sauce everywhere!

Perhaps you could add to the list. I realize that I am a bit of a purist, and that I usually go to the event for the game. Some minor distractions are fine, but…

The Sens will recover from that minor blip, and a few others. They have all that fire power, all that talent. Former Belleville Bull Jason Spezza played very well, as did Heatley and Alfredsson. You will hear from them again. And often.

Keep ‘em sorted.

James Hurst ---

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