Ot­tawa slowly warm­ing up to Sen­a­tors’ play­off run

Prime Min­is­ter says time to join the band­wagon

Cape Breton Post - - Sports -

Pol­i­tics, like hockey, has its un­writ­ten rules — and on Friday, Justin Trudeau broke one of them, daring to sug­gest the coun­try should jump on the band­wagon of the only Cana­dian team left in the Stan­ley Cup play­offs.

The Ot­tawa Sen­a­tors, who will face the Pitts­burgh Pen­guins be­gin­ning Satur­day to de­cide the top team in the Eastern Con­fer­ence, were left stand­ing alone af­ter the Ed­mon­ton Oil­ers suf­fered a nar­row Game 7 loss ear­lier this week to the Ana­heim Ducks.

The prime min­is­ter will to tem­po­rar­ily set aside his al­le­giance to his beloved Mon­treal Cana­di­ens to back the Sen­a­tors, and is urg­ing fel­low hockey fans to join him.

“I think all Cana­di­ans will be root­ing for the fi­nal Cana­dian team in the Stan­ley Cup play­offs,’’ Trudeau said dur­ing a news con­fer­ence in Bramp­ton, Ont.

“We’re all happy to sup­port Ot­tawa right now,’’ Trudeau said. “Even Toron­to­ni­ans and Mon­treal­ers can agree on this par­tic­u­lar one.’’

Or not, if the re­ac­tion on so­cial me­dia is any in­di­ca­tion.

“This should be grounds to trig­ger an elec­tion,’’ one tweeted. Another wrote: “I’ll cheer when the Sen­a­tors start golf­ing.’’

Added a third: “U.S.: Our leader says some­thing bonkers ev­ery day. Trudeau: Hold my hair gel.’’

Muted en­thu­si­asm for the Sen­a­tors is fit­ting, per­haps, con­sid­er­ing Ot­tawa’s rep­u­ta­tion as a place long jok­ingly de­rided by de­trac­tors as ``the city that fun for­got.’’

At first glance, the city it­self seems un­der­whelmed by the strong­est Sen­a­tors play­off run in a decade — at least com­pared to the ra­bid en­thu­si­asm that tends to ac­com­pany hockey suc­cess in Canada’s bet­ter-known mar­kets.

Turnout at John Couse’s pub — the Lieu­tenant’s Pump, on a strip the city has dubbed “Sens Mile’’ — was smaller than ex­pected for the first three play­off games. And the team’s firstround se­ries against the Bos­ton Bru­ins was marked by empty seats at home, prompt­ing ques­tions about the city’s re­la­tion­ship with its hockey team.

That, said Couse, is all about to change.

“It re­ally didn’t feel like we nor­mally do for play­off hockey,’’ he said of the early games. “Now that we’re in the thick of it and the Sens have proven that they are a le­git­i­mate play­off team, I think ev­ery­one is pay­ing at­ten­tion.’’

Few in this city ex­pect to see a mul­ti­tude of fans get­ting rowdy or sport­ing face paint like Oak­land Raiders fans.

It’s just not the men­tal­ity of the cap­i­tal, said Eric MacIn­tosh, an as­so­ci­ate pro­fes­sor in the school of hu­man ki­net­ics at the Univer­sity of Ot­tawa, whose re­search in­cludes fan be­hav­iour.

It’s sim­ply that fans here are more sub­dued, and ex­cite­ment for the team has been slow to build, he sug­gested.

“The ap­petite for hockey is con­sid­er­able amongst the avid fan base,’’ MacIn­tosh said.

“I would put Ot­tawa’s fan base up against any one of those cities (Toronto and Mon­treal), any day of the week in terms of knowl­edge of the game and in­ter­est in the game. It’s just that I think some cities have more of those (avid) fans than Ot­tawa.’’

Af­ter the Sen­a­tors ousted the New York Rangers, some of those fans danced in the streets along Sens Mile; oth­ers gath­ered at the air­port in the mid­dle of the night to wel­come the team home.

“You see the clip of the fans danc­ing in the street when the light is green. In Ot­tawa, we’re so nice when the light gets red, we (usu­ally) get out of the way,’’ Sen­a­tors gen­eral man­ager Pierre Do­rion said dur­ing the team’s off-day on Thurs­day.

The Sen­a­tors have been a part of the city since 1992, in­sert­ing them­selves into a re­gion pre­vi­ously di­vided pri­mar­ily be­tween Toronto and Mon­treal fans. The Sen­a­tors have nei­ther the his­tory that the Maple Leafs have with the city of Toronto, nor cul­tural con­nec­tions like the Cana­di­ens, who are wo­ven into the fab­ric of French Cana­dian so­ci­ety.

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Ot­tawa Sen­a­tors play­ers cel­e­brate af­ter scor­ing against the New York Rangers late in the game dur­ing the third pe­riod in game five of a sec­ond-round NHL hockey Stan­ley Cup play­off se­ries in Ot­tawa on Satur­day, May 6, 2017.

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