Phaneuf ’s homecoming tour
The next 48 hours will be a homecoming for Dion Phaneuf.
One of the few players to suit up for both the Senators and Maple Leafs, the Los Angeles Kings veteran defenceman will make his first stop at the Canadian Tire Centre Saturday afternoon since being dealt by Ottawa last February, and then Monday he’ll face Toronto at Scotiabank Arena.
There will be no shortage of nostalgia for the 33-year-old Phaneuf.
“I was very lucky to play in three Canadian markets, and two of them are on this trip, so it’s nice to get back and it’s nice to see some familiar faces,” Phaneuf said after an off-ice workout Friday on the University of Ottawa campus.
“I have nothing but great things to say about both cities. Ottawa is special to me for a lot of reasons. First and foremost, my daughter (Zaphire) was born here and I really enjoyed my time here. I look at the success and the run that we had (in 2017) and the way the city welcomed me when I got here from a pretty big rival in Toronto.
“I’ve got really good memories here. I wish this organization, as I do Toronto, nothing but success. Being in Ottawa, I was treated very well here, the fans were incredible and I enjoyed living in the city.”
The Senators acquired Phaneuf in a blockbuster deal with the Leafs Feb. 9, 2016 because the organization wanted to take the next step. It was shocking to see a former captain of the Leafs get dealt to a archrival, but both teams were going in different directions at the time.
A former Calgary Flames’ captain as well, Phaneuf played a key role for Ottawa on the ice and off the ice in a leadership role. He helped the Senators get to the East final when they dropped a 4-3 double-overtime decision to the Pittsburgh Penguins in Game 7.
When the Senators decided to deal Phaneuf last spring, it was a signal a full rebuild was under way. The big changes by general manager Pierre Dorion started before the deadline in February and Phaneuf was moved to the Kings in the middle of a game in Pittsburgh on Feb. 13th.
He was sent to L.A. that night with winger Nate Thompson in a deal that brought Marian Gaborik and Nick Shore to Ottawa. Gaborik is expected to be placed on longterm injury reserve after off-season back surgery and Shore was traded to Calgary a couple of weeks later.
“It wasn’t that big of a surprise if you want me to be honest,” Phaneuf said. “I had an idea what was going on and Pierre was really good with me throughout the whole thing. That’s why I wish Ottawa nothing but success and Pierre and the whole organization.
“They treated me very well so I wasn’t shocked.”
It’s rare for a player to get dealt mid-game, but Phaneuf has been around long enough to know when coach Guy Boucher didn’t put him on the ice midway through the second period the Ottawa portion of his career was over.
“When I got sat down I had kind of a feeling because I didn’t think I was playing that bad,” Phaneuf said with a smile. “No, I knew on the bench, and I didn’t know where at that point. I only found that out when I went into the room and there was some technical stuff that had to happen.
“We (the Kings) were playing at the time so they were waiting to make sure that everybody got out of that game healthy that was involved in the trade. It was an experience. I’ve never gone through that before but I knew I had been traded when I didn’t play another shift.”
He isn’t surprised with the changes in Ottawa, however, he wasn’t going to go near the whole Erik Karlsson/Mike Hoffman saga when asked about it.
“Year-to-year there’s ups and there’s downs. We didn’t play well enough last year and that’s why there’s changes made. It’s a resultoriented business. There’s a lot of different pieces over there now and that’s just part of the business,” said Phaneuf.
The change has been easy for Phaneuf. He and his wife, actress Elisha Cuthbert, already had a home in Los Angeles so the move was perfect.
“I really like the adjustment. The guys welcomed me and my family is there so I was very fortunate it worked out that way,” Phaneuf said. “I really like our team. We fell short last year, but right from day one the guys welcomed me into the room and it was pretty seamless.”
Dion Phaneuf gestures to fans during practice on an outdoor rink in Ottawa on Dec. 15, 2017. On Saturday, Phaneuf makes his return to Ottawa for the first time after the trade in February which sent him to the L.A. Kings.