Monday, April 14, 2008

The Ottawa Senators: A tradition of... not having their own traditions

This year's mission: don't get swept

Post-season hockey returns to Ottawa tonight, as the Senators host the Penguins in game three of their four game series. In addition to desperately trying to fill the building (good seats are still available two hours before game time), the Senators are encouraging fans to buy red "Sens Army" wristbands.

Putting aside the wisdom of promoting your fan base as an "army" when the real military is off fighting a war, aren't red wristbands supposed to be for AIDS awareness? Yes they are, and that makes them the perfect candidate to be the newest Ottawa Senators tradition.

You see, the wristbands are only the latest in a long line of Senator traditions that have been borrowed, copied or flat out stolen from other sources. Let's take a stroll down memory lane.

Wow, there must be... dozens of them

Tradition: Sens Mile

Stolen from: Calgary and Edmonton

One of the defining memories of the back-to-back Finals runs from Alberta's NHL teams was the raucous post-game street parties. The Flames kicked things off with the Red Mile in 2004, and the Oilers took the baton in 2006 with the Blue Mile. When Ottawa made a finals appearance in 2007, the city's fan base was faced with a challenge: How can we take this tradition, strip it of all spontaneity, and make it safe and non-threatening for Sens fans? A dozen city zoning committee meetings later, Sens Mile was born.

Results were mixed. While Calgary's Red Mile was known for hot girls flashing their boobs, Sens Mile focuses on Ottawa fans' favorite pastimes: yelling "Leafs Suck", awkwardly high-fiving, and then passing out in a bicycle lane after three beers.

Tradition: Thundersticks

Stolen from: The 2002 Anaheim Angels

Ah yes, those demon-spawned balloons that are banged together to produce a delightful "PING PING PING PING PING PING PING PING" all game long. The Senators started handing these out to fans during the 2003 playoff run, about six months after the rest of the sports world had made simple possession a crime punishable by death.

These handy tools were a godsend for fans who wanted to make noise but felt that clapping and cheering were just too much work. They haven't been seen lately, meaning the only over-inflated Senators prop that makes repetitive, annoying noises these days is Bryan Murray.

Tradition: Cheering for the Leafs.

Stolen from: Toronto Maple Leaf fans.

(Technically this tradition only applies to games against the Leafs. But thanks to the league's unbalanced schedule, Ottawa and Toronto play once a week during the season so we can include it here.)

There may be no stranger sight in the NHL than a Leafs/Sens game in Ottawa, during which Toronto fans take over the arena and drown out the hometown crowd. Unlike their fellow fans at the mausoleum known as the ACC, Ottawa-based Leaf fans will actually make noise. Fill one half of the building with bitter Leaf fans and the other half with typically timid Sens supporters, and the result is a one-sided embarrassment that culminates in franchise player Daniel Alfredsson being booed in his own rink every time he touches the puck.

In fairness, Sens fans did manage a breakthrough this year when they finally responded to the Alfredsson booing by (meekly) booing Mats Sundin. And it only took four years.

A real White Out

Tradition: The White Out. Or maybe the Black Out. Wait, let's try a Red Out!

Stolen from: The Winnipeg Jets.

Easily one of the NHL's coolest traditions, the Winnipeg Jets "White Out" was a spectacular sight in the 80s and 90s. The Jets left Winnipeg in 1996. When the Senators began making playoff appearances shortly after, they tried to bring the White Out to Ottawa.

There were two problems with this idea. The first was that changing out of the gray suit they wear to their government jobs was too much work for Ottawa fans. The second was that the Jets franchise still existed, in Phoenix, and fans there wanted to keep the tradition alive. A short-lived White Out battle ensued. You can probably guess how that turned out for Ottawa.

In subsequent years the team tried to revisit the idea. Showing the daring creativity the city is known for, the Senators first encouraged fans to wear black to games, and later red. Neither attempt caught on, largely due to the confusion caused by the Senators being one of those NHL teams that insists on gouging fans by redesigning their uniforms every six months.

Tradition: Actually making the playoffs

Stolen from: Not the Leafs, that's for damned sure

Choke and die, Richard Peddie.

Tradition: Playing Blur's "Song 2" (aka that "Woo-hoo" song)

Stolen from: Your favorite 1997 mix CD.

Ah, the late 90s. Internet stocks were on fire, Monica's blue dress was in the news, and Blur had a minor hit with this catchy number. For much of 1997 and 1998, you could count on hearing Song 2 blared over the speakers at just about any major sports event.

Now, since then just about every other team in the universe has long ago abandoned the song, relegating it to the "sports novelty music" shelf next to "Woomp there it is" and "Who let the dogs out". But not the Senators. No, they've decide to stick with it, and still break it out every chance they get, especially at playoff time.

Little know fact: During the 2000-01 regular season, the Senators arena staff played this song after goals so much that Ottawa players refused to score any home ice goals for an entire post-season just so they wouldn't have to hear it again.

No, you're really not

Tradition: Calling their town "Hockey Country"

Stolen from: The Detroit Red Wings

Any hockey fan knows that Detroit is "Hockeytown". While you could argue the merits of the nickname as compared to, say, Montreal or Toronto, there's little doubt that Detroit is one of the great hockey cities. Thanks to a rich NHL tradition, several recent Stanley Cups, a thriving college hockey community and a working class fanbase, Detroit is one of the few US cities that can be truly be called a hockey market.

A few years ago the Senators decided to blatantly rip off the nickname. But in an amusing act of passive aggressiveness, the upped the ante by going with "Hockey Country". Get it? A country is bigger than a town. Burn on you, Detroit!

Side note: Nobody outside of Ottawa has ever referred to the city as Hockey Country. Ever.

Tradition: The goal horn

Stolen from: Chicago Stadium, Buffalo Auditorium

In fairness, the Senators are far from the only team to have borrowed this little piece of hockey nostalgia. In fact, just about every team uses some variation these days (including the Maple Leafs). But what the Senators lose in originality, they more than make up for with enthusiasm.

Yes, the horn operator at ScotiaBank Place apparently gets a nickel per blast, because you can count on him wailing away like a frustrated Family Feud contestant on even the most inconsequential goal. My one-year-old daughter shows more restraint on the Baby Einstien learning sounds piano.

Ottawa scored a goal. We get it. Dial it down a little there, Samuel Morse.

You're doing it wrong

Tradition: Always finding new and exciting ways to lose the big one.

Stolen from: The Buffalo Sabres.

Whether it's losing to the Leafs four straight times, choking away game seven at home to the Devils in 2003, being humiliated by the upstart Sabres in 2006, or getting curb-stomped by the Ducks in front of the entire hockey world, the Senators keep finding new and creative ways to torture their fans. It's not just that they lose -- they lose in ways that nobody could imagine.

This is a team whose last three playoff runs have ended thanks to Patrick Lalime's infamous game seven meltdown, Jason Pominville deking out the entire team to score the series winning short-handed goal in overtime, and scoring the Stanley Cup winning goal into their own net while the other team was changing lines.

What will they come up with this year? The mind boggles.


  1. I love how they are booing Crosby now, I mean at least the booing Sundin thing had a tit for tat kind of logic to it (notable in grade school age children). Booing Crosby is just...pathetic.

  2. I would quote a particularly inspirational line, but between the sheer number of lines and the amount of Dr. Captains I've had tonight, I don't remember what I was originally going to type. Anyway, good show, old bean!

  3. the sens aren't even going down with a fight. i love it. bust out the brooms, cuz this one is over.

    nice post, dude. it's amazing they haven't been able to come up with anything on their own.

    and that caption - "wow, there must be...dozens of them" - is another beaut.

    cheers. go pens

  4. I was in Ottawa for a wedding a few years ago, and the tradition that I noticed was that everyone seemed to pee in the sink. Besides being disgusting, I thought it was kind of peculiar.

    Has anyone else noticed this?

  5. and what exactly are Leaf playoff traditions? Cheering? Losing? Bringing out the zambonis between periods? Swelling heads? Wearing blue? Drinking beer? Oh my. the orginality of it all.

    1. Beating the Senators in the playoffs.

      From: Every other team in the NHL

    2. Beating the Sens?
      Then losing the very next round EVERYTIME!!!

      Stolen From: This would be a Leafs original

  6. Here's a Leaf tradition for you: Pick up 4 tickets from the company's season tickets, at taxpayer's expense, walk down Bay to the ACC at lunch and scalp 2 of them. Go back to work - coporate meeting runs late, grab dinner at the Fairmount or the Harbour Castle, then take client to playoff game 20 minutes after it started. Schmooze client. Miss the start of the 2nd and 3rd period so that people watching on TV see a bunch of empty platinum seats, which they could never afford, being taken for granted. Schmooze client more. Hope client appreciates all the lights and noise and constant advertising and doesn't notice how crappy the game is. Leave without having seen a decent goal or a good hit. Drive home in my BMW. Think about how paying $50 for parking is better then being with the riff-raff on the TTC. Kids are already asleep, so just drop the program, hockey puck, plastic stick, and a $240 Leaf jersey (size small) on their bed to show that Daddy loves them. Have sex with my wife. Thank God I don't live in Ottawa.

  7. rental fan,

    You can find a comprehensive list of Toronto playoff traditions here.

  8. Leafs related blog post of the year.

  9. this is amazing
    go pens go
    get out the brooms cause the sens are officially the biggest chokers in the hockey world

  10. Hahahaha!!! Great post. Sens are losers. And funny thing you mentioned Buffalo in your last point, they are also losers.

    I drive to Ottawa games every once in a while (I'm from Toronto) and those fans are arrogant as hell despite the team always flaming out in the post season.

    Check out my blog for more Ottawa funnies.

  11. No matter what you try and pull up on the Sens, they are still 1000% better than the sad sorry Leafs, and their drunk, boor, slug, and thug fans.

  12. Whether it's losing to the Leafs four straight times, choking away game seven at home to the Devils in 2003, being humiliated by the upstart Sabres in 2005, or getting curb-stomped by the Ducks in front of the entire hockey world, the Senators keep finding new and creative ways to torture their fans. It's not just that they lose -- they lose in ways that nobody could imagine.

    Being humiliated by the Sabres in a year where there wasn't even a playoffs? Now that has to be the ultimate embarrassment! (It's like the old joke in the NFL: "The [insert name of sucky team here] have a bye this week... and the oddsmakers in Vegas have the bye as a touchdown favorite.")

  13. There are a few things you can rag on the Sens for but a number of those mentioned are a little stupid... The goal horn? thundersticks? have you ever been to a hockey game where you thought a buzzer was missing after a goal? Ever watched a basketball game? These are sport-trends and not ripoffs. Half of the crap you spat out here would still work if you just switched "Ottawa" with any NHL team.

    The wristbands are lame, but I've seen worse ones... and no, the red ones aren't for AIDS, they have about 400 different red ones by now. Apologize to Lance before AIDS, his trend got ruined by a number of legitimate problems (e.g. AIDS stealing his idea, breast cancer, etc, etc). Borrowing an idea is obviously acceptable sometimes, when it goes corporate you have concerns. Go beat on Giant Tiger for selling them in bulk packs. I'm sure Arnold has a couple to match his hummers.

  14. Sens do have some traditions:

    The pudgy Centurion guy screaming RISE UP SENS ARMY!! RISE UP!!!...I'm sure there has been a center-ice motivator before, but that level of horrifying badness was unheard of. Just brutal and you have to laugh horrifying.

    They also had Buddha Power going with Tom Chorske or Bruce Gardiner or something a while back.

    But yeah, they aren't a contender anymore, thank BRyan Murray and Eugene Melnyk and NTCs for that!

  15. They also had Buddha Power going with Tom Chorske or Bruce Gardiner or something a while back.

    I remember the Buddha statue at Woody's bar on Elgin.

    Then again, having a short fat good-luck charm isn't all that original, Kyle Wellwood's teams have been doing that for years.

  16. "I feel stupider based solely on the fact that I spent time reading it."
    That's what happens when you try and make the jump directly from comic books to the internets. Pace yourself, son.

  17. This comment made me pee a little.


    He might try to limply high-five us to death before passing out in the aforementioned bike lane after two beer.

  19. best part about the last Anonymous comment is.... he's anonymous!

    oh and the fact that Ott makes the play-offs and gets destroyed every year

    he must have forgotten those consecutive years when TO came in lower seed and dominated Ott, no big deal

    yes! we are jealous of your success ottawa! baaahahahaha


    kidkawartha/sparrow13... stellar!

  20. There are a couple things here..... no, wait.... a lot of things. Fisrt, about the Sens Mile.

    It wasn't stolen, it was simply carrying on the tradition. If anybody stole the idea, it was Edmonton, not Ottawa. You also probably went our of your way to find a picture of the Sens Mile with only a couple people in it, because THOUSANDS of people showed up for it.

    Again, the Thundersticks were not stolen from the Angels, because almost every sports team did steal them. Just look at the highlights from playoff seasons near 03 and 04. Pretty much every team had them.

    Cheering for the Leafs?? Wow, you're smart.

    Once again, you used your obvious poor hockey knowledge to somehow figure out that the Sens stole the Whiteout. LA had the Blackout, Anaheim had the whiteout, Phoenix STILL has the whiteout. Oh, and the Rev up the Red has always worked in the OTT.

    Making the Playoffs??? Jeeze.. that's original.

    Go to Youtube, type in the word "goal horn" every team accept Ottawa has Song 2 as their goal song. Even the Leafs had it for a while.

    How did you trace calling Ottawa "Hockey Country down to Detroit calling themselves, "Hockeytown"? You displayed your horrendous and complete lack of hockey knowledge again, since it was the Wings that stole the term Hockeytown from ESPN's annual award.

    I could go on allllll day abut this, but I've pretty much covered how ignoant you are on this subject. FTR, I'm a Pens fan. Good day, sir. :DD

  21. Uhhh...why are we having a discussion on a post that was made in APRIL? Is the latest anonymous that slow?

  22. @Loser Domi:

    It doesn't matter when the post was made, the mindless pro-leaf poster is blogging about false info. No matter when it happens, it is unacceptable.

    Nuff said.

  24. I've only just read this now. Some pretty funny stuff in there, for sure. The thing that's always pissed me off about goal horns (Ottawa's is the worst one I can think of for volume and duration, but it applies to all of them in general) is that after a goal is scored is often the only time in the game when the fans are making noise. And the retards at the arena choose to drown out the real, excited-fan crowd noise with this annoying horn. Brilliant. How about using the horn to wake people up from time to time during boring stretches of the games? That I could get behind.