Dec. 6, 1990, is a date that many Ottawa Senators hockey fans will always remember.
It’s the day that then-NHL President John Ziegler, Jr. announced that the cities of Ottawa and Tampa would be receive NHL franchises set to begin playing in the league in the 1992-93 season.
The Ottawa Campaign
Season One: 1992-93
The team hit the ice for the first Ottawa Senators game on Oct. 8, 1992, against the Montreal Canadiens. The big event was at the Civic Centre and the Senators were playing for the first time since 1934.
The team honoured Frank Finnigan, who was the last surviving member of the 1927 Ottawa Senators who won the Stanley Cup that year. Finnigan passed away before the team ever played. For his efforts to help campaign for the return of Senators, the organization made the decision to retire his number 8.
Is it safe to say there was pressure for the Senators to perform for that first game? Possibly. There were a lot of people who waited a long time to see the team return after all. Nevertheless, the Senators came and managed to pull off a 5-3 win against Montreal.
The October game saw Neil Brady, Ken Hammond, Sylvain Turgeon and Doug Smail (two goals) scoring for Ottawa. All of them had to battle Patrick Roy to get the puck into Montreal’s net.
The big first win turned into a dreadful season of hockey for Ottawa. The end result was winning 10 games and finishing dead last.
What about those Canadiens? They went on to win the Stanley Cup at the end of the season and remain the last Canadian team to hoist the Cup.
The team made a move into their new home, then called the Corel Centre, for the start of the 1996 season.
In their new arena during the 1996-97 season, the Senators would have their best run since their rebirth , qualifying for the playoffs — facing the Buffalo Sabres in the first round. The Senators made it a tough series, fighting hard and battling their way to a seventh and deciding game, but Buffalo took the series with a 3-2 overtime win.
It was just the start for the Senators as the team would continue a playoff streak which would last until 2008.
The 2003 season would end with a solid record of 52-21-8-1 and also getting to the Eastern Conference Final for the first time and winning the President’s Trophy. It should have been a successful year but finances became a struggle for Ottawa. In January, they had to declare bankruptcy as debts piled up and the organization couldn’t pay players’ salaries. Owner Rod Bryden struggled to keep things together and when he couldn’t, current owner Eugene Melnyk entered the picture.
Stanley Cup Final
The Ottawa Senators earned a trip to the Stanley Cup Final in the 2007 playoffs and despite falling to the Anaheim Ducks in the series, there’s no denying the excitement of the run leading up to that series.
While the Senators had a lot of success in the playoffs, the regular season had its share of ups and downs. The team found itself at below .500 on Dec. 21 that season and there were rumblings about changes that may occur with players and staff.
However, the team would win their final four games in December and everything changed for the club.
In the playoffs, Ottawa managed to fight their way past the Pittsburgh Penguins, New Jersey Devils and the Buffalo Sabres. During the series against the Sabres, captain Daniel Alfredsson would get much credit as he scored the game-winning overtime goal on Ryan Miller in Game 5 of the Eastern Conference Final and the Senators advanced to the Stanley Cup Final for the first time. While they were defeated in five games by the Ducks, the Prince of Wales Trophy marks the biggest team achievement to date.
Alfredsson scored 14 goals and added eight assists in 20 games during that run to the finals. Alfredsson would make waves with Ottawa when he made the surprising decision to be moved to the Detroit Red Wings, seeking to win the Cup that had eluded him throughout his NHL career, but he’s held in the highest regard by the Senators organization, as shown by the team’s recent decision to retire his number 11.
Since the Stanley Cup Final appearance, it’s been a struggle for the Senators to return to that form. If anyone was to analyze recent seasons they have missed the playoffs altogether. There’s been numerous changes to their roster — Chris Neil and Chris Kelly are the only two remaining members of the roster who were part of the 2007 team.
Another notable change through the years has been to the head coaching position. While Jacques Martin claims the longest term (1995-2004) of any Senators coach of this new era, it’s Bryan Murray who was behind the bench during the Senators’ Stanley Cup Final run, in just his second year with the club.
There have been six coaches within the last 10 years from John Paddock, Craig Hartsburg, Cory Clouston, Paul MacLean, Dave Cameron and today with Guy Boucher.
The coaching position is not the only one that’s experienced change. Bryan Murray has stepped down from being the general manager and is now a senior hockey advisor, as Pierre Dorian has taken over the role at the start of this season.
The highlights and lowlights of the Ottawa Senators can very easily fill a book. There are many stories to be told, from the distant past to the present and those that will take place in the future. One of the questions surrounding the team’s future is whether or not they will move more into Ottawa from their current location at the Canadian Tire Centre? It’s a question we likely won’t know the answer to for at least a few years.
With the 25th anniversary upon the Ottawa Senators franchise, it’s certainly a cause for celebration. Not only is 2017 meaningful to the organization, it’s also the 100th anniversary of the NHL and the 125th year of the Stanley Cup. Ironically, but most importantly, Canada turns 150-years-old this year.