Saturday, September 25, 2010

You Can Keep Kovalazy

He attracted a lot of attention in junior and a lot of salivating teams were eager to see him in their jersey. In fact, the Senators were accused of losing games deliberately, so they would finish last and get first pick. Ottawa got him and signed him to a whopping 5 year, $12.5 million deal! At that time, the deal was positively mammothian! I thought listeners would like to hear what he thought of all the excitement and hype, so I set up an interview with Alexandre Daigle. It was 1993 and on  June 26th, the Sens selected Daigle over the likes of Chris Pronger and Paul Kariya. In our radio newsroom at the time, there were no digital machines. Instead, we had analog, reel-to-reel machines. I got Daigle on the phone, started the tape and asked him a bunch of questions. I thanked him and hung-up, only to realize, after checking the tape, that I had forgotten to press "record"! I sheepishly called back, explained the mistake, apologized and asked if we could re-do the interview. He was very easygoing and kindly agreed. That incident got me watching the Senators.

For a few seasons before then, I had found watching the Canadiens, intensely frustrating! Many times, I would think to myself, "they lack jump, they lack fire, there's no hustle and they don't seem to care". "I could have made that play," I would often grunt to myself. You know an NHL team is in serious trouble when I'm under the impression I can make plays that are not being made!

The young Sens were dynamic and played with incredible enthusiasm, energy and fire. They put out piles of honest effort. They had Daigle and had signed Alexi Yashin in April of 1993. I became a fan.

In the 93-94 season, Daigle finished with 20 goals and 31 assists. He left the team a few years later and is down in the books as having collected 74 goals and 98 assists for 172 points in 301 games with Ottawa. He, unfortunately for all concerned, turned out to be a bust.

There have been some great Senators over the years, players who, while with Ottawa, have made and are making, important contributions to franchise success. They include Yashin, Fisher, Alfredsson, Hossa, Heatley, Havlat, Bonk, Spezza, Lalime and Chara. They're here and they're gone; puck chasers have become buck chasers! Rather than reward fan loyalty with player loyalty, the predominant theme in professional sports remains, "show me the money"! Incredibly, the Senators have a couple of exceptions to that rule.

As it turns out, the year I began watching the Senators is the year Montreal won their last Stanley Cup! Coincidence? You  Habs fans can thank me later.

The Sens are playing their fourth pre-season game tonight. Their opponent is the Canadiens. The tendency on the part of Habs fans to begin hallucinating about the Stanely Cup at the start of every season is as tiresome as it is positively Pavlovian. Sens fans have learned to be much more realistic about things; we take things a week at a time and absolutely do not hold our breath!

Every playoff season, in spite of colossal chokes, misfires and flats, I strive to remain a Sens fan. Every summer, in spite of player departures, player arrivals and coaching changes, I strive to remain a Sens fan. I have often had to swallow hard to accept uninspiring changes. A glaring case in point is the current number 27. No one in their right mind can objectively tell me that, out on the ice, he cares about anything but his paycheque. I'm hoping his multimillion dollar indifference doesn't taint the rest of the team.

He's been with Pittsburgh and New York but, if you Montreal fans really think you had something special there, by all means, you can keep Kovalazy.

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