Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Guest Post: Down Goes Brown

Ed.'s Note: This post is a reproduction of one done by Sean at his blog Down Goes Brown, named after one of the most devastating fights by a Leaf that I have ever seen in my life, which looks at the senators' traditions. In light of the trainwreck that was Monday's opening I thought it could use a wider audience. I apologize about the photo captions but I am running out of time and like the sens I am folding like a cheap tent.

p.s. Damn Don for putting the GDT up early. That was far more efficient that I was expecting.

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.

Photo Caption: This year's mission: don't get swept

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.

Photo Caption: Wow, there must be... dozens of them

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.

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.

Photo Caption: A real White Out

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.

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 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.

Photo Caption: No, you're really not

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.

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 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.

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.
Photo Caption: You're doing it wrong

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