10 Other Things the Ottawa Senators Should Bring Back

Yesterday word leaked from our friends at the Ottawa Sun that Martin Havlat, off-injured, 30-something sniper, might be offered a PTO with the club. He began his career to much fanfare with the Senators and Havlat still seems to have a few eggs in the “he was my favourite player” basket judging by twitter reaction. It’s unlikely Havlat sticks and unlikely he has much to offer based on his last couple of seasons but it’s a no risk move that has the potential to benefit the team. With that in mind, here are ten things the Sens should consider bringing back, some of the serious variety:

Bodycheck magazine. Revel in the full 90s glory. Hard to pick a favourite cover, but I’m going with Steve Duchesne wearing sunglasses and holding a surf board.

The pizza promo. Who doesn’t want a slice of tasty Pizza Pizza? Should not be used as an excuse to get rid of the last minute burger promo.

Win and you’re in. Think Andrew Hammond, with the 20-1-2 record, has the upper hand here.

Rihanna.

Sens Mile. Make it season long. Force Ottawa to have much needed debate about tempting fate and municipal overreaching.

Eric Gryba’s beard. I miss it so much.

Old jerseys. This one, not this one.

Daniel Alfredsson.

Trading away a second round pick at the deadline.

And of course, this guy.

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Masked: A Visual History of Ottawa Senators Goaltending

(Content warning: racism, rape related to discussion of Ray Emery masks)

As hockey fans debate the latest symbol of NHL uniformity – the Adidas jersey deal and the renewed possibility of ads appearing on sweaters – I’ve been thinking of one of the most enduring symbols of player individuality: the (painted) goalie mask. Beginning with a few small, marker lines – meant to represent a stitch – drawn on Gerry Cheevers’ simple, white mask in jest, it became the most iconic of all goalies masks. As someone who played in the NHL in an era when some goalies still didn’t wear masks, it also became a statement about player safety.

As more and more goalies had their masks painted by hand and then airbrush, and as the protective gear evolved from face-hugging fiberglass, to helmet-cage combos, and finally to fiberglass/carbon fiber-cage combos, a rich tradition of mask painting emerged.

While mask artwork has been evaluated on its relative merits, I think there’s something to be gained from exploring the goalie mask history of a team’s netminders. What follows is a visual chronicle of Ottawa Senators goaltending (players who have played 20 or more games in a Sens uniform), but it also creates a type of visual Sens history.

Early Years: 1992-1996

Looking back at the buckets Peter Sidorkiewicz and Darrin Madeley started with in Ottawa’s inaugural season and you’d be forgiven for thinking Ottawa played its first games a decade before, in the 1980s. The retro Cooper helmet-cage combos, black for Madeley, white for Sidorkiewicz, started appearing in the 1970s and were popularized by Soviet goalie Vladislav Tretiak. Synonymous with the high-scoring, less than stellar goaltending of the 70s and 80s, they were the perfect choice for goalies who would replicate those bloated GAA totals from earlier eras.

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While Madeley played most of his games with the Sens the following season, Daniel Berthiaume was relied on to back up the All-Star (yes) Sidorkiewicz. Berthiaume’s contribution to the Senators’ mask history was a DIY (at least I hope it was) effort. Painted all black, it featured a small logo decal on each side on the top of the mask. The whole effort probably cost less than $4 at the dollar store.

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Of note from the first season is Sidorkiewicz’s early adoption of the centurion theme. Like the main Senators logo, Sidorkiewicz’s mask featured a stylized Imperial Gallic helmet. Painted to appear he was wearing a Roman centurion mask it set in motion both a very specific aesthetic look as well as the mask-within-a-mask tradition other Sens goalies would wear in the future.

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The 1993-94 pairing shows continuity with the inaugural season, in players (Madeley) and looks (Craig Billington). Billington wore an early variation of the centurion mask-within-a-mask. Like Sidorkiewicz, Billington’s mask featured the black fringe (seriously, what are those three black wings coming out of the red crest on the 2D logo supposed to be? A cape? Fringe?), from the main logo and a prominent laurel motif.

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Another Madeley mask might be the most interesting from this early period in that its stylized linear design seems more suited to the 70s and 80s and a different team. Except for using the appropriate colours, it doesn’t reference the team and reminds me of the lid Felix Potvin sported around the same time with the Leafs. It makes it look like Madeley wanted to join the Calgary Flames, which was probably preferable to playing goal for the Sens in 1993-94.

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The following (shortened) season, Don Beaupre joined the fold and was between the pipes for most games. He was already the owner of a truly iconic mask from his time with the Washington Capitals, the team Ottawa acquired him from. Featuring a stars and stripes design along the jaw line and cheek/ear covering, the top of Beaupre’s Washington mask featured a graphic rendering of the U.S. Capitol Building. He applied the same thematic template to his Senators mask, creating the first truly iconic cage in Senators history. The top of his mask featured a gold, graphic rendering of the Parliament Buildings, the first Sens reference to the buildings/Peace Tower since the wordmark logo from Terrace’s expansion pitch, some five years previous. The Parliament Buildings/Peace Tower motif would be used by several Sens goalies, including the recent, never worn (thankfully because he was not good) Alex Auld heritage mask. While the expansion bid wordmark logo featured the Peace Tower with a Canadian flag, the Beaupre mask introduced the maple leaf to Ottawa’s visual repertoire. In fact, the Peace Tower/Maple Leaf alternate logo that featured as a shoulder patch from 2000-2007 and is still in use as a decal on Ottawa’s home and away helmets, owes as much to the iconic designed introduced by Beaupre (and taken up by Damian Rhodes) as it does the original wordmark logo.

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Perhaps it’s fitting that this bad, early period should end with Mike Bales. Not only was he quiet poor in net, his mask ushered in a particularly terrible design theme: the cartoon, full-size Roman soldier. While’s Bales’ graphic is more realistic than later incarnations, it features a soldier riding a rearing horse that just makes me think of this guy.

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Golden Age: 1996-2007

Damian Rhodes joined the Senators for the 1995-96 season, but he came into his own with the club as the team made its initial playoff pushes in the late 1990s. Rhodes’ mask built on the aesthetic design of Beaupre’s but with slight modifications. The maple leaf background is more prominent and stylized; the leaf has veins and curves. The reference to the city is streamlined, with only the Peace Tower as the central focus above the cage. Along with Beaupre’s mask, the Peace Tower and maple leaf design featured on Rhodes’ mask was the look for Sens goalies as the team became respectable.

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A counterpoint to Rhodes’ design was Ron Tugnutt’s look in the late 1990s. This is the most generic mask in Sens history. Its generic quality reminds me of this. Curtis Joseph wore it. But Tugnutt loved the “team colour splat” design. His mask is a great example of how the move toward airbrush paint jobs generated a bunch of designs in the 90s that shouldn’t have been allowed to see the light of day.

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When the Sens shuffled goalies at the 1999 draft (Rhodes out, Patrick Lalime in), the reward for Ottawa fans was one of the best masks in team history. Lalime’s iconic Marvin the Martian mask was similar to the early Sidorkiewicz and Billington cages, with the top featuring a centurion mask. But Lalime modified that tradition and the result was terrific. His mask differed in that Marvin’s enraged eyes were popping out from under the centurion helmet. The original cartoon, developed in 1948 by Chuck Jones, was appropriately dressed as a centurion (with a pair of Chuck Taylor’s), based on the depictions of the Roman God of War, Mars, from antiquity. Lalime’s mask changed Marvin’s colours slightly to fit better with Sens colours and gave him goalie equipment. Unlike many Looney Tunes villains, Marvin the Martian was “clever and competent” as well as “incredibly destructive and legitimately dangerous”. Trying to destroy the world with his Illudium Q-36 Explosive Space Modulator, inevitably he was foiled by Bugs Bunny. So a perfect metaphor for a goalie who was unbeatable against the Flyers in the playoffs but was constantly thwarted by the Leafs.

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That brings us to Jani Hurme. This mask could not be more 90s, which means it was already outdated by the time he busted it out in the early 2000s. Another airbrush, graphic disaster, Hurme’s mask featured a fractured and splintering Senagoth logo (the first time that logo appeared on a mask in this series), and is quite clearly a reference to the ongoing financial woes and general instability of then-owner Rod Brydon. That or Hurme’s save percentage.

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Martin Prusek is up next and there are things that need to be said about his mask. Important things. For starters, wearing the helmet-cage combo in the early 2000s was more than a little eclectic. Still, there were guys at that time who could pull it off, and Prusek wasn’t one of them. The cage and helmet didn’t seem to fit properly, and the helmet seemed to pop up on his head. Basically, he made Tommy Söderström look like the height of fashion. He doubled-down on bold choices by picking a Roman motif not utilized by anyone else in franchise history: the Colosseum. Aesthetically, the Colosseum might work on a mask but Prusek took the decidedly unaesthetic approach. I can’t be sure, but it seems like the thinking was: “my head is round, so is the Colosseum. I will wear this building like a crown around my head”. Sure. Now it’s possible it was some sort of comparison of arenas: of gladiatorial games and hockey games. But if Martin Prusek had posted a .911 save percentage in ancient Rome, he would have stayed in the provinces and never made it to the big show in Rome.

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After another playoff loss to the Leafs and an NHL lockout, two new goalies emerged. Dominik Hasek was a living legend when he joined the Senators and his Cooper helmet-cage was his standard look (the Sens seem to have a disproportionate number of goalies who went this route). Hasek started painting his helmets while in Detroit and continued the practice in Ottawa. His final days with the team have been dissected before, but not enough time has been spent discussing his subtle work for Ottawa Tourism. Until he left for the 2006 Winter Olympics, Hasek worked tirelessly to promote Ottawa as a sunny, warm, weather destination by featuring a sunburnt, centurion on his mask. You’re welcome, Kanata.

PHILADELPHIA - DECEMBER 22:  Goaltender Dominik Hasek #39 of the Ottawa Senators in action against the Philadelphia Flyers during the NHL game at the Wachovia Center on December 22, 2005 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  The Flyers defeated the Senators 4-3.  (Photo by Len Redkoles/Getty Images) *** Local Caption *** Dominik Hasek

PHILADELPHIA – DECEMBER 22: Goaltender Dominik Hasek #39 of the Ottawa Senators in action against the Philadelphia Flyers during the NHL game at the Wachovia Center on December 22, 2005 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The Flyers defeated the Senators 4-3. (Photo by Len Redkoles/Getty Images) *** Local Caption *** Dominik Hasek

Ray Emery’s masks are possibly the most talked about in Sens history. Nominally related to the team, they generally feature a team wordmark or small logo but focus primarily on Emery’s love of boxing. I think that’s a great thing actually. From the beginning, goalie masks have been an assertion of individuality. When Gerry Cheevers began the painted mask tradition it was also an assertion of individuality. Some of the most iconic masks in NHL history (Cheevers, Gary Bromley, Gilles Gratton, Curtis Joseph, Curtis Sanford, and Gary Simmons) had little to do with the teams they played for. Some designs, like Ed Belfour’s Eagle design from his time in Chicago or Patrick Lalime’s Marvin the Martian design from his time in Ottawa, become so associated with the goalie that he adapts it to fit the colours and style of successive new teams. However, in 15 years of Sens goalies, Emery was the first to have an individualized mask whose primary focus wasn’t a centurion or city-related imagery and without significant references to team iconography. Even Lalime’s mask was a play on the centurion theme. Emery’s cages were a needed burst of individuality and the fighter theme translated well to hockey.

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Emery also had the most controversial mask in team history. While some goalies shop out the bulk of the design and thematic work to the artists who paint the masks, it’s fair to say Emery was more involved in the process than most. In 2006 he debuted a mask featuring former heavyweight champion Mike Tyson. Emery wore the controversial mask for just one game before Sens management stepped in. After a meeting with John Muckler, Emery retired the mask. There were several instances of the Sens objecting to Emery’s behaviour and Stacy L. Lorenz and Rod Murray’s article “The Dennis Rodman of Hockey: Ray Emery and the Policing of Blackness in the Great White North” in Commodified and Criminalized: New Racism and African Americans in Contemporary Sports elaborates on the racial overtones of management’s objections. Where I disagree with Lorenz and Murray is the argument that the Senators only acted because Emery is black and used the fact that other organizations allowed goalies to wear masks objectifying women (most notably John Grahame in Tampa Bay) as proof. The Sens can’t stop goalies in other organization for having masks with objectionable material. While Emery’s race may very well have been a contributing factor to Muckler’s objection (the authors make a convincing case it was a factor in other clashes between the goalie and management), so too was public outcry. Simply put, having a mask celebrating a boxer who is also a convicted rapist is deeply problematic given the issues we still face in hockey culture and is deeply offensive to many survivors who watch the game.

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Contemporary Period: 2007 to present

Martin Gerber entered the fold after the 2005-06 season. I guess it’s telling that it’s really hard to remember the mask he wore during his first season in Ottawa. Brought in to start, he ended up backing up Emery during the season the Sens when to the Final. He started the 07-08 season trying to reclaim his starting job and wore a black mask while awaiting a paint job on his primarily cage. The black mask endeared him to Sens fans and earned him the nickname “Darth Gerber”. Gerber even proved he got the joke, when he unveiled a Darth Vader mask to start the 2008-09 season. Sens fans didn’t see much of the mask as Gerber’s poor play led to him losing his starting gig to veteran Alex Auld and newcomer Brian Elliott and he was eventually placed on waivers.

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Alex Auld’s masks were boring and derivative which is more charitable than I can be about his play. Auld’s look featured the mask-within-a-mask centurion helmet that made its first appearance in the inaugural season. Ugh.

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Elliott had two main masks while playing for Ottawa, a white one and a red one, both featuring the cartoon character Casey Jones from the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles universe.

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Elliott’s red version stands out because he adopted the Heritage O secondary logo which had been featured as a shoulder patch on the home and away jerseys up to that point. A number of factors contributed to the Heritage O logo gaining in popularity among Sens fans and while Elliott’s mask is not at the top of that list, it helped push the O from afterthought to the attention of fans.

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It would be easy to forget Pascal Leclaire and the most memorable thing about his mask was when he wasn’t wearing it on the bench, took a puck to the head and suffered a broken cheekbone, part of a string of injuries which sadly cut his career short. His injury history was legendary but his mask was not. Leclaire’s mask was one of those centurion caricatures that’s silly and thematically boring. Like Elliott, Leclaire also adopted the Heritage O logo as part of the design of his mask.

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Sorting out the final days of the Elliott-Leclaire tandem resulted in the Sens using six goalies in 2010-2011 season and the only one to see significant playing time in addition to that duo was Craig Anderson. Anderson’s Sens masks have all been a variation of masks worn in Colorado and Florida. The left side of the mask features a Rat Fink-inspired centurion driving a corvette, the right a Sens logo and team wordmark. A maple leaf/leaves have also been a feature of his Ottawa masks.

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His heritage masks strongly link the current team with the original Ottawa Senators, a link that’s been suggested since the expansion franchise was awarded, and has been rejuvenated over the last four years with the heritage jerseys.

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Robin Lehner’s mask looks like the face covering you’d wear to slay your enemies while driving through Valhalla on a motorcycle, blood running down your face.

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Ben Bishop wasn’t in Ottawa for very long, but long enough to become part of the fan base’s revisionist history and to personalize a mask. It’s an unremarkable black and white design but is notable for including the alternate side profile logo that’s an update of the original 2D logo. While ostensibly part of the team’s visual landscape since 2007, it’s rarely if ever used but appears on Bishop’s mask.

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Finally, we come to Andrew Hammond’s Hamburglar mask. Along with Lalime’s mask, it’s the most iconic in team history. Featuring Alfred E. Newman in the Hamburglar’s costume, it’s noticeable, fun, and different. It also shows how a mask can help create a fan favourite. No doubt the strong play of Hammond during the streak was the most significant factor to him being embraced by the fan base. However, the mask and nickname led to burger tossing, much burger eating, and general revelry.

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At its most basic level, painted goalie masks are an expression of a goalie’s individuality. But they’re also an extension of team identity and can push, however subtly, boundaries of iconography, marketing, and codes of behaviour. A mask can be as forgettable as the player wearing it or help foster affection for the guy standing between the pipes. A mask can chart the visual and aesthetic history of a franchise and connect fans to that chronicle. A mask protects, creating an additional boundary between goalie and opposition. But it also connects fan to goalie, because the paint shows something of the person behind the cage.

The WTYKY Guide to Summer Cocktails

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Here’s the thing about summer . . . it isn’t over yet. And when you think about fun summer moments, you usually picture a fun summery drink in your hand, don’t you? What with our western culture constantly emphasizing mindless drinking over genuine emotions and honest conversation? So let your friends at WTYKY help your summer go out with a bang – put down that stale Bud Light, drop that flask of Silent Sam, seal that jug of the blood of the unrighteous – by putting some Sens-themed jazz in your glass! Try our summer cocktails . . . with a twist! Get it?

The Colin Greening
2 oz gin
1 egg white
3 dashes orange bitters
½ oz simple syrup
½ oz lemon juice

Combine all ingredients over ice in a Boston shaker and shake vigorously for approximately five minutes, or until the egg white develops into a stiff foam. Strain into a highball glass, top with soda water and garnish with an orange wheel, then throw the drink away.

The Clarke MacArthur
2 oz Hpnotiq liqueur
1 oz dark spiced rum

Stir Hpnotiq with ice and strain into a martini glass. Note its bright blue colour with disgust. Slowly stir in dark rum until the drink takes on a reddish-black colour. Nod with approval. Garnish with a lime wedge and tell everyone how smart you are.

The Jared Cowen
1 lb mixed fruit (preferably sugary, e.g., apples, berries, melons, grapes)
1 oz champagne yeast

Mash all the fruit in a bucket and mix in the yeast. Leave under your basement stairs for at least six weeks before sampling. If mixture is foul and unpleasant, put it back and try it again the following year. Repeat annually until bucket is empty.

The Chris Phillips
1 caplet Robaxacet (Extra Strength)
1 oz Canadian whisky
1 pint Big Rig Gold

Drop the Robaxacet into a shot glass full of whisky and then drop the shot glass into the beer. Chug gingerly.

The Mike Hoffman
1 ½ oz premium tequila

Ask your bartender for a high-quality, aged tequila (it should say “extra anejo” on the bottle). Take a sip, then proclaim loudly that it’s too old and you’re not paying full price. Ask the bartender for a second drink and look confused when he says you won’t be able to afford it.

The Andrew Hammond
28 oz vodka (1 bottle)

This isn’t a cocktail but really more of a challenge. You’ll need 23 shot glasses and a few friends. Line up the shot glasses on the bar and fill each with vodka. Tell your friends you can consume at least 20. Ignore their doubts, drink rapidly, and feel awesome. Don’t worry about the hangover later.

The Bobby Ryan
2 oz grenadine
2 oz cream liqueur (e.g., RumChata)
2 oz blue curacao

Carefully pour ingredients into a chilled old fashioned glass in order, creating distinct red, white, and blue layers. Garnish with a small sparkler and American flag toothpick. Enjoy while trying not to think about your ex leaving you.

The Curtis Lazar
1 oz grenadine
½ oz lime juice
6 oz Sprite

Stir the grenadine and lime juice with ice in a Collins glass, then top with Sprite. Garnish with a maraschino cherry.

The Erik Karlsson
1 ½ oz gin
3 oz tonic water
1 slice cucumber

Say to yourself, wait a minute, isn’t this just a plain old gin and tonic? Then remember how much you always enjoy a really good gin and tonic, and how you underrate them only because they’re just consistently excellent. Resolve to make a gin and tonic so unique and so exceptional that it can’t be ignored. Resolve to make the Erik Karlsson of gin and tonics.

Sell your car and buy a ticket on the next flight to Stockholm. Get in an airport cab, hand the driver the rest of your money, and say, “Norr.” Watch him in the rear view mirror as he nods solemnly. Twelve hours later he will drop you at the side of an abandoned mining road, 25 miles north of the tree line, and utter his first and only words to you, “Du måste gå resten,” before turning around and driving away. Begin walking, until the road gives way to tundra, until the tundra turns to permafrost, and until the permafrost fades into ice. Build a fire with anything you can collect and fall into a shallow, dreamless sleep. When you awake, notice the robed and wizened man standing nearby, pointing silently toward the mountains. Climb. After several hours, when you are frostbitten and snowblind, you will see, on a distant peak, a small juniper bush growing impossibly out of the rock and snow. Collect its berries, then distill them with grain alcohol in an artisanal copper pot still.

Travel south until you reach a road, where the cab driver will be waiting for you. He will drive, wordlessly, back to the airport where he will hand you an envelope. Inside will be a one-way ticket to Bolivia. When you land, walk through the airport until a burlap sack is thrown over your head and you are hustled, at what feels like the point of a rifle, into the bed of a pickup truck. When you are unhooded hours later around a rebel campfire, earn the trust of your captors by telling the only Quechua joke you know and graciously chewing the coca leaves they offer. Trade your watch for a knife. When the military storms the camp that night, killing rebels all around you in a hail of gunfire, stagger into the darkness of the jungle with the only other survivor, a 15-year-old boy named Paucar. Realize he is bleeding badly from his leg. As he dies in your arms at sunrise, mop his brow while, with his final breath, he whispers directions to the nearest airstrip. Wander the jungle for hours, sobbing and chewing fistfuls of coca leaves. Just as delirium begins to set in, find yourself in a small grove, beams of sunlight breaking through the jungle canopy to illuminate a lone cinchona tree. Using your knife, strip its bark, then grind it into a fine powder to extract its quinine. Mix with artisanal sparkling water.

Find the airstrip and barter your knife for passage in the hold of a cargo plane. When you finally make your way home, write a best-selling account of your ordeal. Watch as publishers fight to give you a seven-figure advance for your second book. Buy your car back. One night on your book tour, at a bar in some dark, snowy city like Grand Forks, drink that fifth Scotch and soda and muster the courage to talk to the woman sitting next to you, silently nursing the same glass of white wine for three hours. Move too quickly. Buy a colonial farmhouse in Maine. Watch her start a mail-order heirloom seed company while you spend 12 hours a day in the attic, chain-smoking in front of an old Remington typewriter as you realize you have no new ideas for your second book. Frequently refer to the process as a “difficult birth” and laugh bitterly. When she comes upstairs one day and tells you not to worry so much, scream at her about who’s actually paying for those seed packets and throw your ashtray through the dormer window. Watch her leave through the hole in the glass. Do the Andrew Hammond by yourself, then crawl into bed and sleep for a week. Wake up and notice that all her things are gone, except for a small packet of non-GMO Longfellow organic cucumber seeds. Plant them behind the gazebo and start writing a novel about a man who comes to terms with his life and ultimately burns down a Maine colonial farmhouse. When you’re finished, harvest a single cucumber. Cut a ¼-inch slice using an artisanal paring knife.

Combine ingredients with ice in a tumbler and stir. Enjoy.

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Whose Masculinity is this Anyway? Identity, Violence, and the Real Crisis in Hockey

(Content warning: post and links discuss harassment, assault, sexual assault, rape, racism, sexism, and homophobia)

Yesterday was both a blemish on major North American sports and an utterly predictable series of events. Within the span of about an hour Thursday morning, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers launched “an embarrassingly sexist” program aimed at helping female fans understand the complexity of football with tips about fashion and play clocks. The official Vanderbilt Football twitter account tweeted an offensive and ill-conceived promo for its program claiming, “We are RELENTLESS, TOUGH, AND INTELLIGENT, and WE DON’T NEED YOUR PERMISSION”. The sexual assault overtones are clear; they are made worse when the program’s recent history with sexual violence is known. At about the same time word broke of Chicago superstar Patrick Kane’s involvement in a rape investigation in New York.

There was appropriate concern and pushback against these developments online as well as predictable, disappointing, and harmful support for Kane and dismissal of the Bucs’ and Vanderbilt’s actions. Those content to bury their heads further in the sand sang the familiar and flawed refrain of “this is society’s problem”.

Conventions, rules, and pedagogy in sport did not develop in a vacuum. Rather, sporting traditions have always grown out of the values of and challenges faced by the cultures creating and codifying sports like football or hockey. Hockey is like the internet in that it reflects, not exists separately from, our culture. Consequently, it is the flimsiest of defenses that suggests “hockey doesn’t have a problem with violence against women, society does!”
No.

That’s incorrect.

Violence in sport is socially constructed.

Both hockey and the society which created it, and maintains the sport’s practices, have a serious problem with violence against women. To suggest otherwise is to blatantly ignore the reality that we are presented with on an almost daily basis.
As fans we have a tendency to want to limit the scope of hockey’s domestic violence and sexual assault problem. So we try to limit the discussion to player actions we deem criminal and ignore the everyday sexism we see in the game, in the way teams treat female fans and employees, and jokes on social media that fall flat. We eviscerate the Los Angeles Kings and Dean Lombardi for being terrible, which they are, and we take the Nashville Predators to task for being appalling, which they are, and we’ll add Chicago to the list now, but we will refuse to see this as a league-wide problem. We’ll ignore that it permeates various levels of the game and is endemic to the sport. It makes it easier to keep watching and talking hockey if every team, and by extension, fans, aren’t complicit. It makes it easier to root for your team when you only object to rape culture and violence against women when it’s a player from a rival team in the crosshairs. The team I cheer for is complicit and so is the team you cheer for. No team has a moral high ground here.

We’ll continue to take our cues from the commissioner who says hockey doesn’t need a comprehensive strategy for addressing and dealing with violence against women; that most in the sport are good guys who would never participate in such violent actions. We’ll cross our fingers and believe it, even with all the mounting evidence to the contrary.

Somewhat lost in the shuffle yesterday was another Canadian sports league taking action. The CFL released a comprehensive and victim-centred violence against women policy. Created in partnership with the Ending Violence Association of Canada the program doesn’t relegate victims to the sidelines which happens frequently in other leagues. It’s not perfect but it also illustrates that pro leagues can lead on this issue and change the cultures of their sports if they just make an effort. The more proactive a league is, the harder it becomes for its fans to deny the realities we keep seeing in the games we love.

There are many who want to stop these incidents. But the culture won’t change just by throwing the book at Slava Voynov, Mike Ribeiro, or Patrick Kane. The culture won’t change if we continue to refuse to centre the victim in discussions of violence and rape. The culture won’t change if we don’t take sports media to task for writing bullshit, reputation repairing pieces. So far, sports fans, and hockey fans in particular, have been unwilling to examine their own complicity in the culture of the game which permits such treatment of women. Further, we are collectively unwilling to look at the ways in which hockey itself promotes and relies on a masculinity rooted in rape culture.

Earlier this spring comedian Amy Schumer’s sketch “Football Night Lights” made waves and was widely celebrated not just for its stance on rape culture in sports but for clearly articulating the fictional community’s complicity in that culture and how football itself speaks the language of rape. The coach, played by Josh Charles, tells his team football isn’t about rape; rather that “It’s about violently dominating anyone that stands between you and what you want! You gotta get yourself into the mindset that you are gods, and you are entitled to this!” The message is clear: victory on the field requires both physical prowess and domination; players must force the opposition into submission. In this landscape, women are treated as trophies, the spoils of victory, and subject to a similar domination.

Yet there’s been a failure to apply what’s articulated in “Football Night Lights” to hockey. Hockey players are encouraged to play hard, dominate in the corners, and beat their opponents into submission. In hockey, players and teams are frequently reward for using violence during the course of a game. Typically mocked as simple sports clichés, we hear the language of domination from players, coaches, and analysts as well as read it in newspapers and blogs. We don’t bat an eye when this language crosses over into more explicitly sexual language. How often have you heard Jim Hughson or Gord Miller talk about penetration when describing a player like Kyle Turris or Henrik Sedin enter the opposing zone? Objections to this word and similar phrases in hockey are usually met with dismissal; “this is hockey,” the refrain goes, not sex or rape (the distinction between the two remains murky to many). To paraphrase Pitch Perfect, a zone entry is not a good enough reason to use the word penetrate. As hockey fans we’re aware of how suggestive the language of the game can be, but rather than question what’s at stake when using sexual language to describe a sporting event, we treat it as a joke and use hashtags like #hockeyporn to keep the laughs going. But we rarely reflect on the homophobic nature of the humour or how it naturalizes the pairing of violence and sex.

We talk about hockey this way and use such sexual language because of the type of masculinity we celebrate in the game. Hockey praises a masculinity that is still based on conservative notions of toughness and dependent on strength and aggression. The game’s ubiquity and popularity in Canada means it’s the dominant expression of masculinity in this country. It’s typified by people like Nick Kypreos and current players like Chris Neil, and celebrated by personalities like Don Cherry. Steeped in whiteness, it uses subtle, racially-motivated language to police behaviour and maintain the status quo. Players like Evander Kane, P.K. Subban, and Josh Ho Sang are considered controversial because they have “personality,” confidence,” and are “outspoken”; coded language highlighting how uncomfortable hockey’s traditional, white masculinity is with difference.

Hockey has a code which also maintains and rewards this kind of conventional tough masculinity. Hitting and fighting are acceptable performances of aggressive masculinity (despite the physical dangers and the fact that fighting is always penalized) while more benign transgressions, like diving (which generally injuries no one), are treated as stains on the game. Those who dive are described in feminized language as soft and delicate. European players are often described this way in contrast to the proper masculinity of celebrated Canadian boys who play the game the “right” way. I’ve always found the consternation surrounding diving in sports like hockey and soccer to be over the top, but that it’s characterized so vehemently as duplicitous is important. Cross-checking is cheating, hitting from behind is cheating, and sucker punching a player is cheating, yet diving, more than any other infraction in hockey, causes the toughness crowd to lose their composure. It’s because diving is seen as lying, cheating, and fraudulent and those who dive are feminized. Think about that. Think about the language used and the response from hockey fans when players embellish or are perceived as faking an injury to gain an advantage like a power play.

It can’t be surprising then, that the majority response to women who have been raped or physically abused by hockey players is to disbelieve and discredit victims, to slander and shame women. It’s the same language.

I’ve been thinking about my masculinity a lot lately. It’s a component of my trans identity and I can’t dismiss it simply because of the numerous examples of toxic masculinity around me. Yet I’m a product of a patriarchal society and I can see how a masculinity based in toughness is appealing. Following convention when it comes to identity can provide someone like me with security and safety and that’s desperately needed for trans lives. But for me, the cost of inclusion is simply too high, namely increased complicity in the toxic masculinity and rape culture of sports like hockey.

One of the things you become acutely aware of if you’re trans is how much of gender is performance. The same is true of masculinity. We often evaluate masculinity in terms of crisis and fragility. The emergence of organized and codified sports like hockey at the end of the 19th and start of the 20th centuries are sometimes discussed as a response to the feminization of men in the late Victorian period. Similarly, we talk about the fragility of modern masculinity in the face of the erosion of traditional gender roles and the loss of breadwinner status and therefore embrace contemporary examples of tough, aggressive masculinity, like hockey, football, and MMA. But the real crisis is not masculine identity but the violence against women which continues to plague the North American sports landscape.

I don’t see the panicked actions of a fragile identity. I see a deliberate digging in. It’s a limiting mindset for men and sidelines all who don’t fit this particular expression of identity. What I see in the masculinity typified by hockey, in its players and many of its supporters, is dangerous. It is a concerted effort to maintain the hierarchical power they have always enjoyed and abused. It extends to the stands and bars and pubs where fans watch this performance of tough, aggressive masculinity. It continues off ice for players and team personnel.

That women continue to bear the brunt of this assertion of power remains tragically predictable.

10 Years Later: Hossa for Heatley

This month marks the 10th anniversary of the Hossa-Heatley trade. While Yashin for Chara and the pick the Sens used to draft Jason Spezza will remain the greatest trade in team history, Hossa-Heatley is perhaps the most important, franchise defining move and subject to considerable revisionist history by Sens fans.

It’s not that people weren’t excited about the trade at the time, far from it. While a vocal minority panned the move, Heatley was young and exciting and certainly a big ticket winger on the same level as Hossa. Hossa was beloved in the capital, fans chanted his name after every goal. He was one of the team’s most exciting players and a big contributor during the 2003 playoff run to the Eastern Conference Finals. But the P.R. machine got to work quickly; conventional xenophobia emerged in reaction to the move – Hossa was a soft European who couldn’t handle the tough play of the NHL playoffs while Heatley was a gritty Canadian kid. It was easy to paint Hossa as greedy, the stereotype of the mercenary European player still fresh in the minds of Sens fans after several rounds of contract disputes with former captain Alexei Yashin.

Heatley didn’t exactly fit the gritty Canadian player mould either. He scored more from the hash marks than the crease, and came with his own considerable baggage. He had asked for a trade out of Atlanta earlier in the summer, troubled by his responsibility for an accident in September 2003, in which Heatley drove too fast, crashed his car, and his passenger and teammate Dan Snyder died as a result. But just as quickly as Hossa was painted as greedy, Heatley’s past was glossed over by many Sens fans. He was Ottawa’s first true Canadian star. Spezza would quickly join Heatley, but didn’t have a breakout season until paired with the winger, and Wade Redden, who would have his best season statistically in 2005-06, was overshadowed by Zdeno Chara. Ottawa’s best, Yashin, Alfredsson, and Hossa, were all Europeans who had strained and difficult contract disputes with the organization in the past. Players negotiating with the tools available to them has for a long time been characterized as greed by fans and media alike. If playing the game right means measuring a player’s toughness on the ice, then playing for the love of the game and eschewing monetary concerns is how to play it right off the ice in conventional Canadian hockey mythology. In contrast to Yashin, Alfie, and Hossa, Heatley had starred for Canada at the previous three World Championships as well as the World Cup in 2004 while recovering from serious knee and eye injuries. There was the prospect of cheering a Senator wearing the red maple leaf for Canada at the Olympics in 2006 with his arrival. He was also under contract for three more seasons. He was different in key ways that generated excitement and allowed fans to quickly move on from a summer of debating the merits of Hossa and the dollars he deserved.

Looking back, the money can’t be overlooked.

Hossa was frequently credited with being not only a great two-way player at the time of the deal, but Ottawa’s best player period. One of the top wingers in the league at the time, he matched the play of upper end comparables like Jarome Iginla and Vincent Lecavalier. The eventual deal the Sens and Hossa agreed to (3 years, $18 million) before reaching arbitration was fair in terms of his ability and what he was worth, but would prove difficult to accommodate in the new, salary cap world.

With the Senators hovering around the $31 million mark in salary and the newly instituted cap set at $39 million, Ottawa was right up against the upper limit with the Hossa deal. Had the case been decided in arbitration, the award could have been even higher and the team risked losing him as a UFA 12 months later. It wasn’t a salary considered in isolation either. Then Senators GM John Muckler had an eye on the following summer when star defensemen Wade Redden and Zdeno Chara could both walk as UFAs and winger Martin Havlat would need a new deal. The situation might have been even trickier had Sens captain Daniel Alfredsson not signed a 5-year deal after the 2003-04 season. Signed before the 2004-05 lockout, it was subject to a 25% rollback when play finally resumed the following season. After a lucrative $7.5 million signing bonus, Alfie was set to make just $4.66 million in 2005-06. Had Alfie signed another short term deal in 2004, he might have been deemed expendable in the post-lockout world as the Sens struggled to get both star wingers under contract. Had the Sens kept Hossa after signing him to that three year deal ten years ago, Alfie, signed long term and to an affordable deal for a star player, might have been appealing trade bait.

While the salary cap put teams on equal footing in terms of spending, it disproportionately affected good teams with young talent coming out of RFA years and moving toward UFA status. Teams like the Senators. Not only did the lockout wipe out a year of contracts for players like Hossa, it wiped out a year of RFA status, a year of team control. It was hard to plan long term with the looming lockout. While the league was pushing hard for a salary cap, what it would be set at was unknown and salary rollback wasn’t guaranteed. Further complicating the matter for the Sens was the team’s recent bankruptcy. Financial trouble had hounded the team since its early days and became acute in the years leading up to 2003. During the last few years of Rod Brydon’s ownership, the Sens often stuck to short term deals, affording the team financial flexibility in times of ownership and CBA instability. Simply put, it’s hard to lock up your young stars to affordable or near affordable deals when you can’t afford to pay them in the first place.

This trade has received a lot of retroactive criticism, but I wonder if it would be seen as a good bit of business, perhaps even prudent, if it was a move Bryan Murray had made this summer. I wonder how the move would be viewed today had it been made in the climate of analytics and a decade into the salary-cap era. At that point in their careers Hossa and Heatley were pretty close in terms of point production, but Hossa would have likely come out on top of the Corsi battle. Still, Heatley’s projected production at the time, in combination with the fact that Heatley’s cap hit was $1.5 million less than Hossa’s each season through the course of Hossa’s deal (which is the same amount the Sens saved on Hossa’s deal in real dollars each season by trading for Heatley), and some might conclude that Heatley might have been the better value in the restrictive early years of the cap system.

What pushes the deal over the top in the short term is that in addition to trading sniper-for-sniper, the Sens were able to offload Greg de Vries. The veteran defenseman was coming off a down year and was due to make $2.28 million in 2005-06 and was under contract until 2007. While that might not seem like a lot now, he was making more than every Senator not named Hossa, Alfredsson, Redden, Chara, or Havlat. In other words, he was making a lot for a defensive defenseman who failed to impress as a deadline pickup in 2003-04. With Hossa and de Vries in the lineup, it’s likely depth contributors like Chris Kelly and Christoph Schubert, as well as rookie standout Andrej Meszaros, would have been stuck in the AHL due to budget constraints/de Vries’ spot in the lineup. It’s always going to be difficult to give up a player of Hossa’s calibre, but to bring back a younger player with similar point production and strengthen your depth all while shedding salary isn’t a bad way to get out of bind.

If it’s hard to remember where the Sens were at in August 2005, those first two seasons with Heatley in the lineup seem equally distant. For all the longing for Hossa you hear now, things were considerably quieter when Heatley notched points in his first 22 games as a Senator (besting Hossa’s previous franchise mark by nine games), on the way to back-to-back 50 goal seasons and a trip to the Stanley Cup Final. While Hossa put up similar numbers in Atlanta, it’s not like the Senators missed out on a terrific trade return when he was shipped to Pittsburgh at the trade deadline in 2008. It’s possible Hossa wouldn’t have jumped around so much if his faith in the negotiating process hadn’t been shaken by the Senators, but it’s also clear he wanted to win a Cup. After falling short with Pittsburgh in 2008, he signed a lucrative one year deal in Detroit that didn’t work out and led to a mammoth 12 year/$63.3 million deal with Chicago in 2009. The Hossa everyone regrets missing out on is the elder statesman Hawks version, with three Cups to his name and part of a modern NHL dynasty. That’s fair, he’s been a big part of Chicago’s golden age. What it illustrates the most though is Hossa’s legacy in the NHL is defined by his time Chicago now, his Ottawa years more footnote than main story.

It was always going to be tough to sign and retain that early-to-mid 2000s core in Ottawa. A perfect storm of bankruptcy, maturing talent, and a new (and by today’s standards, restrictive) salary cap, was always going to leave at least a few players on the outside looking in. That Heatley didn’t have the longevity of Hossa is clear. That the Senators gave up the best player in the deal is also clear. What might have been a win in the short term has been a loss long term. But keeping Hossa would have also altered the story as well and the results likely wouldn’t have been the fairy tale ending he’s enjoying in Chicago.

August Long Weekend Kanata Staycation: Lunch at Big Rig

The August long weekend is upon us, Sens fans, and while many of you will sit for hours in traffic on the way to the cottage, camping, or some a rain-soaked music festival that has final grasped the fact that cultural appropriation is unacceptable, @lukeperisty and I decided to check out early on Friday afternoon for a staycation in sunny Kanata.

After taking in some of the most notable sights and landmarks of eastern Ontario, including the biggest development of the summer, we navigated through the typical congestion of Ikea bound homeowners and inadequate parking in the Big Rig lot. We were seated quickly at Big Rig, which suited us just fine as hard-hitting reporting is hungry work.

Big Rig 2

Luke made a selection off the summer drink menu, trying out the raspberry ale. The colour reminded me of a punch I’d find in this book. That’s not a bad thing, I really love punch. The author had a cola beverage. Nothing to report, it was a cola beverage.

Waiting for our food, our thoughts turned to Chef Chris. We’re all too familiar with his exploits on the ice and his family’s interest in nutrition, but what about his skills in the kitchen?

Luke played it safe with a classic grilled cheese and tomato pairing, sampling the somewhat pejoratively titled “Grown Up Grilled Cheese and Tomato Bisque”. It looked appealing, tasty, and slightly decadent but its presentation was lacking. Chef Chris wisely avoided the conventional grill marks that so many hockey fans gravitate toward, but missed an obvious use for this product. As for the bisque, it was obviously meant for Coach Cameron, sitting two booths away; its hypnotic cream swirl had my fellow blogger suggesting a Big Rig-Boro duo could be more than a buddy cop flick and might actually be a shutdown third pairing this season.

Big Rig 1

Where this sandwich was on point was the cheese. Grown up grilled cheese sandwiches don’t rely on kid-pleasing American cheddar. They make a statement. And when Chef Chris is at the helm, the statement its making is this: it’s Chris Phillips’ house and you’re just a guest. Smoked cheddar, Havarti (known as “Grandma Cheese” in my house – don’t ask), Swiss, and gorgonzola. That’s four, FOUR, 4 cheeses. On point, Chef Chris, on point.

I entered Big Rig planning on ordering a burger, something with a subtle tie into the man himself, like the “# 4 Burger,” the “Big Rig Chop Chop Burger,” or the best named item on the menu, the “Fort Mac Daddy”. Afterall, Burgers: It’s What they Do!

Big Rig 5

But as I walked to our booth, I saw a family of four eating a pizza, served on a pedestal and realized I deserve more pedestal food. Now, I’m gonna level with you: sometimes you go out for pizza and you think, “that was really good, but there wasn’t enough meat”. But this place is called Big Rig, it’s going to have a signature meat pizza. It’s called Quattro Carne.

Quattro.

Four. FOUR. 4!!!!!!

Bacon, sausage, salami, pepperoni. That’s four meats. On point again, Chef Chris, on point.

Big Rig 3

You know presentation matters with this dish because it’s served on a pedestal. However, this pizza committed the biggest pizza sin in my opinion: placing the sliced, cured meats directly on top of the tomato sauce, then layering with cheese, and finally topping with bacon and sausage. It’s not that pepperoni and salami specifically shouldn’t go under the cheese, it’s just that I don’t trust pizza with toppings under cheese. This might sound ridiculous. This might seem a tad bizarre.

Let me explain.

When we were kids, my mom would make delicious pizza dough most Friday nights. The three pizzas would be divided into one for my parents, one for my younger sisters, and one for me and my older sister. One time when my older sister was about 11 and I was about nine, my sister was taking her turn dressing our pizza. Now, we would divide our pizza in half, her half would have mushrooms (one of three foods I refuse to eat) and mine would have green olives (which she doesn’t like). This particular time and in true evil sibling form, she put a mushroom under every pepperoni on my side of the pizza, then finished it off with a light dusting of mozzarella. When I bit in and was properly revolted, she laughingly revealed her duplicity, much to the delight of #DadL who also could not stop laughing.

Chef Chris’ “Quattro Carne” pizza was not a repeat of the infamous “Mushroom Surprise Pizza”. It was simply fucking good. It was probably the mounds of cheese. Definitely all the meat. It was good. Eat it.

As we waited for our bills, the classic rock soundtrack of 70s hits fit perfectly. The Eagles reminded us that we could never leave and it became stunningly apparent that the Sens have a better branding and design team than Chef Chris:

Big Rig 4

Underappreciated Sens

The arbitration period of the summer is typically the low point of the hockey year. So little is going on that fans spend hours debating the merits of a player asking more than his employer on his next deal as if this was not an utterly predictable exchange and tactic. But it does shine a light on what is deemed valuable within the current mood of the NHL and who is assigned value.

Ottawa has had its fair share of heroes; players who have put up big points, scored crucial goals, or strung together remarkable victories. These players get a lot of ink, but what about the underrated and underappreciated? The guys who aren’t subject to round after round of Senators Revisionist History by bored fans on brutally hot summer nights. Who are the most underappreciated Senators?

Shawn McEachern

McEachern was part of the best Sens era in team history but gets overshadowed by offensive players like Alexei Yashin, Daniel Alfredsson, and Marian Hossa. Yet in his six years in Ottawa, McEachern twice finished second in team scoring to Yashin and finished third on another occasion. There was a period of a few seasons where Alfredsson had horrible injury luck and the Yashin saga was playing out when McEachern was the reliable veteran who could be counted on for top-six offensive production in the dead puck era. Two 30+ goal seasons as well as a season with 29 goals, Shawn wasn’t depth scoring, he provided key production, yet has been all but forgotten in the decade+ since his trade to the Thrashers.

Jason York and Igor Kravchuk

Neither were key contributors or flashy players. What they were is what we now crave: reliable blueline depth. Good for 25-35 points a season and generally more than 22 minutes/game, York was in Ottawa for five seasons and Kravchuk for three and a half. They didn’t take a lot of penalties, they didn’t hurt their team. They were just quietly steady. They were the kind of blueline depth that fans now crave but the type of players that are easy to forget when they’re in the lineup.

Antoine Vermette and Chris Kelly

These two go together because my memory of one seems to always include the other. Young players during Ottawa’s golden age, Kelly and Vermette came up as inexperienced, inexpensive, depth players, the type good teams need to cultivate to stay good. They spent most of their time on the third line and killing penalties, where they were not only an effective shutdown force, but a force for good with a knack for chipping in shorthanded goals (8 between them in 06-07 alone). Trapped behind Spezza and Fisher, Vermette was too good for the third line but couldn’t break into the top six. Still, he had seasons of 19, 21, and 24 goals for the Senators, but never received the attention of the surprisingly comparable Fisher. Chris Kelly is remembered more as a useful, but limited, defensive specialist. However, he always hit double-digits in goals, and twice notched 15 as a Senator. That’s awesome production from a third line player, especially one who is so versatile defensively – the original Erik Condra if you will, but with twice the goals.

Nick Foligno

Foligno was another young player who the Sens moved in his mid-20s like Vermette. During his first couple of seasons with the big club, the Senators were still under the illusion they were an elite team. As Foligno continued to develop, he played on some truly crap Sens incarnations yet seemed to have trouble sticking in the top-six and often played a third line role under Cory Clouston (Q. how much did that guy fuck with things?) Yet Foligno kept contributing and his last season as a Senator was his best (15 goals, 47 points). His penchant for taking ill-advised penalties seems more an anomaly instead of habit in retrospect, but one which contributed to him being traded. He’s not the biggest guy in the league, but he’s a physical player who’s comfortable setting up in front of the net. Essentially, he’s the player Bryan Murray envisioned when signing the Colin Greening contract. Even his goalie hugs, which have become the stuff of legend in Columbus, were underrated in Ottawa.

Chris Phillips

It might seem odd to see Phillips on this list. A Senator since 1964, Phillips was key in choosing a new Canadian flag. But he also gets lost in the shuffle somewhat, as Ottawa’s blueline has traditionally been pretty strong. Behind Redden and Chara on the depth chart for the prime of his career, his pairing with Volchenkov was given its due, but his-hard hitting partner was the more celebrated of the duo. Since Erik Karlsson’s emergence, a litany of defensemen (Kuba, Gonchar, and Methot) have all been more vital to the Sens success. That Phillips was not one of the team’s two best defensemen for much of his career shouldn’t diminish the fact that he was a valuable one for the bulk of his years in the NHL and deserves the corresponding appreciation. His rapid decline post-35 is being weighted too much right now. His last days in the capital have surely been his worst, but like Bryan Mulroney or George W. Bush who also left at their lowest, there’s nowhere for Phillips to go but up.