Now feels like the right time to get some thoughts on the record about the Senators, this being the occasion of their 25th anniversary, and while we still have the luxury of thinking about things like hockey now that all bets are off, society-wise.
If you’ve been to a game in this new year, this promising new year in which no one you love will die, get injured, or vote, you’ve already seen the Senators starting to roll out the 25th anniversary razzmatazz, like the XXV logo at centre ice, or the pre-game ice lasers that make the playing surface look like the dirt floor of an ancient arena, or the bubbling magma of an angry volcano, or pretty much anything else that isn’t located downtown. And predictably, some of us are already rolling our eyes at it all, asking if this team is ever going to hire some actual marketing and design people, what with that XXV logo looking like something designed for an off-brand wrestling championship, or a sad Super Bowl where the players are too hungry to hit each other. Although if you talk any mess about the pre-game ice lasers, you can meet me in Lot 9.
Just as predictably, though, some of us are also rolling our eyes at the idea that the Senators, at 25, even have history, like treating Chris Neil’s 1000th game with the pomp of a royal wedding is a waste of flowers, or projecting giant Sylvain Turgeon highlights across the rink is somehow a waste of lasers. This bothers me. Sure, the Senators’ 25-year history has mostly been nasty, brutish, and short, but all history has to start somewhere, and that’s usually somewhere mediocre. It’s not like the Habs or Leafs had tons to celebrate during their pre-game ceremonies at equivalent points in their history, and anyway, 1930s laser shows were often underpowered and terribly out of focus.
Besides, what point in the Senators’ 25 years is officially legitimate enough to start celebrating the actual making of history? Are you of those people who thinks the team was bad until 1997, or one of the ones who thinks they were bad until 2003, or one of the ones who thinks they’ve always been bad, but for a brief period in the mid-2000s before you discovered analytics?
Sure, we can all agree on Daniel Alfredsson. His retirement ceremony was the kind of generational, capital-H History moment worth celebrating and reflecting upon. But these moments are generational for a reason, and they only work within the larger context of time and its inevitable failures, when they can be the kind of moments where the camera pulls back and we finally see the shape of this thing we’ve been building all these years. History doesn’t mean success; history is the context you need to understand what success looks like. It’s your first apartment that had no heat; it’s that year you spent working the grill at Wendy’s with dogs following you home even after you changed your clothes; it’s Sylvain Turgeon and Senagoth jerseys and first-round matchups with the Leafs.
Other than the Senators, do you know which teams have histories that are mostly comprised of season-ending losses? All of them. You can’t pretend those moments aren’t worth remembering any more than you can pretend they were victories, or that you could go to a Senators game in the 90s and hear Slowdive instead of John Denver. It happened. So don’t begrudge the Senators for looking back a little after 25 years, and heck, maybe have some fun with it? I mean, sure, I hope one day the Senators are successful enough that those of us at the games are all rich enough to ignore them. Until then, it’s still worth remembering how far we’ve come, ideally with lasers.