Ah, the beauty of sport, where hope springs eternal.
Some years, pundits try to keep expectations modest — if they make the playoffs, then it’s anyone’s game. Other years begin with genuine confidence — the if-everything-falls-into-place-this-could-be-our-year delirium. Grey Cups and Stanley Cups may be elusive, but the joy of the chase begins anew each season.
Steadfast CFL fans revelled in the Redblacks’ 2016 Grey Cup triumph; it erased 40 years of disappointment. You had to go back 40 years for Ottawa’s previous championship, a heady 1976 triumph followed by three decades of mismanagement (the storied 120-year-old Rough Riders folded after the 1996 season, were resurrected briefly in the early 2000s as the Renegades, then folded again before the Redblacks were reborn as a CFL franchise in 2014). After a narrow 2015 Grey Cup loss, fans streamed into the stadium with stars in their eyes this past season. The team delivered on its promise. Going into the championship as heavy underdogs against Calgary, they painted the Grey Cup field red and black in a thrilling 39-33 overtime victory. As the game’s MVP, QB Henry Burris was immortalized in Ottawa’s sporting lore. It might not be long before someone puts a statue of him outside TD Place stadium.
For Sens fans, too, the future looks bright. Though the original dynasty ended four generations ago, just seven years after its final 1927 Stanley Cup win, hockey stalwarts never gave up the dream of a team in Ottawa. The modern reboot has seen so many highs — the heady excitement of the early Alexei Yashin years, the thrill of watching Dany Heatley in his hey-day, the 1997 Stanley Cup run … And though the past few years have been tough on fans, with the prime Erik Karlsson years ahead, a 25th anniversary of the team, and a potential move to LeBreton Flats on the horizon, the best is yet to come.
Here, a look at some highlights of Ottawa’s pro sport history
1994: The Daniel Alfredsson Draft
It’s the stuff of legend now.
Chosen 133rd overall, Alfie would go on to win rookie of the year and reign as captain from 1999 to 2013. Articulate, oh-so-popular, and that hair!
1996: The First Real Home Game
On January 17, a rowdy, sold-out crowd is so pumped about the first game in the Palladium that the Sens’ 3-0 loss that night to division rivals Montreal almost seemed secondary.
2007: The Stanley Cup Finals
The Penguins, Devils, and Sabres were vanquished, but in the end, the over-achieving Sens are crushed in five games by some mighty Ducks. A sweet, sweet run.
2014: Stadium 2.0
Hard to justify the long-running rivalry between the gritty South-siders and the more genteel North-facing fans with the debut of the revamped TD Place stadium. Comfy seats for all!
2015: Chasing the Cup
For the first time since 1981, a team from Ottawa heads to the Grey Cup. Longsuffering fans — and QB Henry Burris — are primed for a fairytale ending. No dice.
1976: The Ultimate Catch
Twenty seconds left in the fourth, the Rough Riders trail Saskatchewan by four. Quarterback Tom Clements goes long to Tony Gabriel. Perfect toss; historic catch. Touchdown!