A different kind of crowd support

A different kind of crowd support

Home Sweet…er, never mind.

Despite playing consecutive games at Scotiabank Place this weekend, Ottawa Senators players can’t help but feel like visitors in their own building.

As if home games on consecutive nights wasn’t odd enough, the appearance of a pair of arch-rivals with generations of support behind them makes it an altogether bizarre couple of days.

The Montreal Canadiens were in town Friday, bringing with them the passion of their long-time fans. The scene could become wild Saturday night due to the arrival of the Toronto Maple Leafs and their vocal fan base. The crowd, many of whom will spend the day fuelling up on St. Patrick’s Day spirits to add to their spirit, figures to generate endless noise. The last time the Maple Leafs were in town, back on Feb. 4, their fans were in their glory as Toronto romped to a 5-0 victory, one of the last highlights in another lost season.

“It takes some getting used to,” acknowledges Senators rookie winger Colin Greening, who grew up in St. John’s, Nfld., where allegiances were split between the Canadiens and Maple Leafs. “Ottawa borders on Quebec, so you have a lot of Montreal fans who are very loud and very passionate. Sometimes, it feels like you’re at an away game. But that’s reality.”

Greening, speaking before Friday’s game against Montreal, didn’t want to look ahead too far to meeting the Maple Leafs.

Clearly, though, an outsider to the situation would be shocked to discover that the Senators are the home team. The Canadiens and Maple Leafs lost their hopes of making the playoffs weeks, if not months ago, while the Senators are aiming to cap a surprising regular season by clinching a post-season spot in the next few weeks. When the Maple Leafs are in town, the boos aimed at Senators captain Daniel Alfredsson are louder than the cheers.

Centre Zack Smith also recognizes how unusual it is for the visiting team to enjoy so much support.

“It is a bit like playing on the road, with the crowd, but they’re big rivals for us,” Smith said. “It’s something we laugh about before the game.”

Indeed, when Smith talks about the necessity of the Senators establishing momentum early to get Senators on their side, it brings up the old joke about Ottawa needing to play well at home to take the crowd out of the game.

Canadiens defenceman P.K. Subban said on Friday morning that Montreal hoped to capitalize on the support they had in the building.

So far this season, it doesn’t seem to matter much where the Senators play. Before Friday’s game against the Canadiens, they sported an 18-13-4 record at Scotiabank Place and an 18-12-6 mark away from Ottawa.

 

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