Senators aim for 2017 Heritage Classic

As Ottawa Senators captain Jason Spezza was sporting a throwback look in one corner of a room at the Canadian Tire Centre Thursday, Ottawa Senators president Cyril Leeder also had one eye on the future.

Senators aim for 2017 Heritage Classic
Jason Spezza (L) of the Ottawa Senators and Henrik Sedin (R) of the Vancouver Canucks unveil their respective classic jerseys, at Canadian Tire Centre, on November 28, 2013, in Ottawa, Ont. The Senators will wear their classic jersey during the NHL Heritage Classic game that will be played outdoors in Vancouver on March 2nd, 2014. (Jana Chytilova / Ottawa Citizen)

As Ottawa Senators captain Jason Spezza was sporting a throwback look in one corner of a room at the Canadian Tire Centre Thursday, Ottawa Senators president Cyril Leeder also had one eye on the future.

Leeder is optimistic Ottawa could play host to its own NHL outdoor game in 2017.

“That’s a good year,” said Leeder, speaking after Spezza and Vancouver Canucks captain Henrik Sedin modelled new old style sweaters to promote the 2014 Heritage Classic at Vancouver’s BC Place on March 2. “That would be the 25th anniversary of the franchise and the 100th anniversary of the NHL. But it’s not just our decision, it’s the league’s, too. And our new football stadium should be finished well in advance of that.”

In addition, 2017 represents the 150th birthday of Canada and an outdoor NHL game in Canada’s capital would be a fitting addition to a year-long national celebration.

NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly says the league has expressed an interest in being part of all of the above.

“We’ve discussed the possibility with (the Senators),” Daly said in a email response to the Citizen. “But no decisions have been made at this point. It’s more likely to be a Heritage Classic (than Winter Classic) given its Canadian roots.”

While Spezza says he’s anxious to be part of the Senators first-ever appearance on the big, big stage of a colossal venue, he also believes Ottawa could put on a great show.

“I would hope we get a chance to host (an outdoor game) at some point,” he said. “And if we ever do, I think the cold would add to it, too.”

As for the design of the Senators’ Heritage sweaters, think about the club’s black third sweaters featuring barberpole stripes and a stylized ‘O’ – turned inside out, that is. It’s the same design, but with an off-white base colour and with the logo, names and numbers in felt.

The professional hockey history between Ottawa and Vancouver dates back to 1915, before the formation of the NHL, before forward passes were permitted and before goalies were allowed to drop to the ice. Back then, the Vancouver Millionaires – featuring ex-Ottawa Senators Cyclone Taylor and Frank Nighbor – swept the Senators 3-0 (6-2, 8-3, 12-3) in a best-of-five final.

It took five days by train for the Senators to make the trek to Vancouver, as opposed to the five-hour flight 99 years later.

One Senator player relishing in the history is Cory Conacher, whose family tree is linked directly to latter-day greats Lionel and Charlie Conacher. Conacher’s great grandfather’s cousin was Lionel “Big Train” Conacher, who was voted Canada’s top athlete for the first half of the 20th century, winning both the Stanley Cup with the Maple Leafs and the Grey Cup with the Toronto Argonauts.

The modern-day Conacher spent his childhood writing school reports on the other Conachers.

“It’s going to be very neat to be able to play in that game,” he said. “It will bring back some memories of projects I did on them and how it was back then, in 1915. Hopefully we can get a win out of that game and it will be a succesful day for my family and friends, as well.”

 

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