Sens vs. Pens: The five funniest, weirdest and most memorable off-ice moments

What makes a rivalry memorable?

Sens vs. Pens: The five funniest, weirdest and most memorable off-ice moments

What makes a rivalry memorable?

Playoff series help for sure. Look at the hate-filled one that just wrapped between the Ottawa Senators and Montreal Canadiens. What started with a crushing open-ice hit that produced a bloody, horrifying result turned into a three ring circus of hard-fought contests, coaching mind games and nautical-themed insults.

While many will remember Ottawa’s upset series victory over its closest geographic rival for what happened on the ice — Craig Anderson’s play, Jean-Gabriel Pageau’s hat trick, Cory Conacher’s tying goal and Kyle Turris’s winner — ready-made memes like Player 61, Fat Walrus and Crying In My Arms will live on for years to come in the fan lexicon.

And it only gets better as the Ottawa Senators prepare to face the Pittsburgh Penguins in Round 2. Over the next two weeks or less, they’ll have yet another opportunity to build on an already-rich collection of off-ice hijinks. Here are the five funniest, weirdest or most memorable moments in recent Senators vs. Penguins history.

1. Melnyk vs. Cooke

Eugene Melnyk is as passionate a sports franchise owner as there is out there. He goes through the same highs and lows as the typical fan, which means he gets super, super psyched when his team wins, and pretty damn angry when something bad happens to it. I was at Bert’s Bar in Barbados working on a story about him back in 2008 when this happened:

Melnyk literally jumped out of his chair and yelled at the T.V., furious at what would be an easy suspension today.

So perhaps we shouldn’t be surprised that he came out swinging after Erik Karlsson had his Achilles tendon sliced by Penguins agitator Matt Cooke’s skate during a collision along the boards earlier this season.

Cooke, of course, has a well-earned a reputation for trying to severely injure his opponents, though if you believe fans and media in Pittsburgh, he truly is completely rehabilitated and fit for hockey society. He even earned a Masterton Trophy nomination for, I guess, deciding not to level career-threatening hits to the head against his opponents anymore.

Still, to most outside observers, the Cooke/Karlsson incident was an obvious accident. Presumably, Cooke doesn’t possess the kind of ninja skills required to run a player into the boards and deliver what should have been a season-ending slice like that.

Melnyk, however, called Cooke a goon, implied intent and said the player should be out of the game. The owner then went further, saying he’d hired forensic doctors to make the case to the NHL that Cooke was trying to harm Karlsson.

For his part, Karlsson has moved on:


Has Melnyk?

2. The Naked Spartan

Rarely does a franchise hit rock bottom in such a humiliating fashion. Just a season before, the Ottawa Senators had been three wins away from a Stanley Cup, and excitement around the team was at its peak. After a crazy-good start to the 2007-2008 campaign that suggested a potential President’s Trophy run, things slowly began to fall apart. By the end of the season, coach John Paddock had been fired and the Senators backed into the No. 7 seed and a date against the No. 2 Penguins. Anything can happen in the playoffs, right?

It certainly can.

There was nothing not hilarious about the scantily-clan Spartan. The fact he was flown in from L.A. for the opening. The helmet almost falling off his head. The mic cutting out. The lines written on the back of his shield. It was all too much.

Ask most fans today and they’ll name this the most embarrassing moment in franchise history. Adding injury to insult, the Penguins swept the Senators out of the playoffs in four games. Ottawa would miss the playoffs completely the following season for the first time in 11 years.

3. The Expert

Andy Sutton’s tenure with the Ottawa Senators lasted a scant 18 regular season games and six more in the playoffs. But his post-game tete-a-tete with a Pittsburgh reporter will live on in team lore forever:

4. Murray vs. Crosby

A couple years ago, Penguins star and noted best player in the world Sidney Crosby suffered a devastating concussion that kept him out of the lineup for 11 months. During that time, he became an outspoken advocate for player safety and expressed the need for a ban on hits to the head.

So when he delivered a questionable elbow to the noggin of then-Senators winger Nick Foligno, who’d been running Penguins netminder Marc-Andre Fleury all night, Senators general manager Bryan Murray suggested Crosby was a hypocrite.

Responded Crosby: “It’s ridiculous. It’s a play that happens in every game. I guess that it’s me, it’s dissected and analyzed a hundred times more. I really think they’re making something out of nothing. If they want to keep beating it around, they can. I don’t have anything else to say about it. I think it’s ridiculous we’re still talking about it three days later, to be honest with you.”

Murray also chirped Crosby early in his career for using too much profanity on the ice.

5. Epic Anthem

Opera fans know Measha Brueggergosman as an award-winning Canadian soprano with a startlingly powerful voice. Hockey fans know her as “that opera singer who made the Senators and Penguins laugh during four minutes of national anthems in Ottawa.”

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