Tuesday, October 21, 2014
How to Be a Devils Fan In Ottawa -- 2014-15 Edition
NOTE: Mere hours after I posted this, a deranged man, shot and killed the Canadian soldier then guarding the National War Memorial, and then walked into the Centre Block of Canada's Parliament and started shooting, where he was shot and killed by the House of Commons' Sergeant-at-Arms. The downtown area of Ottawa was placed on lockdown, including the hotel where the Toronto Maple Leafs were staying, and their game with the Senators that night was postponed.
The Devils' game with the Senators on Saturday went on as scheduled, with a tribute before puck-drop.
The New Jersey Devils played the Ottawa Senators in the Stanley Cup Playoffs in 1998 (we lost in the 1st round), 2003 (we beat them at their place in Game 7 of the Conference Finals) and 2007 (a pathetic performance, losing in the Conference Semifinals). The Senators also beat us in the 1st game at the Prudential Center, on October 27, 2007.
Needless to say, while they're not exactly a geographic rival or a perennial Playoff opponent, we don't like them.
Hardly anyone does. While Canadian fans were glad to see another Canadian team in the NHL, they share a common trait with several countries: Wanting to stick it to their national government, and that includes wanting the teams in the capital city to lose. So if we can beat the Sens, Canadians from Newfoundland to British Columbia will like it.
And, of course, if you can add Ottawa to the list of NHL cities you've been to and seen the Devils win at, you will like it very much.
Before You Go. Ottawa is in Canada -- indeed, it is the nation's capital, hence "Ottawa Senators," just as our federal capital once had the Washington Senators, and various State capitals had minor-league baseball teams named the Trenton Senators, the Albany Senators, etc. Canada may be a country very much like our own, but it is still a separate country.
So, on top of having to bring a valid passport and change your money, you should contact your bank, and let them know that you're going there. If they see credit card charges or ATM withdrawals listed as being in a country other than the U.S., they may get suspicious and think your card has been stolen, and cancel it. So let them know that (barring an actual loss or theft) any such transactions will be legit.
One big difference between being a Yankee Fan going to see your team play in Toronto and being a Devils fan going to see your team play anywhere in Canada is that it's a lot harder to get your money changed. Living in New York City, you can find currency exchanges all over. On the New Jersey side of the Hudson River, it's a lot harder.
If you're flying to Ottawa, you can get it done at Newark Airport. Otherwise, you may have to search for a place. Some malls have them: Jersey Gardens in Elizabeth, Menlo Park in Edison, Bridgewater Commons.
I would advise leaving yourself with at least $50 in cash and $1.00 in change in American money, just in case you have difficulty finding a place to change your money back before you leave. And, while the differences in the countries' paper money will be clear, the differences in the coins will be harder. Make sure you keep your American coins and your Canadian coins separate.
As of Tuesday afternoon, October 21 (4 days before the game), C$1.00 = US 89 cents, and US$1.00 = C$1.12. In other words, the exchange rate currently favors us. But since the exchanges need to make a profit, you might not get much of an advantage over the border.
Since Canada is part of the British Commonwealth, you'll also have to deal with the metric system. In other words, that speed limit you're seeing is 100 kilometers per hour (about 62 MPH). And don't be thrilled at the gasoline prices: That's per "litre," not per gallon. A liter is a little more than a quart, so 1 gallon = 3.785 liters. So that's not US$1.12 per gallon you're seeing as a gas price: That's C$1.12 per litre, or about US$3.78 per gallon. So, it's much worse up there, despite the fact that Canada is a big oil-producing nation. (Indeed, American imports more oil from Canada than from any other country. Why so much? Taxes. Gotta pay for that great national health service somehow.)
One thing you won't have to do is fiddle with your watch or your phone. Ottawa is in the Eastern Time Zone, and all times there will be the same that they would be here.
At 45' 17" north latitude, the Canadian Tire Centre is not the northernmost arena in the NHL (it's actually the southernmost of the 7 Canadian teams' arenas), but it's considerably north of most arenas you're likely to visit. As a result, while late October will be cool in New Jersey and New York City, it could well be genuinely cold in Ottawa. That said, if you're going to be spending the weekend in Ottawa, seeing the city instead of just going up for the game and coming back, your biggest issue may not be cold, but rain. The Ottawa Citizen newspaper (a broadsheet, and far more responsible in journalism than the tabloid Ottawa Sun) is predicting a 60 percent chance of rain on Saturday, dropping to 30 percent on Sunday. The temperatures are forecast as being in the low 50s in daylight, and the high 30s at night. Bring a winter jacket.
The Ottawa River forms part of the border between English-speaking Ontario and French-speaking Quebec. That said, the Outaouais (pronounced the same as "Ottawa") region of western Quebec, including the cities of Gatineau and Hull, is among the most Anglophone parts of the Province. And most Quebecois, while they would prefer to converse in French, can do so in English. So while you'll see a lot of things in French, it's not necessary to speak or understand the language. If you can speak French, and someone wants to speak French with you, go ahead. But trying to impress people with your ability to speak it won't work: If you're wearing Devils gear, they won't treat your ability as anything more than a courtesy; if you're not wearing Devils gear, their first inclination will be to think you're one of them -- unless they consider your accent to be strange.
Tickets. Canadians love their hockey. The Senators averaged 18,108 fans last season, about 94 percent of capacity. This will make getting tickets difficult.
Note that these prices are in Canadian dollars, since they come from the club website. 100 level seats are $156 between the goals and $115 behind them, 200 level seats are $125 and $78, 300 level seats (easily the most available at this point) are $72 and $37, while the last few rows in the 300 level are $53 and $16. Granted, that $16 is far, but it's one of the cheapest prices in the NHL.
Getting There. It's 442 miles from Times Square in New York to Parliament Hill in Ottawa, and 428 miles from the Prudential Center in Newark to the Canadian Tire Centre in the suburb of Kanata. (Yes, that's pronounced roughly like the name of the country.) It's in that weird range of "Too close to fly, too far to get there any other way.)
Air Canada, voted North America's top airline 5 years in a row, is the cheapest way to fly there. Except it's not cheap: Over $1,100 round-trip. And they don't fly non-stop: You'd have to change planes in Toronto. And you'd have to stay overnight in Ottawa, as the last flight out would be during the game on Saturday night. So, what are your other options?
The train is not an option. Amtrak does not go directly there. You could get on the Adirondack out of New York's Penn Station at 8:15 Friday morning, and arrive at Montreal's Gare Central at 7:06 that night. But while VIA Rail Canada offers 6 trains a day from Montreal to Ottawa, it takes about 2 hours, and it's only C$55 each way, the last one each day is at 5:05 PM, about 2 hours before you'd arrive in Montreal from New York. So unless you want to get a hotel in Montreal and start out the next morning, you can't get from New Jersey to Ottawa by rail.
So your best options are to take the bus or to drive. Greyhound does operate in Canada. However, again, you would have to change in Montreal. This time, however, it could be done. You could leave Port Authority at 12:00 midnight on Friday, reach Montreal at 7:55 on Saturday morning, switch to a bus to Ottawa at 9:00, and be in Ottawa by 11:30. The return trip is a little trickier: Presuming the game ends before 10:00 on Saturday night, the next bus back to Montreal will be at 2:30 Sunday morning, arriving in Montreal at 5:00, and then you would catch your New York bus at 7:30 and arrive at 4:35 in the afternoon. This is still doable, whereas the train really isn't. Round-trip fare is $228, but can drop to $179 with advanced purchase. The Ottawa Central Station is at 265 Catherine Street, at the intersection of Catherine Street and Kent Street.
If you’re driving, get to Interstate 80, and take it all the way across the State. Shortly after crossing the Delaware River and entering Pennsylvania, take I-380, following the signs for Scranton, until reaching I-81. (If you’ve driven to a game of the Yankees’ Triple-A farm team, the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Yankees, you already know this part.) Take I-81 north into New York State. (If you’ve driven to a game of the Mets’ Double-A farm team, the Binghamton Mets, you already know this part.) Continue on I-81 past Binghamton, Syracuse and Watertown, all the way up to the border, at the Thousand Islands on the St. Lawrence River.
You need to take this next part seriously. Because Canadian Customs will. You'll be asked your citizenship, and you'll have to show your passport and your photo ID. You'll be asked why you're visiting Canada. Seeing a Devils vs. Senators game should be reason enough, although, if you got your tickets by mail, showing them to the Customs agent won't hurt.
If you're bringing a computer with you (counting a laptop, but probably not counting a smartphone), you don't have to mention it, but you probably should. Chances are, you won't be carrying a large amount of food or plants; if you were, depending on how much, you might have to declare them.
Chances are, you won't be bringing alcohol into the country, but you can bring in one of the following items duty-free, and anything above or in addition to this must have duty paid on it: 1.5 litres (53 ounces) of wine, or 8.5 litres (300 ounces or 9.375 quarts) of beer or ale, or 1.14 litres (40 ounces) of hard liquor. If you have the slightest suspicion that I'm getting any of these numbers wrong, check the Canada Customs website. Better yet, don't bring booze in. Or out.
As for tobacco, well, you shouldn't use it. But, either way over the border, you can bring up to 200 cigarettes, 50 cigars, and 200 grams (7 ounces) of manufactured tobacco. What you cannot bring from Canada back into the U.S. is Cuban-made cigars. They are still illegal to even possess in the U.S. So you need to note that President Obama hasn't had that law changed, or dropped the embargo against Cuba. (If he is a Communist or a Socialist, that's yet another reason why he's not very good at it.)
If you've got anything in your car (or, if going by bus or train, in your pockets or your luggage) that could be considered a weapon, even if it's a disposable razor or nail clippers, tell them. And while Canada does have laws that allow you to bring in firearms if you're a licensed hunter (you'd have to apply for a license to the Province where you plan to hunt), the country has the proper attitude concerning guns: They hate them. They go absolutely batshit insane if you try to bring a firearm into their country. Which, if you're sane, is actually the sane way to treat the issue.
You think I'm being ridiculous? How about this: Seven of the 44 U.S. Presidents -- 9 counting the Roosevelts, Theodore after he was President and Franklin right before -- have faced assassins with guns, 6 got hit and 4 died; but none of the 22 people (including 1 woman) to serve as Prime Minister of Canada has ever faced an assassination attempt. John Lennon recorded "Give Peace a Chance" in Montreal and gave his first "solo concert" in Toronto, but he got shot and killed in New York. In fact, the next time I visit, I half-expect to see a bumper sticker that says, "GUNS DON'T KILL PEOPLE, AMERICANS WITH GUNS KILL PEOPLE."
(Another note about weapons: I’m a fan of the TV show NCIS, which airs in Canada on Global Network TV. If you are also a fan of this show, and you usually observe Gibbs Rule Number 9, "Never go anywhere without a knife," you need to remember that these are rules for members of Gibbs' team, not for civilians. So, this time, forget the knife, and leave it at home. If you really think you're going to need it -- as a tool -- mention the knife to the border guard, and show it to him, and tell him you have it to use as a tool in case of emergency, and that you do not plan to use it as a weapon. Do not mention the words "Rule Number 9" or quote said rule, or else he'll observe his Rule Number 1: "Do not let this jackass into your country, eh?" And another thing: Border guards, and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, most likely will observe a variation on Gibbs Rule Number 23: "Never mess with a Mountie's Tim Hortons coffee if you want to live.")
And if you can speak French, don't try to impress the Customs officials with it. You're going into Ontario, not Quebec.
When crossing back into the U.S., in addition to what you would have to declare on the way in (if you still have any of it), you would have to declare items you purchased and are carrying with you upon return, items you bought in duty-free shops or (if you flew) on the plane, and items you intend to sell or use in your business, including business merchandise that you took out of the United States on your trip. There are other things, but, since you're just going for hockey, they probably won't apply to you. Just in case, check the Canadian Customs website I linked to above.
After going through Customs, this would take you right onto the Queen Elizabeth Way (the QEW). After the Pennsylvania Turnpike, this was North America’s second superhighway, and was named not for the current Queen but for her mother, the wife of King George VI, the woman most people now under the age of 65 called the Queen Mother or the Queen Mum. (You know: Helena Bonham-Carter in The King's Speech.) This road will hug Lake Ontario and go through the Ontario cities of Niagara Falls, St. Catharines and Hamilton before turning north and then east toward Toronto. Toronto’s CN Tower is so tall that you may actually see it, across the lake, before you get to Hamilton.
After being let through, I-81 will become Ontario Route 137. You won't be on this for long, as it terminates at O-401, the Macdonald-Cartier Freeway. (This road is named for the founding fathers of English and French Canada, respectively: First Prime Minister Sir John A. Macdonald, and George-Etienne Cartier, responsible for getting Quebec's support for Confederation, Canada's 1867 independence.)
Take the Freeway East, to Exit 721A, which will put you on O-416 North. Exit 75A will put you on the Trans-Canada Highway West. You'll take this until Exit 140, east on Terry Fox Drive, named for the man who tried to walk across Canada on one leg to raise money for cancer research until his own cancer returned and stopped him. The 1st right will be Palladium Drive. (The arena's original name was The Palladium.) The Canadian Tire Centre will soon be on your right. The official address is 1000 Palladium Drive in Kanata, about 14 1/2 miles west of downtown.
You should be in New Jersey for an hour and 15 minutes (after getting out of your driveway, that is), Pennsylvania for an hour and a half, New York for 3 hours, and Ontario for an hour and 45 minutes, for a total of 7 and a half hours. If you make 3 rest stops – I would recommend at or near Scranton and Syracuse, and count Customs, where they will have a restroom and vending machines – and if you don’t do anything stupid at Customs, such as fail to produce your passport, or flash a weapon, or say you watch South Park (a show with a vendetta against Canada for some reason), or call Sidney Crosby a cheating, diving pansy (even though he is one) – the trip should take less than 11 hours.
Once In the City. The name Ottawa comes from the Algonquin word meaning "to trade," as it was founded in 1826 as a trading post. On December 31, 1857, Britain's Queen Victoria was asked to choose a common capital for the Province of Canada, and she chose Ottawa. Her advisers suggested she pick Ottawa for several reasons: Ottawa's position in the back country made it more defensible, while still allowing easy transportation over the Ottawa River. Ottawa was at a point nearly exactly midway between Toronto and Quebec City (310 miles between the capitals of Ontario and Quebec). The smaller size of the town also made it less prone to rampaging politically motivated mobs, as had happened in the previous Canadian capitals.
Ottawa is home to about 900,000 people, making it the 10th-largest in the NHL (13th if you split up the New York and Los Angeles markets), but its metropolitan area has just 1.2 million, making it smaller than any U.S. metro area with a major league sports team. It's already lost 2 pro football teams and a Triple-A baseball team in the last 20 years, although they rejoined the Canadian Football League team this year and will get a new Double-A baseball team next year.
Canada's Conservative Party government got rid of the hated Goods & Services Tax (GST), but replaced it with a Harmonized Sales Tax (HST), which is 13 percent in Ontario -- in other words, it's a consumption tax that hits the poor and the middle class a lot harder than it hits the rich, which means Canada's conservatives are just as bastardish as America's.
Ottawa's north-south streets increase in address numbers moving away from the Ottawa River, while the Rideau Canal divides the city into east and west. OC Transpo runs public transit in the area, with single rides costing C$3.45. Get a DayPass for C$8.10.
Going In. The Number 401 bus goes directly from Ottawa Central Station to the arena, taking 26 minutes. Unfortunately, I can find no reference to how much parking costs there. So, if you're driving, I simply don't have the information for you.
The building is round, and therink is laid out east-to-west. The Senators attack twice at the west end.
Food. Getting something to eat at Canadian Tire Centre isn't going to be a problem.The 111 Deli & Pub and the 212 Deli & Pub, named for the sections they're behind, feature sandwiches and standard "pub grub." Bytown Grill, named for the original name of Ottawa (after the general who commanded the first fort there), and The Ledge Carvery & Bar serve similar fare. Frank Finnigan's, a restaurant named for an early Senators great (more about whom shortly), is more "casual dining."
The arena goes international as well, with stands for Chef Bento Sushi, Golden Palace Egg Rolls, and the Toronto-based "favourite" Pizza Pizza. There's Burger Shack stands, and what would a Canadian point of interest be without Tim Hortons? Ottawans may hate the Toronto Maple Leafs, for whom Horton played so nobly for so long, but they're still Canadians, and so they gotta have their Timmy's.
And, while the Outaouais region includes western Quebec, no one says you have to eat that foul poutine, which, in one bite comes close to undoing all the good La Belle Province has ever done. Nevertheless, if you can actually keep the stuff down, Smoke's Poutinerie stands are at Sections 107, 113, 119, and a larger section at 225.
Team History Displays. Only 2 men associated with the current Senators franchise have been elected to the Hockey Hall of Fame: Roger Neilson, who coached them from 2001 to 2003, and the newly-elected Dominik Hasek, who tended goal for them in the 2005-06 season. The Senators do not have a team hall of fame, including either the current incarnation (1992-present) or the old one (1883-1934). Nor did they announce a 20th Anniversary Team in 2012. Perhaps their 25th Anniversary in 2017 will inspire some kind of team honors -- or, as they would write it in Canada, "honours" -- consideration.
Although the Number 11 of Daniel Alfredsson has not been given out since he left the team after the 2012-13 season, the only number the franchise has officially retired is the Number 8, in honor of Frank Finnigan. He came from Shawville, Quebec, not far from Ottawa, so he was a "local boy makes good." He was honoured for his play from 1923 through 1934 for the original Ottawa Senators, as a right wing, 1923–31 & 1932–34, including being an integral part of their 1927 Stanley Cup win.
Due to the Great Depression, the Senators did not play in the 1931-32 season, and the Toronto Maple Leafs were allowed to sign him, enabling him to win that season's Stanley Cup with the Leafs. He was the Senators' Captain upon their return, and represented the Senators in the Ace Bailey Benefit Game of 1934, now recognized as the 1st NHL All-Star Game. But after that season, they moved to St. Louis, already known for good support of a minor-league team. Finnigan scored the final goal in the history of the old Senators. The St. Louis Eagles were terrible in 1934-35 and folded, selling him back to the Leafs, for whom he played until 1937. He served in the Royal Canadian Air Force in World War II and managed hotels.
He was the last surviving Senator from the Stanley Cup winners of 1927 -- still the last Cup won by an Ottawa team -- and participated in the "Bring Back The Senators" campaign. Sadly, he died in 1991, living long enough to see the city returned to the NHL, but not long enough to see them play. His Number 8 was raised to the rafters of the Ottawa Civic Centre, and his son Frank Finnigan Jr. was invited to drop the ceremonial puck before the 1st home game.
The Senators retain his Number 8 banner in the rafters at the Canadian Tire Centre, and also hang 11 Stanley Cup banners, representing the achievements of the original team, which started as the Ottawa Hockey Club in 1883 and lasted until 1934. The banners represent the Cup wins of 1903, 1904, 1905, 1906, 1909, 1910, 1911, 1920, 1921, 1923, 1927. (Until 1910, the Cup was a challenge trophy, and there was frequently more than one win per season. The Montreal Wanderers won it in 1906, 1907, 1908 and 1910, including beating the Senators, but also losing to them.)
A street that loops around the arena is named Cyclone Taylor Blvd., and the street on the east side of the new arena is named Frank Finnigan Way. Other nearby streets are Frank Nighbor Place and Silver Seven Way. (Back in the days when hockey had 7 players on the ice, including the now-discarded position of "rover," the Ottawa Hockey Club was nicknamed the Silver Seven, before they officially became the Senators.)
In addition to Finnigan, Taylor and Nighbor, other Hockey Hall-of-Famers from the original Senators include
Stuff. Souvenir stands are all over the arena. There are large team stores at Gate 1 at street level, a "vintage" products location at club level, a "Main Street" location on the 200 level, and a jersey-customization shop on the upper bowl level.
There aren't many books about the Senators. The best one I could find on Amazon was about the original version, Chris Robinson's Ottawa Senators: Great Stories From the NHL's First Dynasty. Team videos are also in short supply: The only thing I could find on the Sens was the 2007 Stanley Cup highlight film -- and they lost the Finals, ignominiously, in 5 games to the Anaheim Ducks. Of the 5 times a Canadian team has reached the Stanley Cup Finals since 1993, that was the only time they didn't win at least 3 games, and then get screwed by the league and lose in Game 7. The Senators were so pathetic, Gary Bettman didn't have to have his officials fix the games, or (in the case of the Boston Bruins letting the ice melt a little in Boston for Game 6) allow the American team to cheat.
During the Game. You do not need to fear wearing Devils gear to a Senators game. Maple Leafs, maybe. Canadiens, possibly. But not Devils. As long as you don't mock their country, their flag or their National Anthem, they will leave you alone.
Since the game is in Canada, the National Anthem presentation will be unusual to you, with the order reversed from what you're used to: "The Star-Spangled Banner" will be sung first, and then "O, Canada." Because Ottawa is next-door to Quebec, "O, Canada" may be begun in French, and switched to English halfway through, as is traditionally done in Montreal. (When Quebec still had the Nordiques, it was sung entirely in French, although "The Star-Spangled Banner" was sung entirely in English.)
In addition to Spartacat the Lion, their original mascot, the Senators have outright ripped off the baseball team in our nation's capital. Instead of "Racing Presidents," they have 4 guys in period suits with big foam heads designed to resemble 4 of Canada's most prominent Prime Ministers: Sir John A. Macdonald (the 1st, 1867-73 and 1878-91), Sir Wilfrid Laurier (1896-1911, the 1st Francophone PM and, for the way he espoused Canadian nationalism, often compared to our Theodore Roosevelt), Sir Robert Borden (1911-20, including during World War I) and William Lyon Mackenzie King (the longest-serving PM, off and on from 1921 to 1948, including during World War II).
Each of them is on Canadian paper money: Laurier on the $5 bill, Macdonald on the $10, Mackenzie King on the $50 and Borden on the $100. (Queen Elizabeth II is on the $20 and all the coins, while there hasn't been a $1 or $2 bill for many years.)
Each of Canada's 1st 8 Prime Ministers were knighted by the British Empire, but Borden is the last to receive this honor, and Mackenzie King's assertion of Canadian control, rather than British control, over Canada's government ended such things. To do this, he had to outflank the man who was then Canada's Governor-General -- the monarch's representative in the country and thus head of state -- and also Canada's greatest living military hero, Viscount Byng of Vimy. If the Viscount's name seems familiar, it's because his wife donated the award for "the most gentlemanly player" in the NHL, the Lady Byng Trophy.
Of course, these Prime Ministers don't race around the "field": Rather than put on skates and go on the ice, they just go around the arena and do typical mascot things. But, because they are "old men" -- Sir John A. was 76 when he died in office, Laurier 70 when he was finally defeated by Borden, Borden 66 when he retired, and Mackenzie King 74 when he packed up his 3rd and final government -- they've been jokingly compared to Statler and Waldorf, the elderly hecklers from The Muppet Show.
ESPN hockey writer Patrick Smith commented, "Old, grey-haired men with straight faces or frowns don't really scream, 'Get excited for hockey,' unless the face is Don Cherry's. That said, former Prime Ministers in Ottawa makes sense, because of the political nature of the city." And, with Mackenzie King having died in 1950, there's no chance of a more recent figure stirring up resentments, the way John Diefenbaker (1957-63), Pierre Trudeau (1968-84), or the still-living Brian Mulroney (1984-93) or Jean Chretien (1993-2004) might do. (The Washington Nationals have added a John F. Kennedy, who's now widely seen as a "safe" figure, but not the much more recent Ronald Reagan.)
The Senators' goal song is "Wake Me Up" by Avicii. This is a horrible recording (what did you expect, the people of Sweden can play hockey and tennis well, but they can't make music worth a damn), with no chantable lyrics or even sounds. Their victory song is "You Make My Dreams Come True" by Hall & Oates. Not exactly a big rouser -- and hardly anybody has made Senators' fans dreams come true since the 2007 Eastern Conerence Finals.
After the Game. The Canadian Tire Centre is an island in a sea of parking in a suburb of a big city. Safety will not be an issue. You will be safe. If you drove in, your car will be safe, too -- even if you have a Maple Leafs sticker on your car. (But why would you?)
There isn't much around the arena, just office parks, car dealerships and big-box stores. So you may have to head all the way back downtown to get a postgame meal or pint. The Senate Sports Tavern & Eatery, at 33 Clarence Street, just a few steps down from the U.S. Embassy on Parliament Hill, has been noted as a hockey fans' bar.
Sidelights. By American standards, Ottawa is very small-time. For decades, the biggest sports team in town was a Canadian Football League team that, while once very successful, no longer exists. Pro football has had a troubled last 20 years there, they've never had a Major League Baseball team, they didn't have a Triple-A baseball team for very long, they've never had an NBA team, the pro basketball team they do have is minor-league (Canada does have a league, but it's not even at the level of the NBA's D-League), and from 1934 to 1992, hockey fans in the region had to rely on the junior and university levels. And even when the Senators arrived, in their 2nd season, 1993-94, they set an NHL record by losing 70 games. It was like, "We waited 58 years for this?"
Nevertheless, by Canadian standards, Ottawa would be an important city even if it were not the capital. Here are some notable sites in the area:
* Ottawa Baseball Stadium. As Triple-A stadiums go, its 10,332-seat capacity is about average. As Double-A stadiums go, and the new Ottawa team for 2015 will be in a Double-A league, it's huge.
The Ottawa Lynx of the International League played there from 1993 to 2007, and won the Pennant in 1995. Appropriately, they were then the top farm team of the Montreal Expos, producing players such as Rondell White and Cliff Floyd. But new owners moved the team to Pennsylvania, and 2 other teams have failed in the interim.
The Ottawa Champions will begin play there next April in the independent Can-Am League. 300 Coventry Road at Vanier Parkway, in the East End. Number 9 bus.
* Ottawa Civic Centre complex. This was originally the site of the Ottawa Exposition Grounds, used for equestrian events, lacrosse and rugby -- which, as in America, evolved into a game that its home country called "football." The team that became known as the Ottawa Rough Riders began play there in 1876, and were Canada's oldest continually-operating sports team when financial difficulties forced them to fold in 1996.
Lansdowne Park, Ottawa's longtime football stadium, began when a grandstand was built on the north side in 1908. A south side grandstand was built in 1924, and replaced with a larger stand in 1960.
The north side grandstand was demolished so that a new arena, the Ottawa Civic Centre, could be built, and a new north side grandstand was incorporated into the structure. The arena opened at the end of 1967, and a new Ontario Hockey League team, the Ottawa 67's -- named for Canada's Confederation and Centennial years, as well as for their debut -- began play there.
The 67's have played there ever since, except for the 2012-13 and 2013-14 seasons, when the Civic Centre was renovated, and they had to groundshare with the Senators. They've won the Memorial Cup, the championship of Canadian junior hockey, in 1984 and 1999.
The Senators played their 1st 4 seasons there, 1992 to 1996, but the buildings small capacity, 10,585, made it unsuitable as a long-term home, necessitating the building of the Palladium, which became the Corel Centre, Scotiabank Place, and now the Canadian Tire Centre. The Civic Centre also hosted Ottawa's entries in the World Hockey Association, the Nationals and later the Civics.
At its peak, the stadium, renamed in 1993 for longtime Rough Riders coach and general manager Frank Clair, seated nearly 31,000 people. (Clair was from the Cincinnati area, and played end at Ohio State and in 1941 for the Washington Redskins.) The Riders -- known as Ottawa Football Club from 1876 to 1897, and the Senators until 1930 -- won Canada's football championship, the Grey Cup, 9 times: 1925, 1926, 1940, 1951, 1960, 1968, 1969, 1973, and in their Centennial season of 1976.
From 2002 to 2006, the Ottawa Renegades played at Frank Clair Stadium, wearing the red and black "colour" scheme of the Riders, but were short on cash and victories, and folded. This summer, a new team, with the unimaginative named of the Ottawa Redblacks, launched at a renovated complex, with the stadium and arena both now named for TD Bank. (TD stands for Toronto-Dominion.) The new owners wanted to bring back the Rough Riders name, but the Regina-based Saskatchewan Roughriders (1 word, as opposed to the 2 that the Ottawa club had used) didn't want to go through that again.
The Aberdeen Pavilion, a long barnlike structure with a domed cupola, was adjacent to the stadium. Built in 1898, it is the oldest building in North America to have hosted the finals of a major league sport, having hosted the old Senators (then still Ottawa HC or the Silver Seven) in the 1903-04 season, including the Finals. (They were in a dispute with arena owner Ted Dey.) As with the Grand National Livestock Pavilion outside San Francisco, a.k.a. the Cow Palace, it hosted livestock shows, and was nicknamed the Cattle Castle. Nearly demolished due to its disrepair, it was renovated instead, and reopened to the public in 1994.
1015 Bank Street at Queen Elizabeth Drive, on the Rideau Canal, about 2 miles south of downtown. Number 1 bus.
* Homes of the old Senators. The Senators bounced around a bit in their earlier days, settling at Dey's Arena, downtown at the northwest corner of Bay Street & Gladstone Avenue. The Senators won the Stanley Cup there in 1903, 1905 and 1906 (with the 1904 Cup being won at Aberdeen Pavilion). This rink burned down in 1920.
Dey's Arena was quickly outgrown, so the Deys built a 7,000-seat structure named simply The Arena, or the 1907-08 season. Here, the Silver Seven/Senators won the Cup in 1909, 1911, 1920, 1921 and 1923. (Actually, the '21 and '23 Cups were clinched on the road, but it was still their home ice at the time.) Despite being the largest arena in Canada at the time, and having a heated locker room (a big innovation at the time), it wasn't so good for the fans, as interior support poles obstructed a lot of views.
After the Senators moved into the Auditorium in 1923, The Arena's days were numbered. It was torn down in 1927, and Confederation Park was put on the site. That park, across Laurier Avenue from City Hall, contains memorials to Canadian soldiers and sailors of the Boer War, and to Aboriginal war veterans (a.k.a. First Nations or, as we would say here, Indians or Native Americans). Downtown at Slater & Elgin Streets, Laurier Avenue and the Rideau Canal.
* Ottawa Auditorium. Opening in 1923, this was the last home of the original Ottawa Senators. It hosted the clinching game of the 1924 Stanley Cup Finals, because the Montreal Canadiens asked for it since their new Forum hadn't yet been built. The Senators won the Cup there in 1927.
It seated 7,500 people for hockey, but could be expanded to 10,000 for concerts, and was sold out for 2 shows by Elvis Presley early in his career, on April 3, 1957. Lots of early rockers played the Auditorium, including Buddy Holly, Ray Charles, and Ottawa native Paul Anka. The Rolling Stones played it in 1964, and Bob Dylan in 1966. The last event there was a concert by, appropriately, Guy Lombardo & His Royal Canadians, in Canada's Centennial year of 1967.
The auditorium was then demolished, having been made obsolete by the building of the Civic Centre. A YMCA now stands on the site. O'Connor Street between Argyle Avenue and Catherine Street, downtown.
* Parliament Hill. Running along Wellington Street, bounded by the Ottawa River, the Portage Bridge and the Rideau Canal, this is home to Canada's national government -- like Capitol Hill in Washington, often shortened to just "The Hill." The original fort protecting the city was on the site, as a natural defense (or "defence" as they'd spell it).
The original Parliament building, the Centre Block, opened in 1866, in time for Confederation the next year, on Wellington at the foot of Metcalfe Street. It burned down on its own 50th Anniversary, on February 3, 1916 -- during World War I, leading many to suspect German sabotage. (Like with the USS Maine in Havana Harbor in 1898, triggering the Spanish-American War, no such sabotage was proven. Unlike the Americans of 1898, the Canadians of 1916 kept their heads.) Parliament met in a hotel for 4 years while reconstruction was undertaken.
By 1920, the new Centre Block was ready for Parliament to sit again, and in 1927 the Peace Tower was topped off, restoring the look of the old Victoria Tower and giving Ottawa its signature building. A new renovation is underway, and is expected to take until 2020.
The Supreme Court of Canada is 3 blocks west on Wellington, at the foot of Kent Street. The National War Memorial, a.k.a. The Response, is on a triangle bounded by Wellington and a fork of Elgin Street. It includes a Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, and, like our counterpart at Arlington National Cemetery, always has a guard on duty.
* Government Houses. Rideau Hall is the official residence of the head of state, the Governor-General, the official representative of the British monarch, as Canada is still a part of the British Commonwealth. 1 Sussex Drive, at Princess Avenue and Rockcliffe Parkway. It is open to public tours.
Unlike Rideau Hall, the official residence of the head of government, the Prime Minister, doesn't have an official name like The White House. Rather, it is best known by its address, "24 Sussex" -- 24 Sussex Drive, at the foot of MacKay Street. Built in 1868, and the official residence since 1951, it is strictly a residence and a reception area: The Prime Minister's office is on Parliament Hill, in the Langevin Block. So while "The White House" is a pseudonym of the President of the United States, or "10 Downing Street" or "Number 10" for the Prime Minister of Britain, no one refers to the Prime Minister's office (either the role or the actual workplace) as "24 Sussex." (Rather, the Prime Minister's Office is called just that, sometimes abbreviated to "the PMO.") It is not open to public tours, however, a virtual tour can show you the interiors.
Both Rideau Hall and 24 Sussex are about 2 miles northeast of Parliament Hill, across the Rideau River (as well as the Rideau Canal), in the New Edinburgh section of town. Number 7 or Number 9 bus from downtown.
Museums. Canada doesn't have "libraries" or museums for their Prime Ministers like we have for many of our Presidents. The aforementioned rival Prime Ministers, Wilfrid Laurier and Robert Borden, are buried in Ottawa: The former, a French Catholic, in Notre-Dame Cemetery; the latter, an English Protestant, in Beechwood Cemetery. Lester Pearson, the Nobel Peace Prize laureate who served as PM from 1963 to 1968, and for whom Toronto's main airport is named, is also buried near Ottawa, at MacLaren Cemetery in Wakefield, Quebec. (As for the other 2 PM mascots: The Macdonald is buried in his hometown of Kingston, Ontario, and Mackenzie King in Toronto.)
As I said, Canada didn't have an official Prime Minister's residence until 1951. Laurier lived at what became known as Laurier House from 1897 until he died in 1919, and his widow stayed there until her death in 1923. She willed it to Mackenzie King (who never married), and he lived there until he died in 1950. His successor, Louis St. Laurent, didn't want to make it the official PM's residence, because he knew that, one day, the Conservative Party would make a comeback, and he didn't want any Tories living in the house of Liberal icons Laurier and Mackenzie King.
So Canada's former answer to the White House is now under the banner of Parks Canada, and, unlike 24 Sussex, open to public tours. 335 Laurier Avenue East at Chapel Street, in the Sandy Hill district. Number 5 bus from downtown.
The Canadian War Museum tells Canada's military story from the French and Indian War of 1756-63 to the present. Needless to say, with the Centennial of World War I having arrived this past June, the museum is focusing on that conflict, which was central to establishing Canada's identity on the world stage. (Prime Minister Borden's lobbying of the British government led to the first separate Canadian Army, instead of having Canadian units assigned to British units, as had been the case through the Boer War.) 1 Vimy Place at Booth Street, down Wellington Street, west of Parliament Hill. Several bus lines go there from downtown.
A much more peaceful setting is the Canadian Museum of History, formerly the Canadian Museum of Civilization. (While they use the American spelling, rather than the British "Civilisation," they use the British pronunciation -- hence, both major Star Trek captains, Montrealer William Shatner and Yorkshireman Patrick Stewart, say, "To seek out new life, and new SIV-il-igh-ZAY-shuns," instead of the American, "SIV-il-ih-ZAY-shuns.")
It serves about half the function of New York's Museum of Natural History, with a big anthropology and aboriginal peoples' section, and also the function of the Smithsonian Institution's Museum of American History, telling the story of a people that were a "nation" long before they were a "country." Like New York's Hayden Planetarium (part of the Museum of Natural History complex), it has an IMAX theater. 100 Rue Laurier at Rue Papineau in Gatineau, across the Alexandra and Portage Bridges from downtown. Oddly, bus service doesn't get very close, so you're probably better off walking the 20 minutes from Parliament Hill.
The other half of our Museum of Natural History's function, the story of the planet and its life, can be found at the Canadian Museum of Nature. 240 McLeod Street at Metcalfe Street downtown. A short walk, no bus necessary.
Canada's answer to our Metropolitan Museum of Art -- or, more accurately, the Smithsonian's National Gallery of Art -- is the National Gallery of Canada. 380 Sussex Drive, at St. Patrick Street, at the foot of the Alexandra Bridge. Number 9 bus from downtown.
Ottawa isn't much for tall buildings. In fact, much like the fact that most of the taller buildings in Washington D.C. are, due to regulations in the District itself, across the Potomac River in Arlington and Alexandria, Virginia, so, too, are some of the tallest buildings in the Ottawa area across the Ottawa River in Gatineau, Quebec. This includes the tallest, Les Terrasses de la Chaudière. Built in 1978, and standing 407 feet high, it houses over 6,500 government workers. Rue Eddy at Blvd. Alexandre Taché, right across the river from the War Museum. Number 8 bus from downtown.
Although Alanis Morissette is from Ottawa, and Avril Lavigne got her big break by winning a contest to sing with Shania Twain onstage at the Canadian Tire Centre (then the Corel Centre), Ottawa isn't really known as a big music city the way Canada's big 3 cities -- Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver -- are. It does have an independent music scene, and the arena does host major music tours.
But the Beatles did not visit Ottawa on their North American tours, limiting their Canadian shows to the Montreal Forum and Maple Leaf Gardens. Nor did Elvis sing in Ottawa during his latter years, since his manager, "Colonel" Tom Parker, was actually an illegal immigrant from the Netherlands and couldn't cross borders.
There have been a few TV shows and movies set in Ottawa -- national capitals are a natural for them -- but most Americans would never have heard of any of them. So I'll skip this, although quite a few shows and films are now being filmed there, as Toronto, once a destination of choice for studios wishing to save money, has gotten a bit expensive.
Unlike Montreal, which is on a direct route, Interstate 87, north of New York and New Jersey, Ottawa is a bit out of the way for us. But Canada's capital is worth a visit, for reasons above and beyond hockey.