Sunday, June 18, 2017

How to Go to an Ottawa Redblacks Game

The good news for the people of Ottawa: They won the Grey Cup!

The bad news for them: It was their 1st league championship of any kind in 40 years, unless you want to count the 1995 Ottawa Lynx. Or the 1984 and 1999 Ottawa 67's.

The newest team in the Canadian Football League, the Ottawa Redblacks, will defend their miraculous 3rd-season Grey Cup starting Friday night, at home, against the Calgary Stampeders.
Henry Burris, who retired as Redblacks quarterback
at age 41 after last season's Grey Cup win

Before You Go. Ottawa is in Canada -- indeed, it is the nation's capital. 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.

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, including Jersey Gardens in Elizabeth, Menlo Park in Edison, and Bridgewater Commons in, well, Bridgewater.

I would advise leaving yourself with at least $50 in bills 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 Sunday morning, June 18 (5 days before the game), C$1.00 = US 75 cents, and US$1.00 = C$1.32. 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 93 cents per gallon you're seeing as a gas price: That's C 93 cents per litre, or about US$2.73 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.

The Ottawa Citizen newspaper (a broadsheet, and far more responsible in journalism than the tabloid Ottawa Sun) is predicting daytime temperatures in the high 70s, nighttime temperatures in the low 50s. In other words, the legendary Canadian cold will not be a factor. However, they are predicting a 70 percent chance of rain, but only "showers," not "thunderstorms." I checked the team website, and they don't say that umbrellas are prohibited inside, so bringing one may not be an issue.

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: Their first inclination will be to think you're one of them, until they hear your strange accent.

And this is very important: If you need to go to the bathroom, don't ask anyone where the "bathroom" is. Ask for the "washroom."

Tickets. Canadians love their hockey. Do they love their football? They didn't love it enough to save the Rough Riders in 1996, or the Renegades 10 years later. But 10 years after that, they loved their Redblacks enough to average 24,673 fans per home game, a sellout. Tickets may be hard to come by.

Apparently, Montreal isn't the only CFL team that charges NFL-level prices. Note that these prices are in Canadian dollars, since they come from the club website. Lower level midfield tickets go for $129, most seats in the level for $95, corner seats for $42. Upper level seats go for $95 in midfield, $53 further down, and $36 at the ends. There are no seats behind the end zones.

Getting There. It's 442 miles from Times Square in New York to Parliament Hill in Ottawa (61 miles from the nearest border crossing, in Ogdensburg, New York). 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: A little over $1,300 round-trip from Newark Liberty to Ottawa Macdonald-Cartier International Airport. (Sir John A. Macdonald was the 1st Prime Minister. He and George-Etienne Cartier are considered, respectively, the fathers of English Canada and French Canada.) You could get it for a couple hundred less, but you'd have to change planes in Toronto, or possibly in Montreal. Yow! (Which is also Ottawa's airport code: YOW. All Canadian airports' codes start with the letter Y.) 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 Centrale 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 in New York at 12:00 midnight on Thursday, reach Montreal at 7:55 on Frisday 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 around 10:00 on Frisday night, the next bus back to Montreal will be at 2:30 Saturday morning, arriving in Montreal at 5:00, and then you would catch your New York bus at 7:30, change at Albany at 1:05 in the afternoon to a bus leaving at 1:30, and arrive at 4:20. This is still doable, whereas the train really isn't. Round-trip fare is $218, although it could drop to as little as $170 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 New Jersey. 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. And, on October 14, 2016, President Obama finally ended the ban on bringing Cuban cigars into America. This also applies to rum, for which Cuba is also renowned. It is still considerably easier to buy these items in Canada than in America, but, now, you can bring them back over the border.

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 23 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 Canada, 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 CBS-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 intend 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, 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 75B will put you on the Queensway East. You'll take this until Exit 121A, turn right on Bronson Avenue, then a quick left onto Chamberlain Avenue. Turn right on Bank Street. TD Place is about a mile south.

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 State 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. Ottawa was originally named Bytown, named for the general who commanded the first fort there. 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 it 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 935,000 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 1.3 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've rejoined the Canadian Football League and gotten a new Double-A baseball team.

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 (not "Transport") runs public transit in the area, with single rides costing C$3.45. Get a DayPass for C$8.10. The city has no freeway "beltway."

The drinking age in the Province of Ontario is 19. Across the river in Quebec, it's 18. Postal Codes in the Ottawa section of Ontario start with the letter K, and on the Quebec side of the river, with J. The Area Code for Ottawa is 613, and for the Quebec side 819, with 873 as an overlay.

Going In. Lansdowne Park, including the Ottawa Civic Centre complex, which itself includes TD Place Stadium, is at 1015 Bank Street at Queen Elizabeth Drive, on the Rideau Canal, about 2 miles south of downtown. Number 1 bus. WARNING: There is no on-site parking.

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 professional 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 Civic Centre 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.
Frank Clair Stadium, with the Civic Centre
and the Aberdeen Pavilion behind it.

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 at the Canadian Tire Centre. They've won the Memorial Cup, the championship of Canadian junior hockey, in 1984 and 1999. It's also been won by Ottawa-area teams in 1958 (the Ottawa-Hull Junior Canadiens), 1971 (the Hull Olympiques) and the Cornwall Royals (in 1972, 1980 and 1981).

The Senators played their 1st 4 seasons there, 1992 to 1996, but the building's small capacity, 10,585, made it unsuitable as a long-term home, necessitating the building now named the Canadian Tire Centre. The Civic Centre also hosted Ottawa's entries in the World Hockey Association, the Nationals and later the Civics.
The Civic Centre, with minimal seating on one side,
so it can support half of the football stadium.

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 (at home), 1926, 1940 (at home), 1951, 1960, 1968, 1969, 1973, and in their Centennial season of 1976. Their stadium hosted the Grey Cup 6 times: 1925, 1939, 1940, 1967 (commemorating the nation's Centennial, with Hamilton beating Saskatchewan), 1988 and 2004.

The Rough Riders played the New York Giants in exhibition games at Lansdowne Park on August 12, 1950, losing 27-6; and August 11, 1951, with the Giants also winning that one, 41-18.

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. In 2014, a new team, with the unimaginative named of the Ottawa Redblacks -- Le Rouge Et Noir, for their French-speaking fans -- launched at a renovated complex, with the stadium and arena both now named for TD Bank. (TD stands for Toronto-Dominion. They also have naming rights to the new Boston Garden.)
Nighttime shot of the south stand, from the Canal

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.

Officially, the Redblacks carry the history of the Rough Riders, including their Grey Cups and their retired numbers. They added a Grey Cup of their own this past November 27, beating the Calgary Stampeders 39-33 in Toronto.
TD Place, with the Civic Centre beside it.

The playing surface was natural grass until 1984, when it was switched to AstroTurf. In 2001, it was switched to FieldTurf. It runs (more or less) east-to-west.
The new TD Place Stadium is also home to Ottawa Fury FC, of the United Soccer League (USL), the 3rd division of North American soccer. It also hosted 9 games of the 2015 Women's World Cup, including the U.S. team's Quarterfinal win over China.

As its predecessor did for the 100th, in honor of the 150th Anniversary of Confederation, the stadium in the national capital will host the 2017 Grey Cup Final, regardless of which teams end up in it. (As with the Super Bowl and the UEFA Champions League Final, the Grey Cup sites are selected years in advance, in the hopes of getting a neutral site. However, with only 9 teams in the League, there's a 4 1/2-to-1 chance that one of the teams will be playing at home.)

The Aberdeen Pavilion, a long barnlike structure with a domed cupola, is 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.
Aberdeen Pavilion. Behind that, the Ottawa Civic Centre.
Behind that, the old Lansdowne Park stadium.

In 2018, the Canadian Premier League, Canada's attempt at a "top flight" soccer league, will begin play. It is possible that the Ottawa Fury may join it, although it's not clear whether they would play at TD Place.

Food. 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.

On the North Side: Chez Poutine (they call it "Classic poutine done just right," which means it's horrible) at Gates 2 & 3, Gabriel Pizza ("Ottawa's Bigger, Better Pizza") at Gates 2 & 3 and behind Sections C & CC, Firth's Tavern at Gate 2 & Section E, Cattle Castle Deli at Gates 2 & 4 and Section H, Dog Wild (hot dogs) at Gate 4, Bud Lime Ritas (margaritas) at Gate 4, The Smoking Pig (barbecue) at CC, Pure Food Eatery ("Concession fare, sure to remind you of the good old says") behind G, Glebe Grill ("Fan favourites with a local twist") at GG, plus locations for Lemon Heavn and Cin City Donuts.

On the South Side: Budweiser King Club at Gate 6, Gabriel Pizza at Q, Pure Food Eatery at SS & U, Glebe Grill at SS & U, The Smoking Pig at U.

Team History Displays. At halftime of their 1st home game on July 18, 2014, the Redblacks retired the 10 numbers that had been retired by the Rough Riders. However, there is no display in the fan-viewable areas of the stadium for these numbers. Nor is there one for the Grey Cups won by the Rough Riders that the Redblacks are allowed to claim. We shall see if they add one for the one they won themselves last season.

The numbers are: 11, 1960s running back Ron Stewart; 12, 1960s quarterback Russ Jackson; 26, 1960s receiver Whit Tucker; 40, 1950s center and defensive end Bruno Bitkowski; 60, 1970s offensive tackle Jim Coode; 62, 1960s offensive tackle and kicker Moe Racine; 70, 1950s end and defensive back Bobby Simpson; 71, 1970s receiver and kicker Gerry Organ; 72, 1940s running back Tony Golab; and 77, 1970s tight end Tony Gabriel. 
Russ Jackson, the most "honoured" player
in Ottawa football history, handing off to Ron Stewart.
Note that the current helmets are similar.

There are 22 Rough Riders in the Canadian Football Hall of Fame:

* From the 1925 and 1926 Grey Cups: Head coach Dave McCann, running back and linebacker Eddie Emerson, running back and placekicker Joe Tubman.

* From the 1930s (but did not appear in a Grey Cup Final): Running back Abe Eliowitz.

* From the 1940 Grey Cup: Golab, running back and defensive tackle David Sprague, running back Andy Tommy.

* From the 1951 Grey Cup: Emerson (as team president), Simpson. Also Bitkowski, who is not in the Hall.

* From the 1960 Grey Cup: Simpson, Stewart, Jackson, Racine, quarterback Ron Lancaster, running back Dave Thelen, offensive and defensive tackle Kaye Vaughan, defensive tackle Angelo Mosca (also a famous pro wrestler). Also Bitkowski, who is not in the Hall.

* From the 1968 and 1969 Grey Cups: Stewart, Jackson, Racine, Tucker, linebackers Jerry "Soupy" Campbell and Ken Lehmann.

* From the 1973 Grey Cup: Racine, Campbell. Also Organ, who is not in the Hall.

* From the 1976 Grey Cup: Campbell, Gabriel, quarterbacks Tom Clements and Condredge Holloway. Also Organ and Coode, who are not in the Hall.

* From the 1981 Grey Cup Final lost by the Rough Riders: Guard Rudy Phillips.

Jackson is the only football player honored (or "honoured") with a plaque on Canada's Walk of Fame in Toronto. In 2006, TSN (The Sports Network, Canada's version of ESPN) named the CFL's 50 Greatest Players. From Ottawa: Lancaster (7), Jackson (8), Gabriel (18), Vaughan (41) and Clements (47).

Stuff. The TD Place Team Shop is located at Unit 103 of the stadium complex. It sells Redblacks, 67s and Fury items. But there aren't yet any books or DVDs about the Redblacks. And the only such item I could find about the old team is Brent Dowdall's book Turnover : The Fumbling of the Ottawa Rough Riders.

During the Game. Ottawa fans do not have a rough reputation. At any rate, you're a visitor, and not rooting for the visiting team. Don't start anything, and you'll be fine.
Since this is a Canadian Football League game, there will be one National Anthem, and it will be "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. The team accepts auditions, rather than having a regular.

The mascot is Big Joe, a lumberjack with a big foam head and a big foam axe. He is based on a folk hero, Big Joe Mufferaw, effectively Canada's answer to Paul Bunyan. He was based on a real person, Joseph Montferrand, a logger who acted as a one-man bodyguard in Bytown/Ottawa for French-Canadians against English oppressors.
Big Joe, Redblacks cheerleaders, and the Grey Cup

After the Game. The TD Place/Lansdowne Park complex is a jewel in an urban setting, well-policed and safe. You can walk around after dark with no trouble.

There are a few places to eat and drink within a short walk, and the Ottawa Farmers' Market is open every weekend. But most of the city's better sports-related establishments are downtown. 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.

If your visit to Ottawa is during the European soccer season, which is now over, but will start again in mid-August, Georgetown Sports Pub bills itself as "Ottawa's #1 soccer pub!" (Exclamation point theirs, not mine.) 1159 Bank Street, downtown.

Sidelights. By American standards, Ottawa is very small-time. For decades, the biggest sports team in town was the Rough Riders, which, 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:

* Raymond Chabot Grant Thornton Park. Formerly named Ottawa Baseball Stadium, JetForm Park and Lynx Stadium, its naming rights are now held by an accounting firm. As Triple-A stadiums go, its 10,332-seat capacity is about average. As Double-A stadiums go, 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 failed in the interim.

The Ottawa Champions began play there in 2014, in the independent Can-Am League. Managed by former San Francisco Giants and Yankees infielder, and former Houston Astros manager, Hal Lanier, they won their 1st Pennant last season, so the name isn't just a name anymore. 300 Coventry Road at Vanier Parkway, in the East End. Number 9 bus.

* Canadian Tire Centre. The current home of the NHL's Ottawa Senators was originally named The Palladium. But soon after it opened in 1996, it was changed to the Corel Centre, after an Ottawa-based software company. In 2006, it became Scotiabank Place, after the Halifax-based bank. In 2013, Toronto-based Canadian Tire bought the naming rights. (Oddly, while Canada uses the British spelling for most words, they don't use "tyre" for a car's wheels the way the British do.)
The Canadian Tire Centre, set up for the 2012 NHL All-Star Game.
At the time, it was named Scotiabank Place.

The Number 401 bus goes directly from Ottawa Central Station to the arena, 17 miles to the southwest, taking 26 minutes.

* LeBreton Flats. This park, on the river across from the Canadian War Museum, is the site currently projected for the Senators' new arena, currently named the Ottawa Major Events Centre. The earliest it would open is for the 2021-22 NHL season.

* 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, for 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.
Postcard of Dey's Arena, dated 1910

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 on their 1st North American tour in 1964, and Bob Dylan did so 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, 1954

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.

* College Football. The University of Ottawa's teams are called the Gee-Gees, and play their home games at the 4,152-seat Gee-Gees Field. The odd name is an abbreviation, as they used to be known by their colors, Garnet and Grey. (This also worked in French: Grenat et Gris.)

They've won 4 Yates Cups as champions of Ontario college football: 1907, 1975, 1976 and 2006. And they've won the Vanier Cup, Canada's national championship, in 1975 and 2000. 200 Lees Avenue, about 2 1/2 miles southeast of downtown. Bus 95.

Carleton University is their arch-rivals. They're more successful in basketball, having won 12 of the last 14 National Championships, including an 87-game winning streak from 2003 to 2006. Their football team plays at the 3,044-seat MNP Park, formerly Keith Harris Stadium. Bronson & Sunnyside Avenues, about 3 miles south of downtown. Bus 4.

Every year from 1955 until 1998, the teams played The Panda Game at Lansdowne Park. A stuffed toy named Pedro the Panda was given to the winner. Carleton suspended its football program after the 1998 season, but revived it in 2013, and the game was held at Gee-Gees Field, since the Lansdowne Park site was being redeveloped. Since 2014, it's been held at the new TD Place Stadium. Carleton has won the last 3 games, but U of O still leads the series, 33-15.

The closest MLB, NBA and MLS city to Ottawa is Toronto. The Air Canada Centre is 251 miles from Parliament Hill. Don't count on Ottawa ever getting a team in either MLB or the NBA: It would rank 31st and last in metropolitan area population in either league. MLS is a longshot, too, especially with teams already in Toronto and Montreal.

At any rate, the Toronto Blue Jays are easily the most popular MLB team there, while NBA fandom is divided between the Toronto Raptors, the Los Angeles Lakers, and whatever team LeBron James happens to be playing for at any given time.

* 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 the building's centennial in 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, like that of the British Prime Minister, 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 synonymous with the President of the United States, and "10 Downing Street" or "Number 10" is 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.") 24 Sussex is not open to public tours, but 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. Wilfrid Laurier and Robert Borden, rival Prime Ministers, are buried in Ottawa: The former, a French Catholic who led the Liberal Party, in Notre-Dame Cemetery; the latter, an English Protestant who led the Conservative Party, 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 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 (in 1957, as it turned out), 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, is 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 (1914-18) being in progress, 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.) A display honoring the 200th Anniversary of the War of 1812 (1812-15), which did so much to establish Canada's identity, may also still be in place, although scaled down since 2015. 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, to 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.

Frank Boucher, who starred for the original Senators before captaining the 1st 2 Ranger Stanley Cups and coaching the 3rd, is buried at South Gower Cemetery. South Gower Drive (Provincial Route 22), in Morrisburg, about 33 miles south of downtown Ottawa. Can't be reached without a car. (The Rangers made his uniform number the 1st one they retired, but they retired it for someone else: He wore 7, as did Rod Gilbert.)

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 is a federally-owned apartment building that 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.

The 469-foot Claridge Icon is now under construction, and will be the tallest building in the region in 2018. 485 Preston Street at Carling Avenue, about 2 miles southwest of Parliament Hill. Bus 85.

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. But, as I said, he sang in Ottawa early on, in 1957.

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 item, 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.

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