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History ‘n’ Hockey: NHL hockey returns to Ottawa

Canadians love hockey. It's part of our history. It's part of how we see ourselves and our place among the nations of the world. Canada is hockey country. This column is a reprisal of the “History ‘n’ Hockey” series we launched in February 2015.
Connor McDavid at Edmonton Oilers Development Camp, 4 July 2015. Author: Connor Mah.
Canadians love hockey. It's part of our history. It's part of how we see ourselves and our place among the nations of the world. Canada is hockey country. This column is a reprisal of the “History ‘n’ Hockey” series we launched in February 2015. Last season we focused on NHL matchups involving Canadian teams and placed them in the context of notable anniversaries in Canadian history.

Each entry involves a game preview, featuring notable trends or storylines throughout league and is concluded with my predicted outcome for the game.

Last year, we explored eight notable moments in Canadian history ranging from the Japanese-Canadian internment to Newfoundland entering Confederation. When the dust settled, I ended up 17-15 on my predictions, not too shabby but nothing to write home about.

This year, we will have nearly twice as much Canadian history and an additional 17 games to cover, meaning I’ll have plenty of opportunities to improve my record from the previous installment. Join us every second Thursday this NHL season as we bring you “History ‘n’ Hockey.”

On this day, in 1992, the Ottawa Senators re-entered the NHL and played their inaugural game at home against the Montreal Canadiens. The Senators put on an impressive show for the crowd, scoring five goals en route to a victory over the Habs.

It was, however, one of the few bright spots of the season as the upstart expansion team floundered and only won another nine games. The fans still had plenty to celebrate since the team’s return marked the end of a fifty-eight year NHL hockey league drought in the nation’s capital. Previously, the Senators had been in the league from 1917 to 1934, capturing six Stanley Cups in that span.

Winnipeg Jets at Boston Bruins, 7 p.m.
2014-15 Season Records: WPG 43-26-13 (fifth in the Central); BOS 41-27-14 (fifth in the Atlantic)
Leading Scorers: Andrew Ladd (24G, 38A); Patrice Bergeron (23G, 32A)
The Winnipeg Jets have never won a game in Boston. That’s partially true. Since relocating from Atlanta, this incarnation of the Jets has never beaten the Bruins in Beantown. Their predecessors did not fare much better, as the Thrashers last victory in Boston was on 31 March, 2007, which means that this current Jets franchise has been winless against the Bruins for more than eight years. To put that in perspective, the last time the Trashers or the Jets won in TD Garden, Stephen Harper had only been Prime Minister for just a little over one year.
Prediction: Boston by 1

Ottawa Senators at Buffalo Sabres, 7 p.m.
2014-15 Season Records: OTT 43-26-13 (fourth in the Atlantic); BUF 23-51-8 (eighth in the Atlantic)
Leading Scorers: Erik Karlsson (21G, 45A); Tyler Ennis (20G, 26A)
The Sabres did not beat many teams last year and the Senators were no exception. Ottawa took the season series against Buffalo 3-0-1, outscoring them 14-9. The Senators are coming off a Cinderella run into the playoffs and the Sabres are hoping to start turning things around. With new additions that include forwards Ryan O’Reilly, Evander Kane, Jack Eichel and even former Ottawa goalie, Robyn Lehner, Buffalo will be hard-pressed to repeat last season’s abysmal finish.
Prediction: Buffalo by 1

Edmonton Oilers at St. Louis Blues, 8 pm.
2014-15 Season Records: EDM 24-44-14 (sixth in the Pacific); STL 51-24-7 (first in the Central)
Leading Scorers: Jordan Eberle (24G, 39A); Vladimir Tarasenko (37G, 36A)
Edmonton is the final Canadian team entering enemy territory tonight. They will have their work cut out for them as they face Central Division powerhouse, St. Louis. That being said, this is a new look Oilers squad. Since almost bottoming out last year, Edmonton snagged the golden ticket to draft phenom Connor McDavid, brought in Peter Chiarelli (formerly Boston) as general manager, and hired Todd McLellan (formerly San Jose) as coach. McDavid could become the next Sidney Crosby, but he will still be playing on a team that has questionable deficiencies on the blueline and in net. Nevertheless, McDavid’s debut tonight will be something to watch and his inaugural NHL season should be the dominant storyline this year.
Prediction: St. Louis by two

Last Minute of Play
The Senators’ struggles continued well after their first season back. The team’s first overall selection in the 1993 NHL entry draft turned out to become one of the greatest all-time draft busts and poor play on the ice continued. The club clinched its first playoff berth in 1997 and has since established itself as a formidable franchise.

Since then, they have won four division titles, qualified for the playoffs an additional 14 times and advanced as far as the Stanley Cup Final in 2007, which is certainly much more than their provincial rival can claim. (nudge-nudge Leafs fans)

Check back in on Oct. 22 as we explore the appointment of Canada’s first female ambassador, Margaret Meagher, and preview games for the Senators and Canucks.

Mike Commito is a Canadian historian and avid hockey fan. Follow him on twitter @mikecommito.


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