Monday, June 18, 2012

Once a Family, Always a Family

Once a Family, Always a Family
Written by Erik Marsh

When Dad retired I was only seven years old. It’s safe to say any old hockey stories I know or retell, I don’t know from first hand. More often than not I’ve collected the story after sitting around the table with a couple of cold beverages and my Dad and his buddies as they talk about the good ol’ days. What’s most incredible however, is not the stories themselves. It’s the camaraderie that is truly amazing. It doesn’t matter if they played together or against each other. It’s not even important that they played in the same era, for these guys it’s about sharing a common bond that lasts a lifetime.

I’ve learned from an early age that whenever there’s an opportunity to follow Dad around and get a privileged glimpse into the inner circle of the NHL brotherhood, I tag along without shame. At 26, some might say I’m getting a little old for it but I wouldn’t trade it for the world. Through all of this tagging along I’ve learned that for every superstar there is an underrated linemate, for every wound that time has healed there’s likely a grudge that will never die and for every player lucky enough to play in hockey’s greatest league, there’s a team of mentors that got them there. The true insights into how the game is or was don’t come from commentators and analysts but from the men who were there long before outrageous contracts and composite one piece sticks.

The NHL Alumni is a strong family encompassing everyone lucky enough to make a living playing the game they love at the highest level. Each team’s Alumni is special in their own way but the Ottawa Senators Alumni is truly an exceptional group of guys. When the Alumni was formed it consisted of former NHLers who now call Ottawa their home. Most of the guys never played together and in the beginning, very few even played on the Senators. Despite the differences in where and when they played, these men came together forging a unique bond to make a difference in the Ottawa community. As the history of the Senators gets richer and richer every year, new players are joining the Alumni not only to give back to the city that cheered them on in their career, but to restore that kinship that only a hockey dressing room can build.

I can barely put into words the feeling of riding into Scotiabank Place June 4 with my Dad to the encouraging crowd awaiting our arrival. The outpouring of support has been incredible and truly appreciated through our entire ride from everyone but the Ottawa Senators Alumni especially have always, and continue to go above and beyond in helping this cause. Whether it’s as big as arranging an entire parade including military vehicles, a police escort and hundreds of people or being the first to offer a place to stay or just taking time out of their day to come say hi and show their support, the Ottawa Senators Alumni have the most heart in the league.

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