|Whenever he lines up on the Senators blue line, Matt Carkner knows he'll have plenty of support in the stands at Scotiabank Place (Photo by Dave Sandford/Getty Images).
will never walk alone.
Not when he’s on the ice at Scotiabank Place, surrounded by Ottawa Senators teammates who love the way the 6-foot-4 defenceman shows up at the rink every nght, ready to go to war for them.
And surely not when the lights finally dim and Carkner, a native of nearby Winchester, Ont., feels the embrace of a family that fills the Seaway Valley with pride every time he dons the Senators jersey he’s coveted for so long.
“The feeling I get after games when I get to go out and see friends and family waiting for me and seeing how happy they are for me making it to the NHL … it’s a great feeling,” said Carkner, a National Hockey League rookie at age 29. “I’m getting to play against the best players in the world and practise with the best players in the world every day. It’s a dream come true, for sure.”
When the Senators entered this season of change, it was expected the team’s roster would be chock full of new faces. Few would have bet on Carkner, a career minor leaguer, being one of them. A second-round draft choice by the Montreal Canadiens way back in 1999, Carkner spent the eight seasons toiling in the American Hockey League — the last two with the Binghamton Senators.
With only two previous games of NHL experience on his resume, Carkner had every reason to believe he was headed back to the farm again this fall.
“I had my wife (Kary) and kids (Chase, 4, and Corbin, 2) moved down to Binghamton because my kid had to get into school and he had to start in early September,” said Carkner. “The way things have gone the past few years, I thought ‘if I make it in Ottawa, that’ll be a bonus but if not, at least you guys will be settled in and ready for school.’”
But by the end of training camp, Carkner had landed himself a spot on the Senators’ blue line. Two weeks into the season, general manager Bryan Murray gave him the security of a new two-year, one-way contract and the Carkners settled into a new home in Carp.
But even now, Carkner still admits “sometimes, you’ve got to pinch yourself” about the good fortune that has happened to him in this most magical season. Ask around the Senators dressing room and to a man, they’ll tell you every bit of it has been well earned.
"The feeling I get after games when I get to go out and see friends and family waiting for me and seeing how happy they are for me making it to the NHL ... it’s a great feeling. I’m getting to play against the best players in the world and practise with the best players in the world every day. It’s a dream come true, for sure." - Matt Carkner
“He’s as tough as they come,” said forward Chris Neil
, who appreciates the help an always-willing Carkner gives him in the enforcer department. “He was one of the leaders down in Binghamton the last couple of years and he plays hard, game in and game out.
“It’s great to see guys like that get a chance. You hope to see more stories like that.”
The Carkner clan couldn’t be more thrilled to be a part of this one. His parents, Dennis and Kathy, and two siblings don’t have to fire up the computer anymore to watch their son’s games on the Internet. Now they’re just a short drive away.
“My brother and my sister and mom and dad … they’ve been watching the whole way through,” said Carkner. “There’s always been a good support base at home and it’s real nice to have that.”
Every one of them happy that there was no keeping this good man down, no matter how long it took Carkner to get to where he finally is today.
"I've never even thought about doing something else," said Carkner. "Hockey's my life. No matter what league I'm playing in, as long as I'm playing hockey, I'm having fun."