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Fan Fest a hockey treat

by Rob Brodie / Ottawa Senators
The sounds of hockey filled Scotiabank Place one more time on Sunday morning.

Not soon enough for puck-starved Senators fans, who showed up 10,000 strong to watch their heroes scrimmage during the centerpiece event of the club’s annual Fan Fest.

In a lot of their eyes, Fan Fest is the unofficial start of another hockey season, and a clear sign that the real thing is just around the corner.

“You miss it over the summer,” said Chris Wright, who made the trip in from nearby Perth, Ont. with his wife, Rhonda, and their 17-month-old son, Connor. “It’s great that it’s back, and something like this gets you back into the swing of things.

“You know the season starts in (less than three weeks).”

Chris Wright of Perth gives his 17-month-old son Connor a close look at some of the major trophies the Senators have won, which were on display at Fan Fest.
Fans who showed up at Scotiabank Place on a gorgeous, sun-baked Sunday morning were treated to a number of interactive games for youngsters, many of whom also lined up to get Senators logos painted on their faces. Others jumped on a stage to pose for photos with major trophies the club has won in recent seasons, including one that’s in its possession for at least a year – the Prince of Wales Trophy the Senators earned back in the spring as Eastern Conference champions.

The ever-popular equipment sale had fans lining up at 2 a.m. for a chance to purchase skates and other items game-worn by a team player.

It was the ultimate family occasion, a chance for fans to get a sneak peek at what’s ahead in the new season, and to quench a little of that thirst for hockey.

“It’s wonderful,” said Francoise Ouellette of Stittsville, while her daughter Jocelyne, 9, got her face painted. “It’s great to have the fans in for a little bit of a preview of the season."

“My daughter just loves the Sens,” added Ouellette, who said captain Daniel Alfredsson is Jocelyne’s favourite Senators player.

“I think it’s fantastic to have this for the community,” said Wright. “It’s totally free, you can come here with your family and bring (a donation) for the food bank.”

Wright also saw it as a terrific opportunity for his son to get an up close look at his favourite team. Clad in Senators gear almost from head to toe, Connor is clearly a big-time fan already.

“It’s the only thing he’ll sit and watch on TV,” said Rhonda Wright.

The Senators players, who normally practice in the quiet of an empty arena, were a little taken aback by the reception they got for a scrimmage.

“Phenomenal,” said Senators centre Jason Spezza. “We were surprised to see all the people, and I think they’re just as excited to get back as we are. It’s nice to see the fans, it’s nice to see the support and we know expectations are high, but we enjoy it.”

The Senators play their pre-season opener Tuesday against the Philadelphia Flyers at John Labatt Centre in London, Ont. They’re back at Scotiabank Place on Thursday to face the Washington Capitals. It’s a 7 p.m. puck drop.

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