|While Neil set career highs in goals, assists and points last season, he continued to play with a physical edge, evident by this hit on New York Ranger Jason Strudwick. Photo: E. Shaw/Getty Images/NHLI|
by Todd Anderson
Chris Neil had a smile on his face as he walked down the hallway at Scotiabank Place arena after a recent workout in the Senators conditioning room. Life has been pretty good for the Sens veteran.
Last season, the club's all-time penalty minute leader (776) enjoyed a career season with personal highs in goals (16), assists (17) and points (33). As a restricted free agent this off-season, Neil, 27, was set to head into an arbitration meeting on July 26 but instead agreed to a multi-year deal in the morning which will see him continue his career in Ottawa.
"I've spent my whole career with this great organization and I want to try to do whatever I can to be here a long time," Neil said. "It's a great city and the fans are great too. It's a hockey city and fans know their stuff. They want a winning team and each year we have a chance to win the cup. Since I've been here, we continue to get better and better."
Adding to Neil's happy summer was a special day on July 8 when he married his girlfriend, Cailtin. Shortly after the wedding, the couple visited Caitlin's family in Victoria, B.C., for a week. Neil used one word to describe married life.
This summer, Neil has also been a regular in the Senators conditioning room as he prepares for the 2006-07 season. He's looking forward to getting back into the dressing room with his teammates.
"It's a group of guys that sticks together. Everyone gets along and there isn't anyone that's disliked. There's good team comradery and that helps on the ice."
When the opportunity arises to step away from training, Neil likes to escape into nature and go horseback riding.
"It's nice being able to go out for a ride," he says. "The horses have so much power and there's nothing better than having the wind blow across your face when you're riding."