Shean Donovan admits he did a bit of a double take when the call first came.
But yes, it was true. The Ottawa Senators had acquired the services of the speedy winger in an off-season deal that sent Peter Schaefer to the Boston Bruins.
And yes, a 14-year professional hockey odyssey was about to wind its way back to where it all started. No wonder Donovan couldn’t help smiling as he sat and discussed life in a Senators jersey.
There’s no place like home, after all.
“That was unbelievable,” Donovan said about the trade that brought the former Ottawa 67’s star back to the nation’s capital. “I took a little while to believe that it was true. We were so happy about it. When it finally sank in, we were so excited.”
Sharing the feeling was Donovan’s wife, Teresa, who’s from the Ottawa area herself (Donovan was born in Timmins, Ont., but raised in nearby Carleton Place). They’d planned to settle here with their two children, Jorian, 3, and Rylan, 2, after Donovan’s playing days were done. Now they get a head start on it.
“We love the Ottawa area and the Ottawa Valley,” said Donovan, 32. “We grew up here, too, so that’s a bonus. We think it’s the best place to raise kids.”
It also made the move easier on Teresa, who didn’t have to worry about settling into a strange city.
“When you move to a new city, you don’t know many people,” said Donovan. “When guys get traded … I get to assimilate with the guys (on the team). It’s easy, it’s hockey.
“But sometimes it’s hard on the wives, because they may not live close to (other players’) wives. Other wives are busy, too. They’ve got kids, they’ve got their own thing going on. To come to a place like Ottawa ... It’s (Teresa’s) hometown, so it’s easier on her.”
Donovan also relished the chance to return to a Canadian hockey market. Of his six previous NHL stops, only one was north of the border.
“I got a chance in Calgary (for two seasons) to play in Canada for Canadian fans, and that was awesome,” he said. “But this is a bonus playing for the home crowd. It’s even a step above that.”
He’s also seen his cheering section grow substantially. In previous seasons, Donovan bought 10-20 tickets for family and friends when he came to town as a visiting player. Now, though, he’s got 19,000 or so fans at Scotiabank Place cheering him on.
“It’s exciting and it’s fun and there are great fans here,” said Donovan. “It’s easy to get up for games.”
Fitting into the talented Senators dressing room hasn’t exactly been tough, either.
“They’ve been together for awhile and there’s a good core group of guys,” said Donovan. “You never know what it’s going to be like (as a newcomer). But they’ve been awesome.
“The guys here are mature, and they just want to win. If you’re here to help the team win, they’ll accept you.”