Prior to last night's home opener fans were treated to a bit of a surprise announcement when it was shared that the Ottawa Senators would be retiring former alternate captain and community ambassador Chris Phillip's jersey later this season.
Phillips was on hand to drop the puck for a ceremonial face-off on opening night and before the festivities a video package was shown chronicling his 19 years with the franchise followed by the announcement that the team would honour their all-time games played leader on February 18th, 2020.
"I'd be lying if I said it was something that I wasn't hoping for but not expecting," said Phillips following the news. "To get that phone call was a special moment."
"Your dream growing up is to win a Stanley Cup and that's all that mattered," he continued. "You never thought of having your jersey retired or anything like that but as you get older and as you see that happen with Alfie and guys that you played with, that becomes a 'maybe' or a 'what if'."
Several of the current Ottawa Senators shared their excitement post-game and are looking forward to what should be a very special night when Phillips' #4 banner is raised at Canadian Tire Centre.
"This is amazing. Our dream is all just to play in the NHL and Chris played over 1,100 games in this league all here in Ottawa," shared Thomas Chabot. "He's a great example for us younger players with his involvement in the community and on the ice as well. To see someone like him who committed to this team for so long and then have his jersey retired is unbelievable. He had a great career so it's well deserved. I've known him for a few years now and he's just as great a person as he is a hockey player."
Video: Chris Phillips' #4 is headed to the rafters
Craig Anderson, the Sens' all-time leader in wins and current longest tenured player, played with Phillips from 2011 until he retired from the game in 2015 and has seen firsthand how deserving he is of this honour.
"It's a credit to his work through his career to earn what he's done," said Anderson. "He played a lot of games here and did it all with one organization. He wore this jersey with pride and he's still doing it with pride out in the community with everything he's done in Ottawa."
Phillips remained in the nation's capital following his retirement and took on the role of community ambassador for the club where he has continued to make a positive impact in the city. For many of the Senators' younger players, it's through his current role that they've come to know Phillips off the ice while his contributions on the ice still loom large..
"That just shows how much he loved this city and how much he loved being a Senator," said forward Brady Tkachuk about Phillips choosing to live in Ottawa after his retirement. "It'll be a special night for his family and friends but it will also be a special night us too because we get to honour an Ottawa legend. I know it's a little bit of a ways away but I know everybody in this room, this organization and this city is very excited to raise that number to the rafters."
The Senators have only retired two jerseys in the team's history: Frank Finnigan and Daniel Alfredsson, and the elite-ness of the company that he'll join later this season, isn't lost on Phillips.
"To be there with the best that ever played for this team, feels very special," said Phillips.
For more details on Phillips' jersey retirement which is set to take place on February 18th, 2020 against the Buffalo Sabres, click here.