Almost from the day he first slipped on a Senators jersey, Wade Redden has felt the excitement starting to build.
The kind of emotion that only a run through the Stanley Cup playoffs can bring.
Redden has been a part of it for each of his 10 seasons in Ottawa, and has seen all the post-season highs and lows.
“The first couple of years, we had to grind everything out,” Redden said in recalling the Senators’ initial giddy footsteps alongside the NHL’s elite. “We were just squeaking into the playoffs. But I think now we’ve got a presence in the league, of being a good team.
“The team has grown and become a contender. That’s a good feeling.”
For many in Ottawa, that final-week dash to the 1996-97 playoffs, secured with a 1-0 victory over the Buffalo Sabres on the last day of the regular season, remains one of the top moments in the franchise’s 15-year history.
“Winning that last game against Buffalo … that was just a highlight for the city and the people that had followed the team for so long,” said Redden, then a 19-year-old rookie. “They finally saw us turn the corner to be a successful team. That was a lot of fun to be around. It was such a thrilling time in Ottawa.”
They saw it all again last spring, a time of another first, when a city wore its Senators pride like never before as its heroes marched to the Stanley Cup final.
“Even after losing in Anaheim, there were thousands of (fans) at the airport,” said Redden. “Guys definitely realized what it’s all about to be a Senator and to play in this city. We take a lot of pride in that, and it’s great to have that kind of support and excitement around the team.”