Printed in The Citizen (on-line), Ottawa Sun and Le Droit.
When I came to Ottawa in 2003, we could all have been forgiven for having doubts about the Senators' hockey credentials. They had just lost a heart-breaking seven-game conference final. And they were filing for bankruptcy.
We could have gotten away with doubting our hockey tradition, but we would have been wrong. I remember coming to Scotiabank Place, gazing at the 1927 Stanley Cup banner, and knowing that bringing the Cup home was a goal I shared with all the fans in "Hockey Country".
I often wonder what it was like for legends Georges Boucher, Alex Connell, Hooley Smith and the other 1927 Senators. On a smaller rink, in a smaller building, with smaller crowds, they defied the odds and gave Ottawa a magical season.
This year, having secured the team's financial stability, having survived the heartbreak of the playoff losses, and having overcome the agony of the lockout, the Senators - all of us - are back. And the parallels with 1927 are stunning.
After a full season of 44 games, the 1927 Senators boasted a record of 30-10-4. After 44 games in '06, the Ottawa Senators stood at 31-10-3. The 1927 Senators won the Cup after a gut-wrenching loss in the finals of the 1926 season. And - get this - they were even wiping the slate clean after a 1925 work stoppage.
Much like those 1927 Senators, we've come back, tougher than ever. Like the '27 Senators, we learned that nothing can ever be won - nor worth winning - without incredible struggle. We defied the odds. We challenged the naysayers. And though we may have doubted, we always moved forward, confident in our ability to make the right decisions.
We came back to the team we love. We made the right trades. We mixed the right players. We hired the right coaches and - today - we're delivering a winner.
This year, Ottawa is taking the NHL by storm. The fans have delivered sell-out crowds at practically every home game and - in the process - become the extra player every team wants when the game is on the line.
The Senators lead the league in points. We are tied for the league lead in wins. We lead the league in goals. We are on pace for a 58-win, 122-point season - something only six other NHL franchises have ever achieved.
And our players are turning heads. Daniel Alfredsson is on pace for a 50-plus goal and 110-plus point season. Dany Heatley and Wade Redden are on their way to Turin, where they will represent Canada at the Olympics. And, the Dominator is having a banner year.
Those individual feats are amazing - but it's the teamwork and solidarity of our Sens that I'm most proud of. We are leading the league in plus/minus - not the most glamourous statistic in hockey - but certainly the best measure of the all out effort, tenacity and accountability required to outplay, out hustle and outscore the opposition.
Whether on open ice, against the boards, or between the pipes, our team is second to none, and the magic of 1927 is back...
Now, however, is when the truly hard work begins. In my life and in my business, I have never taken success for granted. Ever. You don't sit on a lead. You don't take a breather. You simply push harder, and give twice as much. Why? Because your competition WILL, and because it's the only way to be the best.
In the NHL, as in business, the objective is not to win your division or your conference. It's to go all the way, to get the job done. Our team is getting the job done; and now is our time to return our very best to them.
Tonight will be the Senators 1,000th game since returning to Ottawa. I will be with you in the stands. We'll celebrate the magic - and unleash the passion.
Let's help our team bring the Cup home.