Senators forward Peter Regin, dressed in army fatigues, signs a jersey for a young fan during an autograph signing session at CFB Petawawa, where the team spent the last two days as part of a team-bonding exercise (Photo by Daphny Gebhart-Turcotte/CFB Petawawa).
On an autumn morning two hours from home, the Ottawa Senators looked the part of a team ready to march into battle once again.
"I got my rank upped from captain to private," captain Daniel Alfredsson, clad from head to toe in army fatigues, said with a grin earlier today at CFB Petawawa, where the Senators gathered the last two days for some team-building exercises. "They've been very good hosts. They worked us pretty hard but at the same time, made it fun for us. It's been interesting and fun."
Added centre Mike Fisher: "We haven’t stopped laughing. We’ve had a lot of laughs. We’ve had a really good time and that’s what you need coming into the season. Get everyone together and loosen everyone up a little bit."
With their roster cut to 23 players after Saturday's pre-season finale against the New York Rangers, the Senators took some time for themselves on Sunday during a military-style session that included an obstacle course, rappelling and relay races. Earlier today, they wore full army clothing — the most familiar attire on the base — as they signed autographs for fans at the Silver Dart Arena, where an open practice was also held.
"It's been a great team-building (exercise)," said centre Jason Spezza. "We did some really neat stuff yesterday and it kind of takes us out of our element. It’s good to see the guys working together. I thought it was a great day and real fun to get away as a team.
"The obstacle course was really challenging and fun at the same time. It was fun to see the guys helping each other along at the parts (of it) where guys got stalled. The weapon simulation thing we did was pretty cool, too."
Senators head coach Cory Clouston called it "a real good opportunity for us to do something away from the rink, something other than hockey, and see another part of society. They’re (overseas) protecting our lives and it’s not an easy life, that’s for sure
"We really enjoyed ourselves. It was nice to see what soldiers have to go through. It was just a portion of their activities (that we did), but we got a glimpse of how hard they train, what they have to go through and how dedicated they have to be. I think it’s just a real good situation for all of us."
"We really enjoyed ourselves. It was nice to see what soldiers have to go through. It was just a portion of their activities (that we did), but we got a glimpse of how hard they train, what they have to go through and how dedicated they have to be. I think it’s just a real good situation for all of us."- Cory Clouston
So, too, said Alfredsson, is having three more days of preparation time before Friday's season-opener against the Buffalo Sabres at Scotiabank Place (7 p.m., Rogers Sportsnet East, Team 1200).
"Camp right now is so short and there are so many exhibition games right away," he said. "You don’t see half the guys throughout camp (when they're split into two practice groups). It’s nice to have a week between the exhibition games and the regular season to work on some things and to have some team-building stuff as well."
The Senators arrived at training camp coming off a season in which they returned to the Stanley Cup playoffs after one-year absence, then pushed the defending-champion Pittsburgh Penguins to six games before bowing out in the first round. Now everyone is eager to find out just how much further they can take it in the season ahead.
"I think all of us are motivated to be better and to push ourselves to see how far we can take ourselves ... how high we can finish in the standings," said Alfredsson. "We know it's a battle throughout the regular season and we just want to make sure we're ready to go at the start."
Around the boards
As is his custom, Clouston won't announce the starting goaltender for the season-opener until Friday morning. While neither Pascal Leclaire nor Brian Elliott emerged from training camp as the clear-cut starter, both naturally hope to get the call for Game 1. "I feel good and I’m ready to go if they want me to play," said Leclaire ... Fisher and forward Chris Neil weren't on the ice today but did take part on Sunday's team-building routines. Both "should be able to practise tomorrow or the next day," said Clouston.