by Todd Anderson
After watching 1,217 Ottawa Senators games over 14 seasons, Dean Brown and Gord Wilson won't soon forget the experience of working the club's first Stanley Cup final this year.
Brown, who calls the play-by-play action for Senators broadcasts on Team 1200 Sports Radio and also on television for A-Channel, was impressed how Hockey Country supported the team during its run.
"I think, obviously, it's the best season in the history of this franchise and I just don't get the sense, now that this one is over, that people thought there was much left on the table," Brown says. "Everyone wanted them to win, but there was so much mashing of teeth and ringing of hands after so many seasons ended, this one has a totally different feeling about it.
"When you land and 5,000 people are at the airport, it's heart-warming. (Sens head coach) Bryan Murray was at a restaurant (during the playoffs) and when he got up to leave, everybody in the restaurant gave him a standing ovation. I think with the way this season ended, even though it didn't finish with victory, it really changed the way this community looks at this team. It has a different perspective of this team now. It's really good for everybody."
Wilson, the colour analyst for Sens games on Team 1200, enjoyed being a part of the club's first experience in the Stanley Cup final.
"When you go this far you can't help but be excited through the whole thing. I think it hit me five minutes before Game 1 of the final, that it was final," Wilson says. "In other words, it's down to the final two teams. One team was going to experience the high of highs, and the other one was not. Unfortunately, this team took the second route, but it's a journey you wouldn't change for the world. It was an absolutely phenomenal experience; one that I will never forget."
Brown says there was something different about this year's edition of the team.
"After 15 years, this season was a long run," Brown says. "I remember the first year when they won 10 games. To me, that was just like yesterday. The kind of strides they've made in 15 years is remarkable.
"The biggest thing that was different was in the past this team had been really weighted by expectations. This year it seemed like they just got used to that. It seemed like they were used to wearing that jacket and they just played. They seemed to address the expectations and the pressure better than they ever have before."
Wilson says he's also impressed how well the club responded to the adversity of a slow start to the regular season.
"All of the sudden by about Christmas it started to turn around. You could see it through the players more than anything. The players did take it among themselves to say it is time to turn it around and, as a result, they become one of the hottest teams in the second half of the season."