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Team Red rules at Sens Skills

by Rob Brodie / Ottawa Senators
Shean Donovan did his best Olympic speed skater imitation during Sens Skills presented by Metro, held Sunday afternoon at Scotiabank Place (Andre Ringuette/NHLI via Getty Images).

Officially, it's billed as a day to show off their skills.

But the Ottawa Senators brought a little more than that to Scotiabank Place during the annual Sens Skills presented by Metro, sending the crowd of 15,112 home feeling thoroughly entertained after a Sunday afternoon filled with fun and games.

Not that these guys' competitive instincts didn't break through at times. These are professional athletes, after all, and Chris Phillips' Team Red gained bragging rights for a third straight year by outpointing Daniel Alfredsson's Team Black 13-6.

"Three in a row. But who's counting?" said a grinning Phillips afterward. "It was great coaching."

Centre Mike Fisher contributed mightily to the Team Red triumph, regaining his title in the Algonquin College hardest shot contest with a blast of 101.3 miles per hour. That was just a hair better than Alfredsson's best effort of 101.1.

"It's nice to win and beating Alfie was not an easy task, that's for sure," said Fisher.

Team Red also added victories by Jason Spezza in the Metro Shootout and Ryan Shannon in the Bridgestone fastest skater event, with a lap time of 13.922 seconds. That was .009 quicker than Fisher, who was also judged to finish in a tie with Team Black's Milan Michalek in the Bell puck control individual relay.

“I like the speed skating, I like the races,” Shannon said of his victory. “In college, I figured out speed was going to be my thing. I wasn’t going to run anybody into the boards. We had good competition. Fish was kind of a darkhorse. I thought (Peter) Regin or Michalek would be tough ones.”

Jonathan Cheechoo of Team Black took top honours in the Danone accuracy shooting contest, hitting four targets in five attempts.

The biggest winners of the day, however, were local charities. On behalf of Metro, the National Hockey League and the NHL Players' Assocation, the Sens Foundation donated $100,000 from the proceeds of Sens Skills to Easter Seals, Roger's House and local minor hockey assocations.

Some 14 minor hockey players took part in the event as well after making their way through qualifying events earlier in the day.

"It was fun, I’m sure, for the minor hockey kids to be out there, and to have a great turnout with the fans," said Phillips. "I think they enjoyed the show and helped raise a lot of money for charities in town. It was a good day."

And yes, entertainment is always part of this deal. Forward Jarkko Ruutu wore a fake black moustache throughout the two-hour affair and later donned a jet black wig for the Team 1200 power play challenge — an appropriate follow-up to the flowing blond locks he introduced to the proceedings a year ago.

Lending a touch of the Olympics to the proceedings, Team Red forward Shean Donovan made like former Winter Games hero Catriona Le May Doan in whipping around the ice in a skin-tight speed skater's outfit. Alex Kovalev was the people’s choice in the freestyle skills event, drawing huge skills after a display of some of his stickhandling wizardry.

"It was fun, I’m sure, for the minor hockey kids to be out there, and to have a great turnout with the fans. I think they enjoyed the show and helped raise a lot of money for charities in town. It was a good day." - Chris Phillips
All in all, it was the kind of lighthearted day the Senators needed after dropping a 5-0 decision to the Maple Leafs in Toronto on Saturday night, a result which ended their franchise-record 11-game winning streak.

"It's a day where we can all have a little bit of fun and joke around a bit, then get back to work tomorrow," said Fisher. "It was good to see a lot of people out and enjoying it and seeing what was going on and being a part of it."

Didn't take long, however, for all of them to put their game faces on.

"It's funny," said Shannon. "There was a lot of laughing going on in preparation for it but when they blew the whistle for the puck relay ... it was like game mode and everything turned. It was fun, but it was definitely competitive."

The Senators return to action on Tuesday night, facing off against the Calgary Flames at Scotiabank Place (7:30 p.m., Rogers Sportsnet, Team 1200). Then the Eastern Conference-leading Washington Capitals, who have now won 14 straight, visit Ottawa on Thursday evening (7 p.m., TSN, Team 1200) in the Sens' final home game before the 15-day break for the Vancouver 2010 Olympics.

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