• By: Dave Gross

Turkey Day haunts Senators

This is why the much-talked-about U.S. Thanksgiving model makes so much sense in the National Hockey League.

The Ottawa Senators sport a 4-2 record in – roughly – the last two weeks.

Good record.

Roughly (again) two weeks ago they were 10 points out of a playoff spot.

After going the afore mentioned 4-2 since, Ottawa remains 10 points back of a playoff spot.

No change.

This, kids, is why having a veritable gang of teams ahead of you in the post-season chase is virtually undefeatable. This is why that date in late November is so important regarding significant ‘movement.’

The better news for Ottawa? Andrew Hammond remains an unrestricted free agent (insert smiley-face emoticon here).

Sign Zub

Amid all the loud music during this past summer’s splashy signings, the one Ottawa fans were hoping to hear is an extension for rock-solid Artem Zub.

That will have to wait.

The Senators shouldn’t wait too long though. The 27-year-old is unrestricted come next summer and he is definitely the player the club has to have. Zub’s been exceptional since coming to Ottawa in 2020. He’s the Senators most trusted blueliner and carries a hockey sense you just can’t teach.

Yes, we can hear you people

It’s becoming a Christmas-season tradition: chants of “Fire D.J.!” raining down from the rafters.

The likelihood of this happening soon? Unlikely.

(Although trusted/frustrated Senator fanatic Phil R. is still calling me out for predicting this occurring, umm, let me see: three weeks ago?).

The expectation (read: rumour-mill) says there won’t be changes to the operation until new ownership arrives, in January perhaps.

But hell, we’ve been wrong before. Just ask Phil.

A true hockey man and gentleman passes

Many of you likely never met Ray McKelvie, but if you’re a hockey fan you likely should have.

Ray passed away this week at the age of 87.

I first met him back in 1989 when the Ontario Hockey League’s Owen Sound Platers came to be. The franchise shifted from Guelph – just down Highway 6 – to the north and the Georgian Bay region. Ray was truly the face of the organization from Day 1.

“He cared about everybody. He was more interested in your health than his, your situation than his,” said Owen Sound Attack president and co-owner Dr. Bob Severs to Postmedia. “There’s a long, long legacy. He’s just like an engine that never quit until the last 10 days.”

Ray passed from cancer. Word is he was still working in his office just weeks before succumbing.

Hockey was Ray; Ray was hockey. That about sums it up.

When I was just starting out in the media game, Ray was one of my key contacts as the face of the Platers. The guy was always able to make time for a quick quote or full-fledged interview, as I plowed through stints at CKCO-TV, CFOS radio and then the Owen Sound Tribune in the 1990s.

But before any interview with the hockey operations boss, there was always this question from him: “How are YOU doing, Dave?”

And he just didn’t ask the question as a throwaway, Ray genuinely wanted to know how you were. He put people ahead of business.

But with business, Ray was an astute hockey man. Back in the early 1990s he realized his team needed a little more heart and determination. And in 1995 he hit it out of the park at the priority selection when he nabbed Adam Mair (first round), Ryan Christie, Ryan Davis and the late Danny Snyder.

The team suddenly had spirit, grit and personality.

My last year in Owen Sound was the 1999 season and the Platers were on the brink of something special. Ray rolled the dice and gave up Sean Avery – who still had two years of OHL eligibility – to Kingston for Aaron Fransen, a rugged, strong-skating overager.

The deal was hard to make but it took the Platers to the Western Conference finale before bowing out to the London Knights.

After the loss, I relocated to Ottawa and started covering the 67’s for the Sun.

My first meeting with legendary Brian Kilrea was a good one indeed. After introducing myself, Brian said: “From Owen Sound, eh? That Ray McKelvie, what a great hockey man.” 

You got that right, Brian.

THOUGHT, SEEN AND HEARD: Seeing the opposition’s tendency to start the back-up against Ottawa continues. Some guy named Pheonix Copley, who hadn’t won since the Disco Era, got the call for LA. TSN’s Dave Poulin brought up this nugget though in defence – having an unknown like Copley in goal is the great-unknown for the opposition. Hard to scout a goalie’s game and weaknesses when he hardly plays . . . Don’t shake your head but the Toronto Maple Leafs look like they’re all ‘growed-up.’ Any team that can reel off a record like theirs while missing its three best defenders is doing a lot right . . . Then there’s Mitchell Marner, suddenly in the conversation for the Hart Trophy . . . Tip of the hat as well to John Tavares who’s been so strong for the Buds in all facets . . . This year’s Habs are –  if nothing else – intriguing and fun to watch. Montreal jumps out to a 4-0 first period lead on Vancouver Monday night. Up and down we go as the Canucks eventually win it 7-6 in overtime. As tough as the loss was, the Habs have enjoyed just as many in the success department during a season that was supposed to be a write-off . . . Cole Caufield and crew are here in Ottawa next week (Dec. 14th) . . . No it’s not April 1st: The NY Jets and the Detroit Lions are good football teams. Really . . . Meantime the NFC East has reversed from being the NFC Least to one of the league’s best divisions. Philly and Dallas are at the top, but Washington and my beloved NY Football Giants are not far behind . . . Being a Cowboys fan during the last stretch is akin to being a Leafs fanatic – Dallas has all of three playoff wins in nearly two decades. Not that there’s anything wrong with that absolutely delicious stat . . . In Heaven if they give you a game to watch, let it be Buffalo versus Kansas City, or Cincinnati . . . Any player? Josh Allen.


Thursday, Dec. 8: Ottawa at Dallas (8:30 pm)

Saturday, Dec. 10: Ottawa at Nashville (1:30 pm)

Monday, Dec. 12: Anaheim at Ottawa (7:30 pm)


PHOTO: CourtesyGettyImages