2014: Ottawa Sports Year-in-Review

The calendar year of 2014 saw mass changes to the Ottawa sports landscape.  Two brand-new professional franchises began play under the OSEG umbrella, and the 67’s major junior team returned to both its true home rink on Bank Street and its rightful place in the OHL playoff picture.  One Swedish Senators legend stepped out of the spotlight forever, while another grasped his former symbol with both hands.  Somewhere in that jumble of change, a walrus was shot.


 

Dates

Sunday, March 16th: The major junior Ottawa 67’s wrap up another subpar season under the guidance of Chris Byrne, falling 12-1 to the North Bay Battalion.  The team finished the 2013-14 season with a record of 23-39-6, and was one of just four teams in the twenty-team OHL circuit to miss the playoffs.  67’s home gate attendance average at its lowest point since 1997-98.

Saturday, April 12th: Ottawa Fury FC make their NASL debut in Florida, falling 2-0 to the Strikers.  Fury FC represent the first truly professional soccer team in Ottawa since the Ottawa Intrepid played in the old Canadian Soccer League in the late-80s.

Monday, April 14th: The Ottawa Senators complete their 2013-14 regular season with a 3-2 shootout win in Pittsburgh.  A five-game winning streak to end the season was not enough to push the Sens into the Eastern Conference playoffs, as Ottawa finished five points out of the final wildcard place.

Sunday, April 20th: The Carleton Place Canadians beat the Smiths Falls Bears in Game 5 to claim the Jr. “A” CCHL title.  Aside from a seven-game semi-final series with the Pembroke LumberKings, Carleton Place waltzed to the league championship.

Saturday, April 26th: Ottawa Fury FC win their first match, defeating the visiting Carolina RailHawks 4-0 on a rainy day in front of just over two thousand fans.  Brazilian winger Oliver scores a pair and is named the NASL’s Player-of-the-Week – he would be the only Fury player to receive the recognition all season.

Sunday, May 11th: Chris Byrne steps down as head coach of the Ottawa 67’s, presumably to focus on his role as GM after a pair of seasons behind the bench which were marred by playoff absences.

Sunday, May 18th: Carleton Place fall 4-3 in overtime to the Yorkton Terriers of Saskatchewan at the national RBC Cup final.  Jason Clarke’s team uncharacteristically blew a 3-1 lead in the third period and paid the price.  Regardless, the 2013-14 Canadians team was one of the most dominant in recent memory in the nation’s capital.

Sunday, June 8th: Fury FC wrap up the spring portion of their debut season in the North American Soccer League with a 1-0 loss in New York against the star-studded Cosmos.  Head coach Marc Dos Santos promises improved play after his team posted a record of 3W-1D-5L and finished sixth in the ten-team circuit.

Wednesday, June 18th: 67’s hire former NHLer Jeff Brown as head coach.  Brown had spent the previous two seasons with the USHL’s Indiana Ice.  Chris Byrne joins the Los Angeles Kings in a scouting role.

Tuesday, July 1st: Ottawa Senators trade longtime star Jason Spezza to the Dallas Stars.  In return, the club receives Alex Chiasson, Nick Paul, and scraps.

Thursday, July 3rd: The Ottawa RedBlacks play their first regular season game in franchise history in Winnipeg against the BlueBombers.  Despite an explosive first quarter, Ottawa couldn’t find an answer for Winnipeg’s running game, and fell 36-28.

Monday, July 7th: Senators announce that general manager Bryan Murray has cancer.  Team announces that assistant GM’s Pierre Dorion and Randy Lee will co-manage hockey operations while Murray undergoes treatment.

Friday, July 18th: The RedBlacks notch their first win in franchise history, defeating the Toronto Argonauts 18-17 despite not scoring a touchdown.  Game marks the opening of the new TD Place Stadium, OSEG’s crown jewel.  Regardless, the win sparked optimism in fans of the 1-2 RedBlacks, who would subsequently lose nine games in a row.

Sunday, July 20th: Fury FC open up TD Place Stadium for themselves, drawing over 14500 people for a rematch with the Cosmos.  Fury FC fall 1-0, and begin their fall season winless in six.

Thursday, October 2nd: Senators announce the contract extension of Bobby Ryan.  A 7-year deal worth $50.75M establishes Ryan as the franchise’s new star, after the former Duck put up 48 points in 70 games with the Senators in his Ottawa debut in 2013-14.

Wednesday, October 22nd: Gunman Michael Zehaf-Bibeau goes on a shooting spree on Parliament Hill in one of the most poignant and scary moments of the year.  That evening’s game between the Ottawa Senators and Toronto Maple Leafs is cancelled.

Saturday, November 1st: Fury FC finish their debut season in the same place they started it – Fort Lauderdale.  Ottawa draw 1-1 against the playoff-bound Strikers.  Head coach Marc Dos Santos admits that he would have liked to finish higher than 8th in the ten-team circuit.

Friday, November 7th: The RedBlacks wrap up a forgettable debut season in the CFL, falling 23-5 to the playoff-bound Argos in twentieth and penultimate week of the regular season.  Despite showing flashes of brilliance on defence, the RedBlacks never seriously threatened for a playoff spot, ending the season with a 2-16 record.

Thursday, December 4th: Ottawa Senators honour longtime captain Daniel Alfredsson in an emotional pre-game ceremony.  “Alfie” signs a one-day contract and retires a Senator before taking the ice with the captain’s “C” one final time in warmups.  Typical of their season, the current Senators come out flat and fall 2-1 to the visiting New York Islanders.

Monday, December 8th: The morning after an exciting comeback OT victory over the visiting Vancouver Canucks, the Ottawa Senators announce the team has parted ways with head coach Paul MacLean.  MacLean won the Jack Adams Award as the NHL’s best coach in 2012-13, and ended his tenure in Ottawa with a respectable record of 114-90-35.


Thumbs Up: To the Eastern Ontario hockey community for rallying around injured Junior “A” player Neil Doef.  The 17 year-old Smiths Falls native was seriously injured while wearing the maple leaf during a game in mid-December against Switzerland.  Multiple fundraisers and a benefit game were organized quickly, and the love and support of the local hockey community will surely help the family in such a trying time.

Thumbs Down: To the Ottawa 67’s for gouging ticket prices upon their return to Bank Street.  The team was charging more money for an adult gameday ticket than it costs to buy a 300-level Sens ticket on some nights.  Unsurprisingly, attendance figures were at an embarrassing low well into the 2014-15 season.

Thumbs Up: To the Ottawa 67’s, for listening to the complaints of consumers and lowering prices on all aspects of the gameday experience – parking, concession, and ticket prices have all been dropped by the city’s major junior team in an effort to draw more people back to the old Civic Centre (yes, I’m aware it’s called TD Place Arena).

Thumbs Down: To the Ottawa Senators for axing their head coach – who had achieved a minor miracle in his first season in charge – due to the horrendous .500 record he’d led the team to this season with the cheapest roster in the NHL.

Thumbs Up: To the Carleton Place Canadians.  While it seemed like nobody in metropolitan Ottawa knew about the Junior “A” team’s accomplishments, the high-powered Canadians went about their business en route to a league championship and a 2nd-place finish in all of Canada.

Thumbs Down: To the Ottawa RedBlacks.  Henry Burris’ offence was anemic in 10 of 18 games, and the organization keeping head coach Rick Campbell around is somewhat of a surprise.  Now that the honeymoon is over, the RedBlacks will have to win more than two games next season if they want to continue their sellout streak.

Thumbs Up: To the Ottawa Sports & Entertainment Group (OSEG) for revitalizing the Ottawa sports market.  With three teams to their name and a beautiful new facility, OSEG has presented Ottawa sports fans with new teams, stars, and – in the case of Fury FC – sports to get excited about.  Bravo!


A Look Ahead to 2015

  • The Ottawa Senators appear to be putting a plan in motion which will eventually see them build an arena downtown at LeBreton Flats.  The move would most likely rejuvenate the organization in the Ottawa sports market.
  • The Ottawa 67’s appear to be trending in the right direction under new head coach Jeff Brown.  The team sits in a comfortable playoff position at the moment in the OHL’s Eastern Conference, and the crowds are starting to return to the Civic Centre.
  • Ottawa Fury FC face a pivotal sophomore season in 2015.  The club showed potential in 2014, and there is no doubting it has a quality coaching staff.  However, numerous roster changes leave some question marks in Fury FC’s near on-pitch future.
  • The Ottawa RedBlacks must win more than two games.  I went to two home games in 2014, and saw them score thirteen total points with zero touchdowns.  While a good defence may win championships, offence is sexy and Henry Burris’ offence will need to perform better than it did this past season.
  • Professional baseball is set to return to the nation’s capital in the form of the Ottawa Champions, who will take the field at Ottawa Stadium in May 2015 playing in the independent Can-Am League.

 

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  1. To add the Ottawa Outlaws of the Audl will start play in 2015 home games will be played at Keith Harris Stadium also the Fury will be fielding a reserve team in the Quebec semi pro league.

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