Mom's the word for Neil

Winger Chris Neil returned to the Ottawa Senators for practice yesterday at the Corel Centre....

Winger Chris Neil returned to the Ottawa Senators for practice yesterday at the Corel Centre. (Ottawa Sun/Jason Ransom)

BRUCE GARRIOCH -- Ottawa Sun

, Last Updated: 9:51 AM ET

There were plenty of hugs to go around as teammates showed their love for Chris Neil yesterday.

After spending nearly a week at his home in Flesherton following the death of his mother Bonnie in a single-car accident last Tuesday, Neil made an emotional return to practice at the Corel Centre.

"I have one family at home and I have an extension of my family in this room and they've let me know how much they care about myself and my family," said Neil.

There were no tears as Neil promised he'll carry the memory of Bonnie with him and vowed she'll be along for the ride to what he hopes will be a Stanley Cup victory.

"I know that nobody wanted me to win a Stanley Cup more than her and I'm going to do everything I can to try to bring one home for her," said Neil. "She'll be with me every step of the way this season.

'SHE WAS SO PROUD'

"I'm fortunate that she was here to see me play the weekend before she died. She was so proud of the fact that she could get to see me play in the NHL."

Bonnie Neil was a popular member of the community in the small town of 700. Her funeral was described by Senators assistant Randy Lee as "emotional" and a sign that she touched the community.

Getting to the NHL and staying there wasn't easy for the 26-year-old Neil, who is having a career year with eight goals already.

Returning to the lineup tonight against the Montreal Canadiens at the Corel Centre, Neil gives credit to his mom.

"She's one of the big reasons I'm here," he said. "I give her a lot of credit because she played a big role and she was with me every step of the way. I'm going to have a lot of fond memories of my mother.

'SHE PUSHED ME'

"I think of all the times she took me to the rink early in the morning and waited for me at practice. Everything she did for me. The way she pushed me to work hard and make me a better player. I know she's not here with us anymore, but she's in a better place."

The players were happy to see Neil back. Not all were able to attend the funeral Saturday because of a game against the Bruins, but they were glad owner Eugene Melnyk set up a charter flight so some members of the club could show support.

"We're happy he's here and we're going to help in every way we can," said Senators captain Daniel Alfredsson.

Neil said he is back at work because that's what Bonnie "would have wanted."

"I spoke with my dad (Barry) and we both agreed getting back here was the best thing for me," said Neil. "I know there are going to be some tough days ahead, but I know my family has really appreciated everything that everybody has done for us."


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