Sens appreciate Hockey Day

BRUCE GARRIOCH

, Last Updated: 9:26 AM ET

As practice wrapped up yesterday at Scotiabank Place, the Senators took a few moments to just enjoy what the game is all about.

After presenting the West End Blackhawks novice A team with souvenir Senators jerseys -- with their names on the back -- the players went for a spin with the kids.

Preparing to face the Canadiens today at 2 p.m., the short session with the kids was held to recognize Hockey Day in Canada -- a tradition started by CBC in 1999.

After the Senators wrap up against the Habs, the Leafs will host Vancouver at 7 p.m. and then the puck will be dropped in the Battle of Alberta between Calgary-Edmonton at 10 p.m. By the time CBC wraps up its coverage, it will have been on the air 13.5 hours.

Only in Canada.

"This is what hockey is all about," said Senators winger Dany Heatley, who grew up in Calgary. "This is huge in this country. It's important, especially with the six teams in Canada, and you know how crazy it is here and the other cities. I think it's a great tradition and a full day of hockey is pretty unique. I wish it was around when I was younger."

The players and coaching staff respect the history of hockey and the love for the game. That's why they like being a part of Hockey Day in Canada. Sure, the weather was great when Bryan Murray was GM of Florida and Anaheim, but one of the reasons he returned to his home town to coach was the excitement and the passion here for the NHL.

"It's a great thing. This is what, we, as hockey people, are all about," said Murray, a Shawville native. "We respect the game and the young people get involved. I like it. One of the things I appreciate about being in Canada, it's such an important game in this country. This game kind of tops it all off."

Like everybody else involved with Hockey Day in Canada, the Senators are hopeful the NHL finds a way to keep the tradition going next year. If the schedule stays in its current format, all six Canadian teams won't play each other next season.

"It's going to be very interesting to see what happens next year. Hopefully, they can keep it going," said defenceman Chris Phillips, a Fort MacMurray, Alta., native. "(Host) Ron MacLean and the people at CBC deserve a lot of credit for the way they've grown this tradition. They work hard and the stories they tell are just terrific."

NOT HAPPY: The Rangers were upset with referees Tim Peel and Mike Hasenfratz and linesmen Pierre Champoux and Jay Sharrers when they missed an obvious delay of game call on Phillips with 2:55 left in the third period of Ottawa's 6-4 win Thursday at Madison Square Garden. Senators captain Daniel Alfredsson admitted yesterday that the club dodged a bullet when Phillips cleared the puck into the stands on what should have been an automatic two minutes. Rangers assistant captain Brendan Shanahan claimed Peel reversed a call. "Peel had told Phillips he was getting a penalty and then somewhere in the next 10 seconds it was reversed," said Shanahan, who waited for the officials at the end of the game. "I just wanted to know why they changed their mind. Someone got him to reverse the call. They wouldn't tell me who. A power play there would have put us in a good position to win a game in which we were down 5-0. That would have been special. Instead, we just chalk up a loss now." Phillips, however, said yesterday the officials never told him he was going to the penalty box.

AROUND THE BOARDS: Ottawa Ds Tom Preissing and Joe Corvo played only 13 minutes against New York. They barely saw the ice in the third period. "Tom has played really quite well for us. He has made nice strides. Joe's struggled with his confidence more. He's a little bit tentative. We've addressed it," said Murray ... Alfredsson on what the club learned after nearly allowing New York to come back: "The lesson we learned was that if you're going to allow four goals in the third period, you better score five before then."


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