Home is where heart is for York

DON BRENNAN

, Last Updated: 9:01 AM ET

The simple question is asked of Jason York often in his home town these days:

What now?

The answer, he is unsure of.

York's preference is to stay put, to actually live in his comfortable house on the back nine at the Kanata Golf and Country Club rather than rent it out, as he did to Dany Heatley last winter, and others before him.

A 37-year-old defenceman and veteran of 757 NHL games, York would like to return to the Senators. He has called GM Bryan Murray and told him he'll work for league minimum. After 13 seasons that included five (1996-2001) in Ottawa, York says it's no longer about the money. He backed up the words recently by turning down a million-dollar offer to play in St. Petersburg, Russia.

The biggest reason?

"There's no Stanley Cup in Russia," York said yesterday.

Also, he's determined to share the same roof with wife Laurel, daughter Alexandra and sons Jack and Matthew.

"Before my father passed away a couple of years ago, he taught me there are more important things than money," York said. "I'm not going to bring my kids to Russia."

He would consider taking the family to Switzerland or Sweden for a year, however. It's less gruelling than the Russian league and it would be quite an experience for the children.

But there's also the thinking that enough is enough. York has lived in 10 different cities since leaving his parents' Nepean home in the fall of 1987. Life's big clock says it's about time he return to his roots.

"My wife is feeling that, strongly," he said. "Part of me is feeling that, too."

Yes, York is at a crossroads in his career. He's mulling retirement and starting up a hockey skills centre in either Kanata or Stittsville. There'd probably be a chance for him to do some radio or TV work -- York did a fine job on the Team 1200 during last spring's playoff run.

But there's also some gas still in his tank.

York dressed in 49 games for Boston last season, averaging 13:04 of ice time per game. In January, with Zdeno Chara and Brad Stuart injured, it looked like he was going to get added responsibility when, in a game vs. the Senators, he spun off Daniel Alfredsson and sprained his MCL. It was the first knee injury of his career and it kept him out three weeks. When he returned, the Bruins were essentially out of the playoff hunt and more interested in giving younger guys a look.

York, who would soon be an unrestricted free agent, didn't get much of a chance to showcase himself.

"There are not a lot of jobs open on teams right now," said York, a mobile, right-hand shooter who has always kept himself in top shape. "I feel I can still play, and that if I don't sign somewhere now, I can be patient and something might open up. I'd prefer to be in Ottawa, where there's a good chance to win and be on a Cup contender.

"After watching what happened last year in this city, I want just one crack at that," he added, referring to the Senators' playoff run to the Stanley Cup final. "It's what you dream about. The older you get, the more you think about it. To get a chance to live what they lived would be the ultimate.

"Who wouldn't want to play for Ottawa, in their home town, on a good team? But I can only say I want to play. I can't make the decision and sign myself."

Murray told York he'd get back to him, but that was before the former signed veteran defenceman Luke Richardson to a contract this week.

If he's lost some hope, York is holding no sour grapes whatsoever. He has known Richardson a long time and is very happy his friend is getting the opportunity to wind up his career in his home town.

He'd be thrilled to do likewise.

"I'd love it," York said of pulling on his old No. 33 Senators jersey again. "But I'm not going to campaign for a job. If it happens, it happens. If it doesn't, I've had a pretty good career."

In a salary-cap era where there's not exactly an overabundance of veteran defencemen who play the game smart and simple, the Senators would be wise to keep York's number close at hand.


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