Brendan Bell is glad to be home.
As the players circle the ice at the Bell Sensplex most weekday mornings preparing for the opening of NHL training camps in the next couple of weeks, there's a familiar face wearing an Ottawa practice jersey and a white Senators helmet.
Signed as an unrestricted free agent in the off-season, the Ottawa native and former captain of the 67's is preparing for one of the biggest challenges of his career -- trying to crack the roster of the hometown Senators, with training camp opening on Sept. 17.
Along with Ottawa-based lawyer Larry Kelly, Bell looked at the depth charts of five or six teams before making a decision to sign with the Senators.
But Bell, 25, didn't choose the city because it was his hometown.
"I'm really looking forward to this chance because I really felt there was an opportunity here," said Bell. "They stressed after the contract negotiations the importance of coming in and really competing for a job because, like everybody is saying, there is some opportunity here."
Selected No. 65 overall by the Toronto Maple Leafs in the 2001 draft, Bell hasn't had the chance to establish himself as a regular contributor. He played 31 games with the Leafs during the 2006-07 season, then spent parts of the last two seasons with the Phoenix organization.
After letting Wade Redden walk away as an unrestricted free agent in the off-season and with defenceman Andrej Meszaros still unsigned as a restricted free agent, the Senators could be a land of opportunity for Bell.
The Senators need a puck-moving defenceman and many believe that Bell could be the answer.
He has quarterbacked the power play before and it's believed 67's GM Brian Kilrea gave Bell a strong recommendation when Senators GM Bryan Murray called to ask about him.
While youngster Brian Lee finished the season with the Senators and is expected to play, Bell will be in a group with Lawrence Nycholat and Matt Carkner that will battle for playing time. Naturally, if Meszaros doesn't sign before the season, another spot will be available.
"I was on a one-way deal last year and there wasn't a lot of offers for that this year," said Bell. "I looked around the league at depth charts and where I could fit in and Ottawa stood out, obviously. They said there's a lack of a puck-moving or offensive defenceman.
"By no means, am I a Brian Campbell or somebody that they may be looking for, but I feel I may be able to fill that void if I play as well as I can."
Bell needs to make his own break with the Senators.
"It would nice if somebody gave me a break, but I am not sitting around waiting for that by any means," said Bell. "A lot of it is earned and it should be earned. This lifestyle in the NHL and being around it, nobody is going to give you that. There's a lot of hard work that goes into it. Sometimes it's timing or injuries. Who knows what it is?"
A-CHANNEL TUNED OUT
The Senators announced yesterday that Rogers Sportsnet will broadcast 40 games this season, starting on Oct. 17 when Wayne Gretzky and the Phoenix Coyotes visit Scotiabank Place. That means the A-Channel, which showed 20 games (usually on Thursday nights), won't do games anymore. Dean Brown and Garry Galley are expected to broadcast the package.