Toto disregard for Sens

EARL MCRAE -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 3:11 PM ET

Ottawa should be flaming ashamed of itself: It doesn't give a damn about the Senators, the trek to the Stanley Cup.

Thundering indifference. It couldn't care less. Disgusting, you Ottawans.

BLOODY DISGUSTING. How can you dare show yourselves in public?

I put a phone call through to Driver's Sports Cafe in Ottawa.

Ottawa, Kansas, that is. Population 13,000. On the banks of the Marais de Cygnes River. Hometown of former NFL quarterback Steve Grogan, Peter Frampton bass player Stanley Sheldon, American Idol reject David Mills.

A happening burg, Ottawa, Kansas. Namesake of Canada's capital, sister community and all that.

An hour as the crow flies (make it as the cow shleps) down Interstate 35 from Kansas City where the NHL in the dinosaur age briefly had a club called the Scouts.

'NO SENATORS HERE'

Brenda Callahan comes on the line. The manager of Driver's Sports Cafe. The place is noisy.

"Is everybody there excited about the Senators?" I ask.

"Who?"

"The Senators. The Ottawa Senators."

Long pause.

"There are no senators here, you want the capital."

A hockey team, I tell her.

The NHL.

"Oh, hockey. It's funny. Just the other night, the staff, we were talking about ice hockey. How we'd love to see a game live sometime. I've never seen one. This is football country."

"Do you show hockey games on TV in your place? Do any of your customers like hockey?"

"We have them on sometime, but I don't know of anyone who's a big fan. But you know what?"

"What?"

"We'd love to have an Ottawa Senators jersey to hang on our wall. That'd be real cool. Maybe they could send us one."

Maybe they could. Driver's Sports Cafe, 222 East Logan St. Ottawa, Kansas.

I phone the Ottawa Chamber of Commerce. Sandi Brandes is executive assistant to CEO Tom Weigand. No, she says. She doesn't know of any Canadians or former Canadians living in Ottawa -- maybe rabid Senators fans -- or any who own businesses.

"Do you know anything at all about hockey, Sandi?"

"I know something about it. That it's very violent and when the players get up off the floor after being knocked down, they have no teeth. We have people here who have no teeth, but it's usually from being kicked by a bull or a cow or some other farm animal. We're country folk."

She'd never heard of the Ottawa Senators.

But now that she has: "I'm rooting for them, that's for sure."

M&N Sports Shop in town. Sandi Brandes says it sells sports jerseys. Ottawa Senators jerseys, maybe? I phone. Answering machine. Voice says to leave my name and number. It's the middle of the day. Business must be slow in Ottawa, Kansas.

FREE TRIP

Greg Mast is sports editor of the Ottawa Herald.

"I'm aware of the Ottawa Senators myself, but there's not a lot of interest here in hockey. That's because we don't have any hockey here. We have a rink, but it's only for roller skating. Back in the late '80s, there was a minor league team in Kansas City and about 10 to 15 people from here would make the trip to the games, but I couldn't tell you who they are.

"I don't even put hockey in the paper, and I never get anybody calling me to say, 'Hey, put hockey in the paper.' It's too bad. Kansas City would like an NHL franchise again. That'd be good. I like hockey."

Maybe, I tell him, he should ask his editor/publisher, Jeanny Sharp, to send him to cover the Ottawa Senators to stir up some interest in Ottawa Kansas.

"That's a great idea. I will. Especially if they get to the Stanley Cup final."


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