Founding fathers' day

ROB BRODIE -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 10:35 AM ET

Bruce Firestone reacted the way any proud father would, the emotion much too powerful to keep bottled up inside.

When Daniel Alfredsson's overtime goal Saturday finished off the Buffalo Sabres and brought tears of joy to the eyes of some of his teammates, Firestone cried right along with them.

The team he'd helped birth had grown all the way up. Just the way Firestone always dreamed it would when he and his fellow founding fathers first got that crazy idea back in 1989 to bring NHL hockey back to the nation's capital.

"When Alfie scored that goal to put us in the final, there were a few teary eyes in our household," Firestone recalled yesterday, more than 16 years after being handed the keys to Ottawa's NHL team.

"And a lot of relief."

Firestone, Cyril Leeder and Randy Sexton couldn't stop beaming yesterday, as more than 10,000 fans gathered at Festival Plaza for a Stanley Cup pep rally. The founding fathers always knew this day would come, that the Sens would play in an NHL final. But they never pictured it being exactly like this.

"Never in our wildest dreams did we imagine seeing 10,000 people at a rally before the first game of the final," said Sexton, now an assistant GM with the Florida Panthers. "This is wonderful. We always believed we would get here. It just took a little longer than we expected."

Leeder, the Sens' COO, admitted the passion Ottawans have shown for their team was always part of the dream. Even if yesterday's bash was beyond his long-term vision, too.

"We thought there would be a day when everyone would be excited about the team and caught up in Senators fever, and be proud to be a Senators fan," he said. "I think that day is here."

Only Leeder remains an official part of the Senators family today. But Firestone has a suite at Scotiabank Place -- "kindly donated" by current Sens owner Eugene Melnyk -- and says he and his family attend "as many games as we can."

'I'M SO EXCITED'

While Sexton has a hand in another NHL team's fortunes now, there will always be a place in his heart for the Senators.

"When you're the founder of something, it's like your child," he said. "Whether you continue to be related or not, that's still your baby. I'm so excited for everyone in this organization.

"I think they're going to go out and get (the Cup)."


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