The realization is setting in. Neither NHL nor OHL hockey will likely be played in Ottawa after April 12, the Senators’ final home game against Toronto.
Disappointing seasons by the Sens and 67s have left a sour taste for Ottawa sports fans, with the Gatineau Olympiques holding down the region's hockey fort.
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In past years, those fans were left obsessing over hockey through the draft, free agency and a summer of speculation. Last summer was one of the toughest with the departure of Daniel Alfredsson.
The worst part: There was no option to re-direct fans’ angst.
Finally, this town can help mask their frustration with some pigskin.
Don't forget 'footie'
I will note, if you’re not a Canadian football fan, a little European football could also help distract you. Ottawa Fury FC has joined the North American Soccer League to give this city a professional soccer squad, with its first match on April 12.
No matter which way you lean, summertime sports entertainment is back thanks to the Ottawa Sports and Entertainment Group (OSEG), which owns the RedBlacks and Fury.
The last time Ottawa had a CFL football team, Ottawa hockey fans needed summer sports more than ever. That was 2005 after the NHL locked out its players for a full season.
But for those pent up hockey fans, the Renegades weren’t a very good distraction, crashing and burning before folding in the spring of 2006.
Failure is not an option
Before the Renegades, the capital’s summer teams were the Ottawa Rough Riders until 1996 and the Ottawa Lynx, a triple-A baseball team that served as an affiliate of the Montreal Expos and Baltimore Orioles, from 1993 to 2007.
Each team’s public profile rapidly faded for the fair-weather local sports fan.
That brings us to the Ottawa RedBlacks. There’s no guessing whether this team will garner early success, or find its way into the playoffs in the near future.
If history shows us anything, the fickleness of Ottawa sports fans won’t accept much failure for an expansion franchise, especially in the CFL. On the soccer pitch, failure might be a little more acceptable since there aren’t old scars from the 90s.
Football strikes a chord with local fans. Several thousand season tickets have been sold and many more seats are filled for the home opener on July 18 against the Toronto Argonauts.
But after the adrenaline runs out, will this city finally see a competitive, well-run team? I think we all hope, for once, it will.
For hockey fans that have seen the Senators disappoint, it might just be a necessity.
Once the final horn sounds on the Senators’ season on April 13, which is likely pending a miraculous run down the stretch, it’ll be nice to see the sun shine and a competitive sports team on the horizon.