Lighting the Lamp With Rick Ackerman
Canada’s national capital was home to the original Senators, birthed in 1883 as an amateur club, as well as a founding member of the professional NHL in 1917. Officially named the Ottawa Hockey Club, the franchise was also referred to as the Generals in the 1890s and the Silver Seven during the early 1900s. They were dubbed the Senators in 1908. Overall, the franchise won 11 Stanley Cup championships, the last in 1927.
As the Great Depression took its toll in the early 1930s, Ottawa’s financial losses and small-market size forced a move to St. Louis in 1934. At the time, the Mound City was the seventh-largest metropolis in the United States, some eight times more populous than Ottawa. Seeking to curry favor with local hockey fans while also attracting new adherents, the team was named the Eagles and featured a logo similar to that used by the Anheuser-Busch brewery. The Eagles would play at the Arena, forcing the American Hockey Association Flyers to the Winter Garden on DeBaliviere. A little-known fact is that Arena management enforced racially segregated seating in 1934, the only venue in the NHL to do so. The Eagles played only one season before the league terminated the franchise and transferred the players to the other eight NHL teams, including the New York Americans and Montreal Maroons.
In an interesting aside, the Maroons petitioned the league to move to St. Louis in 1938, but were denied due to hefty transportation costs to and from St. Louis. The Maroons had joined the NHL in 1924 as an expansion team (with the Boston Bruins) and played until 1938. The franchise was terminated in 1946 after a final, unsuccessful attempt to relocate to Philadelphia
In 1990, Ontario real-estate developer Bruce Firestone formed a consortium to bring an NHL expansion team to Ottawa. Land suitable for an adequate arena was found in Kanata, just west of the city, and the league granted a franchise to Firestone's group to begin play in the 1992-93 season along with the expansion Tampa Bay Lightning. It took five seasons for the Senators to reach the playoffs, and they would go on to qualify for the following eight consecutive postseasons. Ottawa finally reached the Stanley Cup Finals in 2007, only to come up short against J.S. Giguere and the Anaheim Ducks. The Sens would qualify for five of the next nine seasons, although they did not qualify last year.
Like the Blues, the new Ottawa franchise is seeking its first sip of champagne from the bowl of the Stanley Cup. Nor have the two franchises ever met in postseason play.
The first of eight transactions between the clubs occurred in April 1995 when the Blues acquired a ninth-round pick (Libor Zabransky) for center Dan Laperriere and a ninth-round pick (Erik Kaminski). St. Louis acquired another pick in the second-round in exchange for defenseman Steve Duchesne in August 1995. The Blues traded that pick to Buffalo, which used it on defenseman Corey Sarich. Duchesne would return to St. Louis in August 1997 in a trade for defenseman Igor Kravchuk.
In between was perhaps the most lopsided trade in Blues’ history. Pavol Demitra was obtained from the Senators in November 1996 for Swedish defenseman Christer Olsson.
Demitra had been involved in a contract dispute with Ottawa and the Blues were only too happy to add him to their roster. Sent to Grand Rapids of the IHL for conditioning, Demitra scored 20 goals and 50 points in 42 games before being recalled. In eight seasons wearing the Note, the masterful Slovak scored 204 goals and amassed 493 points in 494 games. In 2004, the year of the NHL lockout, Demitra signed with HK Dukla Trencin of the Slovak Extraliga and led that league in scoring. Upon his return to the NHL, Demitra signed a three-year deal with Los Angeles before being traded to Minnesota in 2006. He would also play with Vancouver in 2008 and for Lokomotiv Yaroslavl of the KHL in 2010. Olsson played 25 undistinguished games with Ottawa before returning to Europe to play in Sweden and Austria.
A minor transaction involved goaltender Patrick Lalime joining the Blues for a fourth-round draft choice in 2005. He played 31 mediocre games for the Blues and was sent down to Peoria before signing with the Blackhawks the following season. He is best remembered for his “Marvin the Martian” mask. In 2010 GM Doug Armstrong worked more magic as he sent defenseman David Rundblad to Ottawa for a first-round draft choice (#16), which Armstrong used to select Russian winger Vlad Tarasenko. After 24 less-than-memorable games, Rundblad was dispatched to Phoenix. He also played three seasons in Chicago before heading to Europe to play in Switzerland.
Faced with one goaltender too many, the Blues dispatched Ben Bishop to Ottawa in February 2012 for a second-round draft choice in 2013, which was used to select defenseman Tommy Vanelli, who has yet to crack the Blues’ roster and currently plays for the Atlanta Gladiators of the ECHL after playing 11 games for the Missouri Mavericks. The teams’ last transaction occurred in July 2013 when the Blues acquired center Pat Cannone for roster depth in exchange for future considerations. Cannone played with the AHL Chicago Wolves for three seasons before signing with the Minnesota Wild.
The Blues return from California triumphant in two of three games. After looking discombobulated and hapless against the Kings, the Note turned it around and manhandled the Sharks and out-lasted the Ducks for a successful road trip. Now to keep it up against Ottawa tonight and Washington Thursday before heading back out on the road.