The city’s official designation of Elgin Street from Nepean to Gladstone as “Sens Mile” for the playoffs is a harmless bit of civic fantasy. It’s still just plain old Elgin Street, and it’s not a mile, either, not even close, but to get bogged down in boring old facts is to miss the point.
It’s a cheap, easy way for prickly Ottawans to warm up to each other a little and, on the whole, handing over a few blocks to hockey fans for the playoffs is less farcical than last summer’s abortive proclamation of Shannon Tweed Day.
Local bars are tarted up for the festivities and pledging donations of $100 each from their nightly proceeds to Roger’s House, a Sens-supported charity. All good stuff.
Personally, I’m not feeling the excitement, but I’m a strange sort of Canadian male, more or less indifferent to hockey, and hence of highly suspect manhood, patriotism, etc.
I learned I wasn’t completely immune when I found myself among the wild-eyed yobs spilling out onto Elgin Street after our Olympic hockey win over the Americans in 2002, high-fiving motorists through their car windows and generally losing our tiny minds. This was, however, a momentary and isolated lapse of unconcern.
I also used to live just off Elgin, where there’s always something to celebrate, whether the playoffs, a long weekend, or, say, Thursday.
So it came as some surprise that after all the hype, Sens Mile during Wednesday night’s opener against the Penguins was strictly Sens Mild.
Things got off to a slow start yesterday afternoon. A Mustang convertible decorated with the Sens logo honked its way down Elgin to overwhelming bystander apathy. The crowd had woken up a bit by the time the game was on last night, but not much. The street was hardly in the grips of Sens Fever, perhaps a mild Sens headache or pesky tickle in the throat. Strolling south from Nepean, I was at Somerset before I even saw a Sens jersey. Overall, I heard less “Go Sens!” than “spare change?”
As a non-fan, I seldom welcome the increased competition for pub space on game nights, but there were no worries on that score Wednesday. Some bars were busy, some weren’t, and there seemed to be seating available everywhere. The patio at St. Louis Bar and Grill was reasonably lively, with the game blasting from an outdoor screen, but other than that, it looked like nothing so much as a typical Wednesday night on Elgin Street.