By Murray Pam
Ottawa, Ontario dubs itself Hockey Country for good reason. Not only does Canada's Capital contain the NHL Senators, the area is home to the Ontario Hockey League's 67's and the Quebec Major Junior League's Gatineau Olympiques play across the river. The 1988-89 Olympiques, owned at the time by the Great One himself, Wayne Gretzky, featured a promising 18 year-old named Jeremy Roenick.
For several Blackhawks players and a pair of coaches, Friday evening is a homecoming of sorts. A few have special memories. However, for defenseman Johnny Oduya and assistant coach Mike Kitchen, Ottawa is a place of reflection.
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From 1992-95, Oduya's brother Fredrik patrolled the blueline for the junior 67's. Fredrik, a robust defenseman, wasn’t afraid to drop the gloves, probably why he earned the moniker “Freddy Knuckles.” A Sharks sixth-round draft pick, Fredrik never played a NHL game. Sadly while vacationing in Austria, September 2011, Johnny's elder brother died tragically in a motorcycle accident.
Mike Kitchen's brother Bill, a stay-at-home defenseman, plied his trade for the 67's from 1977-80. Kitchen who played 41 NHL games for the Canadiens and Maple Leafs went on to become a successful businessman in the Ottawa area, owning seven Tim Horton’s Donuts franchises. Bill, an avid outdoorsman passed away unexpectedly after kayaking at his cottage. He was only 51.
Before the Blackhawks selected Bryan Bickell 41st overall in the 2004 NHL Entry Draft, the rugged winger played for the 67's under the auspice of Hockey Hall of Fame coach Brian Kilrea. Being mentored by the winningest coach in junior history, Bickell led the 67's to two OHL finals, garnering 157 points in 216 games along the way.
Marian Hossa will go down in the Senators' annals as one of their greats. Sens fans were lucky enough to watch Hossa in his first six big league campaigns. During those seasons, Hossa tallied 30-plus goals on three occasions, notching a career high 45 in 2002-03. The right wing was later traded to the Atlanta Thrashers for Dany Heatley.
Over parts of five seasons, Peter Regin played 178 games with the Senators. The 2004 third-round draft pick was hampered with shoulder injuries throughout his career in Ottawa. The Dane was never able to build upon his 29-point campaign of 2009-10. Regin signed with the Islanders this past summer as a free agent before being dealt to the Blackhawks Feb. 6.
The Senators pegged puck-moving defenseman David Rundblad as a poor man’s Erik Karlsson. Rundblad was acquired from the Blues at the 2010 Entry Draft. Unable to crack the Senators back end the following year, Rundland was dispatched to the Coyotes in exchange for center Kyle Turris. The Blackhawks added Rundblad just before the NHL deadline this season.
Blackhawks goaltending coach Steve Weeks is also no stranger to Ottawa, either. Weeks, an original Senator, relieved starter Peter Sidorkiewicz in the club’s inaugural preseason game Sept. 18, 1992 versus the Hartford Whalers. Weeks pitched a shutout in his 30 minutes of action.
However, the netminder appeared in only seven games and ended his 13 year NHL career at season’s end.
Murray Pam freelances for The Hockey News and is a weekly columnist for Metro Ottawa.