On Saturday afternoon families festooned in Senators jerseys ate lunch in convivial pubs, petted llamas on the city's pedestrian mall and strolled the becoming banks of the Rideau. Ottawa looked nothing like the Town That Fun Forgot, but rather like the Town Where Fun Settled When It Finally Had a Family.
As for Saturday night, when the Senators played the Devils in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference finals, Fun was far less important than Victory. If this series—between two strong defensive teams—should see the bland leading the bland, so be it. But that was not the case in Game 1, when two buttoned-down clubs produced, instead, a Thrilla in Vanilla.
Anaheim and Minnesota did the same earlier in the day, as the Ducks beat the Wild 1-0 in two overtimes. Thus television executives face the prospect of this ratings catastrophe: a Stanley Cup final between teams from Ottawa and St. Paul. Or, even more perverse, between East Rutherford and Anaheim: Not-Quite-New York versus Not-Exactly-L.A.
Of course, most of us live in such places, the cities Sinatra never sang about. Senators center Shaun Van Allen scored the game-winning goal in overtime on Saturday night and said afterward, "As a kid growing up playing road hockey in Saskatchewan, you dream of scoring the game-winning goal in overtime. This is one of the best feelings I've ever had in my life."
It was also his daughter Hayley's seventh birthday. In that moment, in that arena, the feeling was unmistakable: Ottawa, Ontario, was the center of the universe.