Phillips impact player on, off ice
Career Senator a pillar of community, Ottawa blue line
|Defenceman Chris Phillips remains a steadying force on the Senators blue line as he enters his 12th NHL season in the capital (Photo by John Russell/NHLI via Getty Images).|
Eleven seasons later, the veteran defenceman remains a stalwart on the blue line of the only National Hockey League team he has ever known. As he embarks into his 12th campaign with the Ottawa Senators, the native of Fort McMurray, Alta., knows well enough to keep counting his many blessings.
“I’m pretty fortunate to have been here this long now,” said Phillips, 31. “There were certainly points in my career, during trade deadlines, where my name was thrown around. One year, I thought I was traded. My wife (Erin) called me and she thought we were moving.
“But luckily, nothing has happened and I’ve been able to be here for a long time. It feels like home, for sure.”
Phillips has certainly come a long way since the Senators made him the No. 1 overall pick in the 1996 NHL Entry Draft. A year later, he slid into a spot on the team’s blue line as a 19-year-old and has been a fixture there ever since.
Adjusting to life in Ottawa came rather easily and he credits the people in the Senators organization and the city for making it that way.
“You get here and right away, you’re welcomed with open arms by older guys on the team,” said Phillips. “I lived with Wade Redden in a house in Kanata where our neighbours were baking us pies and cookies. We got treated really well right from the start. It certainly makes that transition a lot easier.”
Phillips considers it important to give back to the city he now calls home.
“When you see the difference that it does make and the impact we have in changing people’s lives… it’s hard to fathom we have that ability,” he said.
Phillips also learned quickly about the connection between his hockey team and its fans. His first season in Ottawa saw the eighth-seeded Senators stun the New Jersey Devils for their first Stanley Cup playoff triumph.
“I’ll never forget how loud it was in the rink that night and driving downtown,” Phillips said of the Game 6 victory that ousted that Devils. “If you didn’t know better or weren’t a fan of the game, you would have thought we’d already won the Stanley Cup. Seeing that opened your eyes to how badly they want this team to succeed.”