When it comes to the longest serving Ottawa Senator players of all-time, there’s a pretty clear Mount Rushmore. The first three are easy. It’s Chris Phillips (1179 games played), Daniel Alfredsson (1178) and Chris Neil (1026). They’re not only the exclusive members of Ottawa’s 1000 game club (career games played with the Sens), they all stayed in Ottawa after their careers to raise their families. Because of that, they’re never very far out of the Ottawa spotlight.
The 4th name on the mountain is Wade Redden (838 games played) who now makes his home in Kelowna, B.C. Redden would also hit the 1000 game mark in his career, bouncing from the Rangers to the Blues to the Bruins.
Today, Redden bounced back to the Senators, taking on the role of player development. He joined the team in time for the team’s annual development camp which begins.
“Wade’s addition is a significant one for our development staff,” said Senators general manager Pierre Dorion in a club press release. “He’ll be especially integral in helping mold our prospects on defence. A leader throughout his playing career, we know the same qualities will translate very well in this new role.”
Looking back on his own development as a great player in Ottawa, Redden really wasn’t originally in the Senators’ plans. At the 1995 NHL Draft, he was selected 2nd overall by the New York Islanders, one pick after Ottawa had taken Bryan Berard with the top pick. After Redden, the Islanders used a second-round pick to take some guy named D.J. Smith, now the Senators’ head coach.
Berard expected to make the Senators straight away and was discouraged when they sent him back to junior. So Berard asked Ottawa for a trade and the Sens obliged. They sent Berard to the Islanders in a three-way deal with Toronto that saw Redden roll into Ottawa.
Redden became a top player in Ottawa as the Senators made it to conference finals in 2003 and again in 2007, when the Sens got to their only Cup Final.
As part of the FACES 15th anniversary feature on the Senators’ only Stanley Cup Final appearance (now available in our current July/August issue), we had a wide-ranging conversation with Redden to find out what he’s been up to, leading up to his return to the NHL today.
So how are things going? Our readers would love to hear about Wade Redden’s life after hockey.
Well, I’m living in Kelowna, British Columbia. I’ve been here, I guess it’s been nine years. But full time now. I always had a place here in the summers. But now I’ve been nine years retired. Yeah, enjoying life. Things are good. I have three daughters. They’re happy and healthy so I’m busy keeping up with them these days. One will be 12, one will be 10, and one just turned 6. I’ve been coaching them in hockey so I’m still at the rink a bit.
What’s that been like? Most parents who coach their daughters in hockey seem to really enjoy what great students they are out on the ice. A neat experience, isn’t it?
Yeah, it is. You want to see them really enjoy it. My big thing with them is I want them to kind of take the lead, right? Obviously, you want to show them things, but when they figure things out, that’s when it’s really cool. They kind of take the bull by the horns and go with it.
The one thing I remember about that is Bryan Murray. I think before he began coaching hockey, he coached a high school girls basketball team. So, one day he’s doing our power play. It was me, Alfie, Spezz, Healtey and Chris Neil. And Murray says, “I used to coach a girls basketball team. You gotta be more like them. When I told them to do something, or stand here and make a play, they did it. They listen. You guys just go do whatever you want.”
I always remember that. It was funny. And it’s true.
What was it like playing for Bryan Murray?
Well, he came in there right after the lockout. I think he gave our group a pretty big boost. We had a good team and we’d been together awhile. I think he was just a different voice for us. I think that was his big thing too. I think of Jacques Martin, who was very detailed. As far as the Xs and Os, Jacques was really on top of that and we were a really disciplined team. Bryan came in with a little bit of a different approach, obviously. As a mature team at that point, he kind of opened the doors and let guys go. We had guys like Spezza, Heatley and Alfie, who really blossomed under that.
We still had that structure that we learned and developed over time. I think we just kind of used our instincts a little more and played a little bit of a different brand of hockey. Obviously, the game had changed by that time too. It opened up more. We had a good team and we won a lot of games. It was a lot of fun under Bryan. He had a great personality and sense of humour.
You recently worked with the Nashville Predators in player development. Can you tell us about that experience?
I did two years there a couple of years ago. Kids would get drafted and we’d follow their progress and work with them. I’d go on the road a bit. The Predators had a bunch of college kids at the time. We also had some kids out in Quebec that I was getting to work with. I was working with Scott Nichol who’s still doing the player development role but he’s also now the GM of the Milwaukee Admirals (Nashville’s farm club) and the assistant GM in Nashville. He was a buddy of mine from St. Louis who brought me in to help him with that.
I really enjoyed it. I guess you could call it coaching. Or maybe mentorship. You work with these kids and talk to them. Kids get to training camp now and they’re so comfortable. They’re at development camp, they’re at rookie camp, and by the time they get to main camp, they have the lay of the land by then. It was about easing them in to the process and into the Nashville Predators family – helping them on and off the ice.
Lots of talk here (in late June 2022) about the Sens adding to their hockey ops department this off-season. Is that something you’d ever consider or did you decide with Nashville it isn’t your thing?
I’m happy to hear they will be adding to hockey ops. I enjoyed that work, but the travel commitment was the factor for me. I would consider doing it again at some point.
Do you remember what the player development scene was like for you in the 90s after the Islanders drafted you?
I remember they had a guy that came to see me in Brandon. I got drafted (2nd overall in 1995) and went back there to play junior. They had a guy named Chris Pryor who worked with me and other prospects. I guess I was 19 by the time I got to Ottawa my first year. I still had a lot of maturing to do physically. It’s all part of the process.
It’s changed a lot since then, though. I remember being 18 years old and you’re still a boy. I feel like these kids now get to 18 and they’ve had four or five years of training and developing. They’re a little further ahead, a little more educated. You see guys step in and produce right away. It’s impressive to be around.
You’re now nine years in retirement. After devoting such a huge part of your life to playing hockey for 30 years, what was it like when you had to hang up the skates in 2013?
Well, I’m not going to lie. After all that time, it was kind of nice to be able to do other things. Take a trip and do this and do that. This is the time of year right now (during NHL playoffs) when you get to the playoffs and you see the excitement. This is what guys work for all year, to have this opportunity. So, these are the days you kind of miss being on the ice.
It’s those grinding January dog days that test every player, I’m sure. Those are the days you don’t miss.
When I look back at those days in Ottawa, I wouldn’t change those for anything. By the end, I’d been bouncing around a bit. I went to the minors and did all that. I was on a few different teams – your role’s different, you’re a little older and you’re not quite the same player. My kids were 3 and 1. There were a lot of great things going on in my life (away from the rink). I think I kind of realized that was it for me and so it was kind of an easy transition. I was so fortunate to have the career I did. I walked away and was at peace with it.
So many hockey fans grew up dreaming of playing in the NHL. They see all the money, fame and excitement. But do you think they fully understand the part of the job that truly is a “grind?”
Well, it’s like anything. It was the best of times; it was the worst of times. Glen Sather was the GM when I went to the Rangers. I remember him running a team meeting and he said, “There are only two things in hockey. There’s winning…and misery.”
Obviously, when you’re winning, everything is great and life is good. And when you’re not…well, you’re looking to get back to winning. But you have to enjoy all of it. You have to find the joy in it. We were lucky in Ottawa. Like I said, I look back on those days and it was so much fun. Because guys were committed and guys played together. We had a tight bond. Guys cared for each other. I think that’s what led to a lot of our successes. We were proud of those teams and what we were able to do.
Speaking of the glory days, which Ottawa Senators’ Conference Final team do you think was better? The 2003 or the 2007 team?
I’ve been asked that before. That is a tough question. The 2003 loss bites a little more. We won the President’s Trophy. We lost that Game 7 at home (vs New Jersey) in the dying minutes. I think everyone believed so much that year. It was such a good group. A tough loss to this day. But both teams were great. That 2007 series against Anaheim obviously didn’t go as well as it could have. Losing in five games, compared to a seven-game series. The ’03 one…we had such a deep team and strong group, that was the tough one.
One final off the page question. In your Ottawa days, you guys famously had to do your post game interviews while riding the stationary bikes. What did the guys think about that?
(Laughing) Oh, that was our trademark, wasn’t it? It’s funny. It became the butt of a few jokes. But it wasn’t a big deal at all. Guys that played less had to do sprints so that was a little tougher. But yeah, conditioning was a huge part of our success. I arrived in 1996 and Jacques was ahead of the curve. He had trainer Lorne Goldenberg in the first couple of years. It was all science-based and they felt like this was the best thing for us, to keep us feeling better. It just became a routine. You needed it almost to keep your legs feeling better. It was just funny that kind of became our thing.
That may well be true. But the Senators’ real thing in those days was winning and Wade Redden was a huge part of it. His return to the organization today is yet another positive development for the club.
By Steve Warne | Faces Magazine