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Memories of heated rivalries hit new Ottawa Senators coach Travis Green

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As Travis Green stood near the Ottawa Senators bench, memories from more than two decades ago came flooding back.

While playing for the Toronto Maple Leafs, Green, who was introduced as the Senators’ new head coach on Wednesday, was part of what was then a heated Battle for Ontario.

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Maple Leafs vs. Senators.

There was hostility. Fury. High intensity fighting. Hit hard. Fights. It was-see hockey. Every time.

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The fanbases ate it up.

On March 4, 2003, Green found himself in the middle of the battle. Just over seven minutes into the third period, Green was assessed a charging penalty for a hit on Senators defenseman Shane Hnidy. Before heading to the penalty box, he skated to the Ottawa bench and pointed to Chris Neil. A few seconds later, Toronto’s Darcy Tucker launched himself fist-first at Neil.

The fans at the then-Corel Center went crazy when Neil, who was on the bench, and Tucker got into it. Tucker, who then fought with Hnidy on the ice, received 42 minutes of penalties: three misconducts, two fighting majors and a minor for incitement. Irate Leafs coach Pat Quinn hit behind Toronto’s bench with a stick.

And now the shoe is on the other foot. The intensity of the provincial rivalry may be just a flicker compared to what it was. But Groen is now with the senators. And the Leafs… well, the Leafs are still the Leafs and are still on the much-despised list of most Ottawa fans.

During Green’s press conference on Wednesday, Green was asked about his memories of the “incident.”

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“I thought the question would come up, especially because when I was on the plane (coming to Ottawa on Tuesday), about eight people had sent me video clips,” he said. “The first person I meet at the rink is Chris Neil. Then Chris Phillips comes around the corner and I start having nightmares again.

We apologize, but this video has failed to load.

“I go back to those games, there were a lot of passionate players on both teams. I was on the couch today and I remember almost sitting on the couch that night. Those were fun times.

“Getting those videos and being on the bench today really resonated with what we’re going to try to build to get here. It is a passionate city. They want a winner. And I’m exactly the same.”

That, for those who don’t know much about Green, is him as a coach in a nutshell.

Fiery. Competitive. Demanding.

Being a demanding coach doesn’t always mean blowing the paint off the walls by shouting F-bombs. Hold the players accountable, but read the room. Be tough, but also be willing to show empathy.

“I am steadfast, I am just a demanding coach who wants the best from my players,” he said. “I want to push them to get the best out of themselves, I want to utilize their potential. But I also want to work with them and help them understand what that is. I don’t see myself as a tough coach. I consider myself a coach who wants to make my players the best they can be individually, and that together is going to make us the best we can be.

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“Being a demanding coach doesn’t always mean shouting or excluding a player. There are times when good players lose confidence and they need a coach who won’t look at them in a negative way. Being a demanding coach can be done in many different ways. You find out what the player needs to get the most out of himself. I am very proud to be such a coach.”

During his NHL journey, which began as a player from 1992-2007 and then continued as a head coach in 2017, the 53-year-old Green has learned a lot about the do’s and don’ts of coaching.

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“I was a player who was moved around quite a bit, so I had a lot of different coaches: Al Arbour, Pat Quinn, Paul Maurice, Randy Carlyle. I’ve learned things from watching, but I’m also my own coach. I have developed my own way.

“It’s hard when you coach and lose, there’s nothing worse. Coaching is not for everyone. It can be frustrating, that comes with the territory. But there are also good times.

“I love hockey. I love coaching. You hope your players see how much you love it. I care. I come (to Ottawa) and I know what it means to coach in Canada. I know how much the people in Ottawa want to win and I’m going to give everything I can to push this team… and when I say push, I mean develop. I’m going to push and demand to make this team a winning team that everyone can be proud of. “I want to win a Stanley Cup and I’m going to push this team to get to that place.”

And maybe he can beat the Maple Leafs.

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