Craig Anderson signed on the dotted line one last time.
The winningest goaltender in franchise history pulled on his legendary No. 41 jersey one last time Tuesday at the Canadian Tire Centre after signing a one-day contract to retire as a member of the Ottawa Senators.
“I didn’t announce a retirement because I wanted to be a Senator again,” said an emotional Anderson, fighting back tears. “I never wanted to leave. I felt this place was home for me and my family.
“To be here today, there’s no certainties in life, and to be here today and to end everything this way, it’s just a storybook ending.”
Anderson, 42, accompanied by general manager Pierre Dorion was part of a signing ceremony in the morning at the rink and was accompanied by his family for a ceremonial puck drop before the Senators hosted the Buffalo Sabres at the Canadian Tire Centre on Tuesday night.
It was a fitting way for Anderson to officially wrap up his career after leading the Sabres to a 4-3 overtime victory over the Senators on April 13 in Buffalo to close out last season.
“The final game was Buffalo against Ottawa and you just couldn’t have written a better story,” Anderson said. “There’s no way if you took a pen and paper out that you could have written it that way. Everything happens for a reason and there’s a reason why things played out the way they did.
“I feel like when things happen, you make adjustments, you reflect and my year was the way it was supposed to be.”
Dorion and Anderson were all smiles as they signed the deal and it meant a lot to both sides for him to be able to close this chapter of his life. Just for good measure, Dorion noted to Anderson’s longtime Chicago-based agent that there wouldn’t be any signing bonus in this deal.
“He gave us a lot of great hockey, even when we weren’t very good, and he allowed us to win games,” Dorion said.
Anderson spent 10 years in the club’s net after being acquired from the Colorado Avalanche by the late Bryan Murray in Feb., 2011 in exchange for Brian Elliott. Looking to solve the club’s goaltending issues, Murray wanted to see what Anderson could accomplish and it was a match made in heaven.
He finished as the club’s all-time leader in games played with 435 while Anderson posted a 202-168-46 record. He posted a 2.84 goals-against average and a .914 save percentage. Those 202 victories with Ottawa may stand for a long time because Patrick Lalime is second with 146.
Anderson skated in 40 playoff games in his career with Ottawa and the fondest memory will be the long run to the Eastern Conference final against the Pittsburgh Penguins in 2017 before the club’s heartbreaking Game 7 loss. He had a .922 save percentage and 2.34 GAA in the post-season.
Anderson said his last year in Colorado was so bad he feared that his career may be over and the Senators saved him.
“It was a very trying season and the year before everything went perfectly. Nothing went right and everything that could go wrong was going wrong,” said Anderson, who battled with the Avs new goalie coach. “He and I went at it a few times, arguing over goals against and style of play. It ended up being a negative season. I needed a fresh start.
“Between my agent and Bryan Murray, we were able to find a new home. There’s not many times in this game you are have for a second first impression. I was fortunate to have that opportunity and not a lot of players do. There was a point that year I didn’t know if I was going to play another season.”
Those are pretty impressive numbers for a guy who had to battle the odds to make it to the NHL in the first place. Originally selected by the Calgary Flames No. 77 overall in 1999, he wasn’t signed and re-entered the draft in 2001 before being selected by the Chicago Blackhawks.
This was just a chance for him to say goodbye to the city where he enjoyed many highlights. The Senators decided not to bring him back at the end of the 2019-20 campaign that was shortened because of the pandemic.
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“The fans here were second to none,” Anderson said. “Ottawa was home for me and spending pretty much the majority of my career here, it wasn’t just a privilege, it was a treat. This town is a hockey town, that allows you to be yourself.
“It allows you to come and go and you light up so many dreams and so many kids when you live in this town when you’re out there playing street hockey with them or see them at the grocery stores. It’s just a warm, welcoming town.”
Anderson’s final game with the Senators was March 11, 2020, when he skated off the ice after a 3-2 loss to the Los Angeles Kings. Yes, the end of his Ottawa career came in Hollywood, but that wasn’t the way Anderson or the Senators wanted it to end.
“I was very fortunate to have people who believed in me to get to this point,” Anderson said. “Calling your own shot? You can call it whatever you want but at the end of the day you’ve got to have someone supporting you.”