With the NHL on pause Senators’ fans are wondering if they’ve seen the last of Craig Anderson in an Ottawa uniform.
Turning 39, May 31, the veteran netminder is a pending free agent. With goalies Anders Nilsson and Marcus Hogberg locked up for next season, Anderson’s days with the club appear to be coming to an end.
And with the unknown ahead, it’s unfortunate Anderson may not receive the send-off he glowingly deserves. If Anderson does move on, and it’s highly likely, the South Florida resident will leave as the Senators’ franchise leader in regular season games played by a goalie (435), wins (202) and second in shutouts (28) to Patrick Lalime.
However, if the 17-year NHL vet is thinking about retirement during this time away from the rink, he’s not letting on.
“I think right now, there’s been a lot of time on our hands to get back into the family thing. I haven’t put much time into thinking future plans. I’m trying to stay in the moment, in the now so-to-speak – kind of focus on the what-ifs what we’re kind of going through now in the current season,” Anderson said on a Zoom teleconference call Wednesday. “We’ll cross that bridge down the road, but right now I miss the game like crazy. I want to be on the ice. I want to be with my teammates. Right now that’s what I’m leaning to, that’s what I want to do every day.”
Craig Anderson Career with Ottawa
When that day comes, it’s totally unknown, but Anderson is still hopeful it comes soon enough. And he’s onboard to continue to play hockey in any way the league sees fit.
“I think we’re all hoping for the same result. We all want to get back playing, do what we’re supposed to be doing on a normal day-to-day basis. I can’t say with any confidence one way or other, but we’re definitely hopeful we do get back to normalcy and able to get back to finish the season.”
“I think right now everyone is looking to watch something on TV. You’ve seen Nascar and Indy Car and whatnot jump into the virtual world. We don’t have that luxury of being able to play the sport as a video game. I think we’re open to anything. I think that we can get a lot of fan base to tune in if you’re able to go to a National broadcast with a game of hockey,” explained Anderson. “I think myself as well as other players, I’m sure they’re all in for it just because it gets us back to our normal everyday routine of doing what we love to do. It also gives our fan base a game that they can tune into. It gives them something to do at home – kind of break up the monotony of this quarantine.”
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One thing is for certain, with two young boys, life hasn’t been monotonous for Anderson since driving to his Florida residence from Ottawa a couple of days after returning from the Senators’ California trip March 12.
“Pretty much every day is spent educating the kids. They’ve got multiple Zoom calls with their schoolteachers, and get a whole bunch of assignments. I’ve picked up some duties that way as far being a stay-at-home educator with the boys.”
Anderson has also taken his forced-downtime to catch up with his hobby of sim racing.
The racing enthusiast has become a hit online with fans tuning in to his races.
“The sim racing is something I’m pretty passionate about. It kind of evolves from actual being on track and real racing. It is a virtual world. It’s a lot less expensive, a lot safer – at the same time it’s still competitive. You’ve got millions of people playing it. It’s kind of something to focus your energy on. I use that time when I do get into the sim to focus into performance-based or getting better based, whatever you want to call it,” the goalie told Full Press NHL.
— Craig Anderson (@CraigAnderson41) April 14, 2020
Anderson is making Thursday and Saturday evenings a go-to online. The goalie races virtually with Calabogie Motorsport Park drivers Thursdays and competes with fellow sim drivers Saturdays via Apex V2R, an Ottawa-based company. Anderson also takes part in team-based endurance events.
Car racing at some level, whether virtual or otherwise is something Anderson will ponder when the end of the line actually occurs. He’s been involved with autosport as long as he can remember, spending time at race tracks with his dad and brother.
“It comes down to time. We’ve put so much time and effort into hockey that I do owe it to my family when I do retire, I give back to them in that way. So it’s going to become a balancing act as to how much time I can get away from the family to do sim racing or actual motorsport.”
However for the now, having put his own game on pause previously while his wife, Nicholle was undergoing chemotherapy, Anderson insists he’ll be ready to once again don the pads if the NHL gets the green light to hit the ice.
“I think it’s a mental battle. You just have to force yourself to go through it. If we get to the point where we do get back to play, I think I’ve been through it enough. I went through taking some time off with my wife (Nicholle) and bouncing back. It comes down to a mindset. As far as staying sharp, I try to do off-ice exercise to try to stay in shape, different hand-eye coordination stuff. Anything you kind of do that involves hand-eye coordination, your balance, your control, is going to be helpful going forward. Again it’s too early to tell which way it’s going to go, but you want to be ready in the event you have to get it going.”
When he asked if he put any thought if his game in Los Angeles March 11 was the last game played in a Senators sweater, Anderson didn’t want to dwell on it.
“It’s hard to say. We’re in an unprecedented area we never expected. I’m kind of rolling with it right now, let the chips fall where they may. I’m hopeful we are going to play, finish off the rest of the year. It’s out of my control. If it was something that maybe I did, and screwed things up for myself I’d be in a different mode. Right now I’m not too concerned about it. I don’t want to put too much energy into that kind of stuff.”
Though when prompted, Anderson offered up a few career highlights with Ottawa.
“If we sit and back and reflect, games that come to mind – the one obviously for everyone knows is the game in Edmonton. The best time I had in Ottawa was the playoff runs. We had a couple of great series, a couple of great games, Pittsburgh at home was one – obviously our run to the Conference Final. Our fan base was absolutely electric, dynamic come playoff time. That was something we kind of equally looked forward to. We were equally disappointed in ourselves as we our fans when didn’t make the playoffs.”
If Anderson does skate into the sunset or leave for another shot closer to home, he has faith the organization is trending in the right direction.
“I see the future is bright. We’ve got many, many good pieces that are young, energetic, good leaders, guys that are willing to put in the work, do it the right way. They’re just going to drag along the other guys that are kind of on the fence. The future is bright. You’ve got to add a few more pieces to what we have. All great teams go through times when they’re not very good. Then they get good pieces and they build around those pieces. It’s a matter of getting the right pieces in place. I feel with the young guys we’ve got there, they’re the ones that are going to have to take this bull by the horn and run with it. I’m pretty confident in the guys that we have. I’m kind of excited, but also kind of sad on my end, because by the time we add all the pieces, I’ll be well out of the league.”