According to a team release during their game Tuesday night against the Vancouver Canucks, the Ottawa Senators are retiring forward Chris Neil’s number 25 on February 17, 2023, in a game against the Chicago Blackhawks.
Neil shattered expectations as a sixth-round pick, dressing in over 1,000 games – all with the Senators. His career totals of 112 goals, 138 assists, and 250 points aren’t really retired number material, but that was never the focal point of Neil’s game. His 2,522 career penalty minutes mark his enforcing playstyle, and only he and former New Jersey Devil Ken Daneyko have over 1,000 games played and 2,500 penalty minutes while spending their entire career with a single franchise.
Admittedly, it’s a rare occurrence to see an enforcer gifted with the honor of a retired number. Careers with Neil’s resume are usually destined for accolades such as an organizational Hall of Fame or ring of honor. But Neil’s bruising game was a hallmark of the team’s most successful stretch in franchise history throughout the 2000s, providing energy on and off the ice every night. He remains a notable off-ice presence in the Ottawa community since retiring in 2017.
General manager Pierre Dorion released a statement on Neil’s number retirement:
Chris was a team-first player, a physical presence who never backed down from a challenge. He earned his place every single day through hard work and dedication; he was the ultimate character player and wore the Senators sweater with as much or more pride than any other player in this team’s history.