Zack Ostapchuk’s NHL debut with the Senators is special for his mom

Zack Ostapchuk’s mom left the family home in Vancouver and jumped on a flight to be in the rink to see him pull on the No. 38 jersey for his rookie lap and his first game.

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Summoned to head coach David Bell’s office in Belleville on Monday afternoon, Zack Ostapchuk wasn’t sure what to expect.

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“I thought my coach was pissed at me waving me over to his office,” the Ottawa Senators’ prospect centre said Tuesday morning.

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Fortunately, it was the call Ostapchuk had been waiting for since he was drafted No. 39 overall by the Senators in the 2021 NHL draft as Bell and Ottawa assistant GM Ryan Bowness delivered the news the 20-year-old would had been called up to the big leagues.

“You kind of don’t believe it for a couple of minutes and then it sets in when I called my mom (Charlene). That’s when I really realized that this has come true,” said Ostapchuk.

Delivering the news to Charlene that he’d make his National Hockey League debut against Sidney Crosby and the Pittsburgh Penguins on Tuesday night at the Canadian Tire Centre meant a lot to Ostapchuk.

A single mother, she made a lot of sacrifices along the way in his journey to get to the NHL. That’s why she left the family home in Vancouver and jumped on a flight to be in the rink to see Ostapchuk pull on the No. 38 jersey for his rookie lap and his first game.

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“My dream as a little kid is coming true tonight,” said Ostapchuk. “It’s a really special moment for me and my mom. I was really glad I could share that with her. I think she was a little surprised at first and then I think she got a little bit choked up and so did I.

“It was a pretty emotional call when I was thinking about it afterwards. I was just thanking her for everything she’s done for me and helping me to get to this point. I’m just thankful that she can be here.”

Charlene had to make sacrifices along the way after Ostapchuk’s father passed away when Zack was 14 years old.

“She’s a single mom so she always brought me to the rink, she was always up early and she was my one form of transportation,” Ostapchuk said. “I can’t thank her enough. She always took care of me, always made me believe that this could come true and she really pushed that into me.”

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Zack Ostapchuk's mom, Charlene, speaks to TSN's Claire Hanna on Tuesday, March 12, 2024, as he makes his NHL debut with the Ottawa Senators.
Zack Ostapchuk’s mom, Charlene, speaks to TSN’s Claire Hanna on Tuesday, March 12, 2024, as he makes his NHL debut with the Ottawa Senators. Photo by Bruce Garrioch /Postmedia

After wrapping up his Western Hockey League career with the Winnipeg Ice after four seasons with the Vancouver Giants, Ostapchuk has had a solid rookie campaign with the American Hockey League. He has 13 goals and 22 points in 56 games in Belleville and has been reliable.

“The goal coming into camp was to get a least a game here. I thought I could play at this level,” Ostapchuk said. “It’s just really cool.”

The Senators recalled Ostapchuk after centre Rourke Chartier became the latest player added to the club’s injury list. He suffered an upper-body injury Saturday against the San Jose Sharks and is out at least a week.

Winger Parker Kelly served the second game of his two-game ban for a hit to the head of Andreas Englund in Los Angeles on Thursday. The plan was to use Ostapchuk in a third-line role.

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“It’s always something special to play your first game in the NHL,” interim coach Jacques Martin said.

Asked what advice he’d give Ostapchuk, Martin said, “Don’t just change anything. Play within your strengths, play your game and just be yourself.”

This game won’t mean much in the standings for the Senators, but it will sure mean a lot to Ostapchuk.


The challenge will be as difficult for Senators centre Josh Norris mentally as it will be physically after the club announced Monday he underwent a third surgery on his left shoulder last week in Vail, Colo.

TSN colour analyst Mike Johnson had three shoulder surgeries before he hung up his skates after suiting up with the Cologne Sharks in Germany in 2008-09 in his final season.

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The 49-year-old is hopeful that once Norris has cleared all the hurdles in his recovery he’ll be able to get his career on track. Norris has suited up for only 183 games in his NHL career and only 58 games over the last two seasons.

“He’s only 24 years old, and you wonder how damaged the shoulder socket is and how much repair they can do,” Johnson said Monday. “But you’ve got to give it a chance. It’s all you can do.”

Johnson said this would be a difficult time for Norris.

“This is devastating and it would be so hard for him,” Norris said. “The surgery is tough, the rehab is very painful and long. We’re talking four to six months. He just wants to live a normal life, he wants to play, train normally in the summer, he wants to play golf and hang with his buddies.

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“Now, it’s another six months of going to a rehab centre and not being normal. It’s brutal, it’d be the hardest part and it’s tough mentally just to stay with it.”

The Senators were also without defenceman Thomas Chabot for the third straight game after he limped off the ice last Wednesday in the final minute of the club’s 4-1 loss to the Anaheim Ducks.

Blueliner Travis Hamonic was on the ice in a non-contact jersey for the first time since he was injured Feb. 27 against the Nashville Predators.

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