Caitlin Neil, the wife of the rugged Ottawa Senators winger, gave birth to a six pound 10 ounce daughter, Hailey Gena, at 11:05 on Friday night – smack in the middle of the Stanley Cup final against the Anaheim Ducks.
“It was an exciting day,” said Neil. “You sit around. Your wife does all the work, but it’s unbelievable.”
The baby was due on June 19, a day after Neil’s 28th birthday, but due to complications he opted not to discuss, the birth was induced. Happily, it was on an off-day for the team ahead Game 3 of the best-of-seven series on Saturday night.
Another plus was that it happened with the team in Ottawa. Had the Senators been in Anaheim, Neil would likely have had to miss a game to return home or skip his child’s birth.
Instead, all he missed was a practice on Friday, which he made up by going over video with coaches and skating with the team on Saturday morning.
“That would have been a hard choice to make,” he said. “I would have made the right one, but it’s a decision I’m glad I didn’t have to make.
“I’m fortunate it came on a day off. The coaching staff and management have been great giving me the time away from the rink I needed. I’m back now ready to go, focused on the game.”
It remains to seen if a healthy addition to the Senators’ family will be a spark for a team put in a deep hole with a pair of losses in Anaheim to open the best-of-seven series.
“When you’re down 2-0, you look to a lot of things for inspiration or motivation,” said Neil’s linemate Chris Kelly. “If Neil having his first kid helps, great.
“Or like the Cleveland Cavaliers being down 2-0 and then leading Detroit 3-2 (in the NBA Eastern Conference final).”
Neil led the NHL in hits with 288 in the regular season and has kept it up in the playoffs, although his offensive production ground to a halt after posting a goal and two assists in the opening round against Pittsburgh.
He said the birth has not been a major distraction, however.
“I’m fortunate that I’ve got two exciting things going on in my life at the same time,” the Markdale, Ont., native said. “It’s hard to juggle them, but I’m capable of doing it.
“My wife has made it easier. She knows I’ve got to be here. It’s an important time for me as well. She’s been very supportive of it. She’s given me enough time to rest. She’s been a real trooper in this situation.”
He had high praise for the staff at Queensway Carleton Hospital, which has not been spared the Stanley Cup fever that has swept across the rest of the city.
“They had quite a few signs up in the hospital,” he said. “The vibe in the city is great.
“Everywhere you go, driving to the hospital, you see signs and flags. We know our city is behind us and that’s half the battle. I’m just glad everyone’s healthy, my wife and my baby. I’ve got another task right now.”