Local NHL star Chris Neil recently announced his retirement from the Ottawa Senators in December 2017. After a 15 year career in the NHL we here at home could not be more proud! Chris Neil was born in Markdale and was raised just outside Flesherton on his family’s farm. He first started out playing minor hockey in Flesherton. After this he played for the Grey Bruce Highlanders of the South-Central Triple A Hockey League. It was after this that he got his junior hockey start playing for the Orangeville Crushers. Chris made his way into the Ontario Hockey League where he played for three seasons with the North Bay Centennials. It was here that the scouts for Ottawa first spotted him. He then spent two seasons in Grand Rapids, Michigan where he soon came to the conclusion that the Ottawa Senators had enough skill, but what they needed was a little bit of grit to be winners. Chris figured that the quickest way into the NHL would be to come across as a two-way checker with some fortitude who was willing to take on anything that would come his way. It took him 133 games and 694 penalty minutes, but Chris’ dream was finally a reality when he took that leap into the NHL. Chris, at a height of 6’1” plays Right Wing and is known to play the role of enforcer, goon, and trash talker. Chris and his teammate Mike Fisher are most certainly popular with the fans for playing rough and trying their hardest. Neil worked hard, and he played hard and was nothing if not loyal. At 38 years old, Neil has retired after playing 1,086 NHL games all with the Ottawa Senators.
Throughout his career he managed to gain 250 points – 112 goals and 138 assists – and is the Senators’ all time penalty minutes leader with a whopping 2,522 total minutes in the box. (I did mention he had some grit behind him!) “Chris was a leader, a warrior and one of the toughest men to ever wear the jersey. He was a player that was always there for his teammates and a player feared by opposition,” says Ottawa Senators manager Pierre Dorion. Neil has said that although he had offers for other teams at the beginning of the season, he decided it was not a good fit. “I had been spoiled playing here in Ottawa as a Senator my whole entire career,” he said. Signing with another team “just didn’t feel right”. We here at home are beyond proud of all of Neil’s accomplishments and of how he has represented Flesherton and Grey County as a whole. Mayor of Grey Highlands Paul McQueen has also put forth the idea of renaming the Flesherton Arena after Chris Neil, if not a sign displaying that the arena is in Neil’s hometown. Although nothing has been decided, we will be sure to update once any decisions regarding this have been made. Congratulations on an amazing career Chris!