Neil with the Ottawa Senators in 2013
June 18, 1979|
Flesherton, Ontario, Canada
|Height||6 ft 1 in (185 cm)|
|Weight||208 lb (94 kg; 14 st 12 lb)|
|Played for||Ottawa Senators|
161st overall, 1998|
Chris Neil (born June 18, 1979) is a Canadian former professional ice hockey right winger. Neil was originally drafted in the sixth round, 161st overall, in the 1998 NHL Entry Draft by the Ottawa Senators, and played his entire NHL career with the Senators organization.
Neil started out playing minor hockey in the town of Flesherton, Ontario. He later played for the Grey-Bruce Highlanders of the South-Central Triple A Hockey League before getting his junior start with the Junior "B" Orangeville Crushers.
He then played three successful major junior seasons with the Ontario Hockey League (OHL)'s North Bay Centennials. In his final junior season in North Bay, Neil had a career year and gave an indication that he could be more than merely a physical presence, amassing 72 points in 66 games.
Neil was drafted by the Senators in the sixth round, 161st overall, of the 1998 NHL Entry Draft. Ottawa management prized his toughness and work ethic and saw Neil as a player who would potentially fill a much needed role on the team for years to come. Neil spent two seasons with Ottawa's then-American Hockey League (AHL) affiliate, the Grand Rapids Griffins, where he posted back-to-back seasons of 300+ penalty minutes and established himself as a solid team player at the professional level.
Leading up to the 2001-02 season, Neil had a strong training camp and made the Ottawa line-up. He made his NHL debut on October 3, 2001, against the Toronto Maple Leafs. The next night, he recorded his first NHL point in a game against the Montreal Canadiens. On October 30, he scored his first NHL goal, against the Atlanta Thrashers. In his rookie season, Neil appeared in 72 games and scored 17 points, while accumulating 231 penalty minutes and establishing himself as a fearless combatant.
The 2005-06 season saw Neil's role with the Senators expand. When Brian McGrattan made the Ottawa line-up out of training camp, much of the responsibilities as "team enforcer" were lifted off Neil's shoulders, and he was given the opportunity to contribute in a more offensive role. He responded, and posted the best offensive totals of his NHL career with 16 goals and 33 points. The following season, Neil posted similar numbers with 12 goals and 28 points while leading the NHL in hits. The coaching staff rewarded him with special teams assignments, and he received regular power play shifts.
As the 2007-08 season unfolded, Brian McGrattan saw very limited ice time, and Neil was once again called upon to act as the Senators' enforcer and primary physical presence on many nights. As a result, his offensive production declined, though he did finish the season with a respectable 20 points.
Neil had a disappointing 2008-09 season, registering only ten points, his lowest total since his rookie season, and the Senators missed the Stanley Cup playoffs for the first time during his tenure in Ottawa. After the season, Neil became an unrestricted free agent, and there was speculation that he would sign elsewhere. Instead, however, he signed a four-year, $8 million contract with the Senators. Neil reportedly received offers from three other clubs, but ended up accepting less money to remain in Ottawa.
The 2011-12 season was a good one for both Neil and the Senators. During the regular season, Neil registered 13 goals and 28 points in 72 games, his best offensive totals since 2006-07. Picked by many analysts to finish at or near the bottom of the standings, the Senators made the 2012 playoffs and came within one game of upsetting the first-seeded New York Rangers in the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals. In the series, Neil knocked forward Brian Boyle out of the series with a hit in Game 5 that inflicted a concussion on the player. After the season, after enforcers Matt Carkner and Zenon Konopka departed Ottawa via free agency, the Senators subsequently re-signed Neil to a three-year contract worth $5.75 million.
During the 2012-13 NHL lock-out, Neil elected not to play in Europe, as several of his teammates did, and instead remained in Ottawa and practised with the Carleton Ravens, who were coached by his ex-Senators teammate Shaun Van Allen.
Acknowledging his leadership role with the organization, the Senators named Neil an alternate captain on September 14, 2013. He scored his 100th career regular season NHL goal on January 23, 2014, against Ben Bishop of the Tampa Bay Lightning.
As the 2014-15 season unfolded, Neil was hampered by a hamstring injury that kept him out of the line-up for several games, and he recorded just four goals and seven points in his first 38 games. As the team slipped out of the 2015 playoff picture, General Manager Bryan Murray approached Neil to gauge his willingness to accept a trade to a contending team; Neil indicated that he would prefer to stay in Ottawa, though trade rumours persisted and he saw his role diminish under new head coach Dave Cameron. As many as ten teams reportedly contacted Murray to inquire about Neil's availability as the NHL trade deadline approached. On February 14, 2015, the trade rumours were quieted as Neil suffered a fractured thumb in a fight with Edmonton Oilers winger Luke Gazdic, and the Senators subsequently announced that he would be out of the Ottawa line-up indefinitely as a result.
On February 28, 2016, Neil signed a one-year, $1.5 million contract extension with the Senators to return for the 2016-17 season. Neil played in his 1000th NHL game on December 10, 2016, against the Los Angeles Kings in Los Angeles. Neil was then honored with a pregame ceremony prior to the Senators' December 14 home game against the San Jose Sharks.
In June 2017 it was announced that Neil and the Senators mutually separated due to Neil being displeased with his limited role under head coach Guy Boucher, allowing Neil to become an unrestricted free agent for the 2017-18 season.
On December 14, 2017, Neil announced his retirement from professional hockey.
Before Neil was married, he and fellow Senator Mike Fisher were roommates. The pair remained close friends to this day, and are both devout Christians. On June 1, 2007, Neil and his wife, Caitlin, celebrated the birth of their first child, Hailey Jean, weighing 6 lbs. and 10 ounces. In the next game, he scored a goal that he dedicated to her.
Neil counts Denis Savard as his favourite player growing up. He lists four-wheeling, boating and horseback riding as his favourite hobbies.
|1996-97||North Bay Centennials||OHL||65||13||16||29||150||--||--||--||--||--|
|1997-98||North Bay Centennials||OHL||59||26||29||55||231||--||--||--||--||--|
|1998-99||North Bay Centennials||OHL||66||26||46||72||215||4||1||0||1||15|
|1999-00||Grand Rapids Griffins||IHL||51||9||10||19||301||8||0||2||2||24|
|2000-01||Grand Rapids Griffins||IHL||78||15||21||36||354||10||2||2||4||22|