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Love of the Game: Die-hard Sens fan from England travels to Ottawa for playoffs

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OTTAWA - Ravi Patni isn't your average Ottawa Senators fan.

Before last weekend, he had never seen them play in person or ever set foot in the city they call home.

But the 26-year-old doctor from England decided that needed to change when his favourite team qualified for this year's Stanley Cup playoffs.

Patni bought tickets to Games 3 and 4 of the series against the Montreal Canadiens, hopped on a plane and travelled more than 5,000 kilometres from London to Canada's capital — by himself.

"I am a massive fan of the Sens and I have been for the last five years, ever since they made the Stanley Cup finals," Patni said outside a festive Scotiabank Place prior to Game 4 of the first-round series. "I just love the Sens, I came all the way from London for the Sens — absolutely a huge fan."

So what brought a surgeon, who grew up not far from London's Wembley Stadium and supports Chelsea of England's Premier League, across the Atlantic Ocean for an all-Canadian NHL playoff matchup involving a Senators team that has only been in existence since 1992?

"I just love their brand of hockey. They're physical, they've got skill players, Daniel Alfredsson is an absolute legend, and I just love the way that they play," Patni said. "I'm just really passionate about the game. There's no other game that I prefer to watch in the world and there's no other team I prefer to watch than the Sens."

Patni, who often stays up past midnight to watch Senators games online because of the five-hour time difference, says immigration officials at Ottawa's Macdonald-Cartier International Airport didn't believe his reason for the visit at first: "They made me show them my tickets to the games."

Ottawa wasn't Patni's first road trip to see NHL hockey. He visited Prague in 2009 to watch the league's regular-season games in the Czech Republic, but adds that the atmosphere of a Canadian arena in the playoffs is a whole other experience.

"When I go back, I'm going to tell people about the 6-1 game (Ottawa's fight-filled Game 3 victory) and how incredible an experience it is in Scotiabank Place. I don't think there's a better live experience in the world," Patni said. "I've been to many events. I've been to football matches back home and I would say the hockey experience is much better."

He says that friends and family don't quite understand his love for a team that most of them have never heard of.

"In London hockey is not exactly the most popular sport ... but I try to convince most of my friends because I believe it's the best sport in the world," Patni said, adding with a laugh. "I prefer hockey to soccer, but don't tell too many of my friends that.

"My parents think I'm mad, my friends think I'm mad, but it's all for the love of the game."

Patni says the people he met in Ottawa were friendly and welcoming to a fan with strange accent.

"I've had a great time ... I've already made loads of friends just from talking to people and people picking up that I'm from out of town," he said. "I partied on the Sens Mile after (Game 3) and it's been really, really good."

Patni had to make sure his work schedule allowed him to attend his first games in Ottawa, but he adds that a long playoff run could mean a return visit this June.

"I'm going to try an convert as many people as I can back home," he said with a grin. "I hope that the Sens make the finals, and if they make the finals, I want to come back."

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