So what did Ottawa Senators owner Eugene Melnyk tell us over the weekend?
Melnyk has no intention of selling the team. That said, he could move his $450-million franchise (and he emphasized it is a very limited asset). But that would happen if Ottawa became a “disaster” for the economic well-being of the team. Does 13,000 in the stands constitute a disaster for a New York Rangers game recently? No. Continual attendance of 13,000 probably would be a disaster.
And don’t forget his $450-million franchise would be worth a lot more in other markets other than perhaps Quebec City.
Melnyk says he has alternative if the LeBreton site doesn’t work out. He could remain in Kanata for eight or nine years and make that location more appealing. He could move the team to other downtown locations. Or out of town.
The owner says moving downtown has some disadvantages … he has loyal fans in Kanata who might not move with the team to LeBreton … that locating in the core moves him closer to federal employees who can neither accept free tickets or give them away.
That said, it’s highly unlikely that Melnyk went to all the work of being part of a LeBreton bid to simply forget about it and stay in Kanata. Sounds like a bargaining position.
As well, Melnyk is very disappointed with the fans who are not coming out to Kanata to see a team that was one goal away in double overtime to reaching the Stanley Cup finals. So he should be. That badly injured team last year put in a stupendous effort to get as far as they did. Seeing Erik Karlsson play poorly now after surgery on his foot tells you how badly he was hurt last year during the playoffs. His performance last season was remarkable. Give his injuries, right in there with the Leafs Bobby Baun goal scored on a broken leg.
One would think that playoff performance would translate into tickets sold. Exactly the opposite and that speaks volumes about Ottawa as an NHL market. As a Rough Rider GM said once, Ottawans wouldn’t buy a ticket if a Ticketmaster were next door.
So what is the future of the Senators? In a market without large corporations, with a huge federal government that can’t receive or give away free tickets, with a team that performed superbly last year and with one of the most exciting players in the world (a shoe-in for the hall of fame), fans aren’t coming to the games.
And did Melnyk provide an answer to his attendance problems over the weekend? No. The downtown location has advantages and disadvantages, we know the problems in Kanata and choosing a non-LeBreton site downtown is risky.
No good solutions are apparent to keeping the team in Ottawa over the long haul.
So the future, sadly, of the Senators could be just dying on the vine over the years in Kanata with a U.S. city as an eventual location.
This happened in Winnipeg and the Senators situation looks very similar.
So what did Melnyk tell us?
He is mildly unhappy with the fans ticket-buying response this year and he will move the team if the financial situation reaches a “disaster” level.
Nothing in business is forever.
Too many Ottawans think the team is here because it is here. That can change very quickly.
Melnyk is not running a charity. This is not government. He is running a business. And if the business doesn’t work, he must take remedial action. That’s what any smart entrepreneur does.
And the owner has said that could mean moving the team. Melnyk has put the city on notice.
Now it’s up to the residents of this community to respond … or not.
The famous Bobby Baun goal on a broken ankle in the 1964 playoffs.
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