Ottawa Senators owner Eugene Melnyk is playing nice with Mayor Jim Watson. That’s a bad idea.
Melnyk wants a new arena at LeBreton Flats for the survival of the most popular institution in Ottawa: his hockey team.
Your agent was talking with an old city hall hand on the weekend and this person is absolutely convinced that Watson will disappoint Melnyk. And there is every indication that the old hand is correct.
Melnyk and NHL commissioner Gary Bettman met with Watson and here’s how your agent guesses the conversation went. Very sweetly. Melnyk, Bettman and Watson turned on the charm (Watson’s most potent weapon) and everything will be fine they all said.
Don’t count on it. Don’t count on it at all.
What is the major competition for Lansdowne’s sports and entertainment events? Why the Canadian Tire Centre.
And isn’t it interesting that Watson has asked for sole authority from city council to negotiate a deal with Melnyk at LeBreton.
So Melnyk will be negotiating across the table from his major competitor over the future of a deal that would save the Senators. How does the Senators’ owner think that will turn out?
Watson wants Lansdowne to succeed because the city gets (some day) revenue from that development. And the city favours Lansdowne … you can see it in their press releases and the municipality even tried to use the communications department to work with the city’s “partner”. That’s the press release’s language, not your agent’s.
Furthermore, look at the history. The city denied Melnyk a Major League Soccer franchise through rejecting his stadium. The city didn’t even let Melnyk and his partners bid on a casino after Watson said he would. Melnyk was furious at Watson and took his correct case to the media, calling Watson down like a dog.
Once you cross Watson, there’s no going back. Watson will charm you to sleep. Then he’ll exact his revenge. That’s how the man works.
Your agent has seen it: two blacklists … of press releases to The Bulldog and no city advertising in this publication for five years. Why? Because this website is critical of Watson. It’s not right but right has nothing to do with it. It’s about Watson and that’s all that matters.
Watson hates The Bulldog and your agent. Simple as that. And Watson hates Melnyk for trashing him after the ridiculous casino decision. Watson especially hates it when he gets criticized when he is wrong. His Worship is never wrong.
Melnyk has other strikes against him:
- The Senators owner isn’t a part of the Ottawa old boys network. The old boys network is one of the main supporters of Watson’s election campaigns;
- Melnyk is at the top of his field. Watson doesn’t like that because His Worship should be at the top of his field … politics. Instead he is the mayor of Ottawa. He’s jealous;
- Melnyk owns a team in the best hockey league in the world. Watson is a partner in Lansdowne that features a major junior hockey team, a tier 2 soccer team and a tier 2 football league;
- Watson hates the National Capital Commission. The mayor has made a career of trashing the NCC;
- Does Melnyk think Watson wants the NCC to one up him? The LeBreton project would outshine Watson’s Lansdowne;
- Watson doesn’t want the CTC downtown where it can compete with Lansdowne just through proximity. Downtown gets Melnyk more fans from the Quebec side and the east end. It gets him more people to concerts and other events. And one wonders if the new arena will have space for small conventions. That’s a Lansdowne specialty;
- Remember Watson said not a dollar of city money will go into a new Senators arena. Hmm. Who paid for that new football stadium and arena at Lansdowne?
Being nice to the King of Charm is not about to work for Melnyk. The Senators owner needs to get his message out to the media. The survival of the city’s most popular institution is in jeopardy if the Sens can’t get an arena at LeBreton. Tell tell a couple of hundred thousand Senators fans. Those people like the Sens much more than Watson.
Melnyk needs to kick Watson where it hurts. In the votes. That will get the mayor’s attention. It will scare Watson into giving Melnyk anything he wants. Nice doesn’t work with Watson. Playing hardball does.
The owner accomplishes that through a big PR campaign right now. A downtown arena is beneficial to Ottawa. The Senators are the biggest booster of this city’s image.
Get your message out to your fans, Eugene Melnyk. You’ve got a good story to tell (a winning story, too). Make sure your supporters know it. Make sure Watson understands the voters of Ottawa know it.
Ensure that the people of Ottawa are aware that Watson is the person who can kill the LeBreton arena.
If he does that, Melnyk will be able to rightly lay the blame on Watson. The mayor is not stupid on politics. That will scare him into giving the Senators the arena.
Playing nice with Watson is a losing strategy.
Jim Watson is not nice. He will quietly find a reason to kill the LeBreton arena.
Count on it.
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