Sens owner Eugene Melnyk has bigger fish to fry than an outdoor hockey game at Lansdowne.
It’s called the survival of his team.
Melnyk tried very hard to locate a game on Parliament Hill but that failed. Credit him for trying.
But that’s small beer compared with what he is dealing.
His average attendance this year is 15,023 or 24th in a 30-team league with nine games in. Last season the Sens did an average of 18,084 or 17th in the league. That’s a mighty drop. The Senators did not sell out opening night with the Leafs. Unheard of.
What’s the problem? Maybe an aging demographic, big-screen TVs, expense, a mediocre product last year (but better this year), a slow economy, hockey overload from the World Cup … it’s hard to put a finger on it.
By all rights, Ottawa should not have a hockey team. With very little big business and a government that cannot receive or give tickets, that puts the team in a tight spot. The Sens must sell every game to the public without many big corporate seats as a cushion.
That the team has survived this long is a credit to Ottawa hockey fans, the big pockets of Melnyk who has lost tens of millions of dollars on this project and the sharp marketing minds of team management.
On top of that, Melnyk is trying to build a new arena on LeBreton Flats as part of an enormous redevelopment project. That has to take up a lot of time, sweat, worry and financing.
Both Melnyk and former team owner Rod Bryden say the club needs to reach the second round of the playoffs to break even. That hasn’t happened lately.
And don’t forget the Senators pay their multi-million-dollar players in U.S. dollars with the loonie at around 74 cents. Not easy. These are some of the issues that crippled the ownership of Bryden.
That said they have other streams of money coming in from two big television contracts and expansion money coming from Las Vegas.
None of this is easy so it’s surprising that Melnyk took the time to try to put an outdoor game on Parliament Hill. Full credit to Melnyk for this. But that game is a nice-to-have, not a must-have.
At present, Melnyk has a huge problem with which to deal … the survival of the team. That’s more important than a party for 2017. The Senators are vital to this community and a big booster of good causes.
Critics and Mayor Jim Watson should try to understand.
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