For the first time since his shocking outing at the NHL100 Classic game where he threated to sell the club, Ottawa Senators owner Eugene Melnyk reached out to fans to try and make peace.
In a television media tour on Wednesday morning in Toronto and then on CTV Ottawa, Melnyk tried his best best to shut down the possibility of moving the team, reaffirming his commitment to efforts to bring a Stanley Cup title to Ottawa.
“Whatever was said in December, it’s unfortunate that it hit a real nerve in Ottawa,” Melnyk said. “The reality is I love the city, I love the people, I love the fans, and it’s actually my privilege to be there and to ice a team like the Ottawa Senators.”
Fans had strongly reacted to Melnyk's menace that NHL commissioner Gary Bettman had to jump in and deny the speculation last month.
“It’s a rollercoaster and what I have to deal with in Ottawa is some of the best fans in the NHL,” Melnyk said. “They’re some of the most passionate fans. They watch very, very carefully, and they’re very astute. You can’t make a hockey move without somebody pointing something out.
“That’s great because the alternative would be kind of a dead zone where nobody really cares, and then you’re in trouble.”
The RendezVous LeBreton group, led by Melnyk and John Ruddy of Trinity Developments, last week reached an agreement in principle with the National Capital Commission to redevelop LeBreton Flats with a $4-billion project featuring a new arena in its first phase.
Melnyk is also expected to visit Rogers Place Arena in Edmonton next week to assess development around that arena.
LeBreton Flats is “a big, big deal,” he said. “It’s huge. It’s a $3- or $4-billion project that’s going to basically remodel the city of Ottawa. I’m so excited for it because it’s going to revive a lot of things, including building a state of the art arena for the fans to truly be engaged in a great experience.”
The Senators are currently sitting 29th in the League overall, but Melnyk is sure they can eventually bring a Stanley Cup to Ottawa.
“I’m committed. This is going to happen. I don’t want to jinx things,” Melnyk said. “We’ve got smart people in the hockey organization. We stepped back this year and that’s unfortunate, but it also leads to opportunities for us going forward.
“I really believe we have the wherewithal and the vision, and we’re very, very committed to bringing a Stanley Cup to Ottawa.”