Mayor Jim Watson says he won't be cowed by Ottawa Senators owner Eugene Melnyk, following harsh comments the billionaire made on a local radio station about the collapse of the LeBreton Flats deal.
"I don't take my marching orders from Eugene Melnyk," Jim Watson said Friday when asked about an interview the owner gave to CFRA 580 earlier in the day.
Melnyk was asked if he had regrets about how the now-failed LeBreton Flats deal had been handled, given how critical and outspoken Watson had been of Melnyk's role in the failure of the plan.
"He is so lucky that I keep my mouth shut," Melnyk told the host. "I'd be very careful if I was him walking around mouthing off, because it's very counterproductive."
"I'm trying to do everything for this city, and with him opening up like that ... the NHL offices look at it and say 'Hey, do we really want to bring more events to this city?"'
'No tax dollars going into an arena'
At an LRT funding announcement later in the morning, Watson replied with his own jabs.
"Well you know, Eugene says lots of things. I'll let him run his hockey team and I'll continue to run the city," said Watson.
The mayor seemed to blame the hard feelings on what he said was Melnyk's desire to get public money for a new rink for the Ottawa Senators at a downtown location.
"I was always very clear that there'll be no tax dollars going into an arena. He's not happy about that. But I don't have a mandate to go and put property tax dollars into building an NHL arena," said Watson.
Today, Melnyk said he was focusing on keeping the Senators playing at the Canadian Tire Centre in Kanata, adding that there are plans to expand the building and change how drivers exit the parking lots.
"Right now, we're in Kanata, we're happy out there," he said.
Watson wasn't Melnyk's only target
Melnyk also called an attempt by TSN's Ian Mendes to confront the hockey club's general manager with a video showing fan discontent an "ambush."
He said that was the reason he rarely granted interviews to Ottawa-based journalists.
"That's bush-league stuff. You do that in little towns in the middle of nowhere, not in a G7 capital," he scoffed. "I just won't talk to them anymore."
While Melnyk also touched on talking points that should have mollified the Senators' fan base, gushing over Ottawa as a city and criticizing the rebuild of the rival Toronto Maple Leafs — "somebody forgot about defence," he said — the "#MelnykOut" hashtag was trending on Twitter Friday morning.
Melnyk's interview on CFRA followed an appearance on Toronto's FAN 590, where he was largely restrained, save for a comment about some of Ottawa's fan base not being "real fans," possibly a veiled jab at the crowd-funded campaign to get "#MelnykOut" billboards erected in the city.
The comments come as the Senators sit last in the NHL standings after enduring several months of mishaps on and off the ice.