Senators owner says don’t blame him for empty seats

After Game 6 of the Eastern Conference Final, Don Brennan of the Ottawa Citizen wrote a scathing column about Ottawa Senators owner Eugene Melnyk, and the role he allegedly plays in the franchise’s attendance problems.

“It must be Eugene Melnyk,” he wrote. “The only logical explanation for fans negatively stealing so much of the spotlight from the Senators unexpectedly wondrous ride through the playoffs has to be a growing, general contempt for the team’s owner, for one reason or another.”

Brennan continued:

This is an Ottawa thing. But it also must be a Melnyk thing. It’s hard to imagine empty seats at a playoff game if the Ottawa Sports and Entertainment Group that owns the Redblacks was also in control of the Senators. But then, it’s hard to imagine those local, shrewd businessmen making the same mistakes as Melnyk.

We’ve heard the long list of excuses for not filling Canadian Tire Centre in the playoffs, and most of them, if not all, land at the owner’s door. Ticket prices are often mentioned. Those available, last we checked, ranged from $120-$912. Some people can understand the hike, given the importance of the games, but they went irate when Melnyk bumped parking prices by 10 bucks. Why? It looks like he’s trying to empty pockets. That’s tough to take from a guy who Canadian Business magazine had No. 79 on the 2017 list of the country’s 100 wealthiest people, with a net worth of $1.21 billion.

Ouch.

Obviously, with Game 7 on Thursday night, all of Melnyk’s attention and focus was on his team’s potential trip to the Stanley Cup Final, completing an unlikely journey by eliminating the defending champions and bringing joy to Senators fans. There was absolutely no way, for example, that he would take the time to craft a letter to the editor of the Ottawa Citizen to further take the attention away from his players and, in a self-aggrandizing feat, come to his own defense over an opinion piece by a sports columnist.

Oh wait no that’s what he totally did.

From the Ottawa Citizen on May 25:

It was hugely disappointing to see that Don Brennan, a veteran member of our Ottawa sports media establishment, has chosen to single me out as the root cause for empty seats during our spectacular playoff run. This has been too good a moment for our team, our city and our fans. I won’t ruin it for them, nor our organization, by trying to counter the bully claims this journalist has made.

Except through the existence of this letter.

Not many expected us to make the playoffs, let alone the Eastern Conference finals. It has been an incredibly positive time for Ottawa – and for all Canadians – to see us persevere and come within five wins from bringing Lord Stanley’s coveted Cup home to Canada.

Ah, yes, the Canada’s team thing. We covered that here.

Also, Eastern Conference FINAL, sir.

That Cup has always been my singular focus as the privileged owner of our hockey team. I have made it one of my core priorities to ensure we ice a competitive hockey team every year and that we do so with the resources we have. But our playoff success this year is no one person’s doing. I couldn’t possibly name all of the people in one letter.

Just say Guy Boucher and Erik Karlsson and be done with it.

But in Melynk’s defense, the Senators do spend something to win. This is something Brennan wrote too: “I will argue with those who complain about his not adding better players.”

And similarly, if there are empty seats in our building during these playoffs, it is certainly unfair to point the blame squarely on any one person – especially me.

Melnyk’s vow not to respond to “bully claims” because it would detract from this moment for the fans lasted, let’s see, four paragraphs.

If someone chooses to put the blame on [me] solely for this reality, well they simply have no clue how hard I work, how passionate I am, and how committed I am to the Ottawa Senators and their success on the ice, off the ice and in our community.

“Also parking somehow costs $10 more when we make the playoffs.”

We could debate for days on why things are the way they are. I will only say that I, along with our entire organization, remain steadfastly committed to working hard on numerous fronts to make the Ottawa Senators an even bigger part of this city and equally important – to our country.

If you’re interested in factors beyond Eugene Melnyk, check out our story here and this one from The 6th Sens and this recent one from Deadspin.

We have shown this commitment on many levels including our redevelopment efforts, our charitable work, and by bringing an NHL Outdoor Game to our city this December to help close out the NHL’s Centennial celebrations and Canada’s 150th.

“Also parking somehow will cost $10 more when we play outdoors.”

So rather than point fingers, how about our city and fans savour each and every moment of this glorious playoff run.

Yeah, how about it, guy who just wrote a letter before Game 7 because a man in a newspaper wrote completely justifiable things about him, that many fans would echo?

We are making history. Live it and enjoy it.

“For just $10 more to park your car than you usually pay when living and enjoying it in the regular season.”

Look, there are many, many factors that play into this. We get that. But what’s the use of the owner of an NHL team taking to to underscore that, when its decisions — from playoff parking to the team’s inability to grow its season-ticket base — surely stop as his desk?

Especially on the day of Game 7?

Greg Wyshynski is a writer for Yahoo Sports. Contact him at puckdaddyblog@yahoo.com or find him on Twitter. His book, TAKE YOUR EYE OFF THE PUCK, is available on Amazon and wherever books are sold.

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