Ottawa might not be rich enough to support an NHL team.
There is a marvelous lyric in the song, If I Was A Rich Man written by Sheldon Harnick to go with Jerry Bock’s music where Tevye proclaims when you are rich, they think you really know. In most cases that is certainly not true and Tevye’s observation was on display this weekend in Ottawa. It is Canada 150, a year of celebration marking the 150th birthday of Canada on July 1. What appears to be the end of the party is taking place in Ottawa, an outdoor National Hockey League game on Parliament Hill, a junior game, a celebration of hockey in Canada. It should be a festive occasion except the owner of Ottawa Senators hockey team, Eugene Melnyk, who barely retains his Canadian citizenship as he spends nearly half a year in Barbados, decided to rain on the parade by making a not so veiled threat to move his business elsewhere.
“If it doesn’t look good here, it could look very, very nice somewhere else, but I’m not suggesting that right now. All I’m saying is that I would never sell the team.” There are suggestions that Ottawa just doesn’t have a big enough corporate base to support high ticket prices. It has been thought Melnyk wanted to move his business near downtown instead of being away from the downtown core in Kanata. But Melnyk isn’t sure a new arena will help his bottom line. “We’re doing okay here. We’re not doing great, but we’re doing okay. I’m just too much of a fan. What else do you do? I’m a Canadian, I’m a hockey fan and, fanatically, a hockey fan. It’s something I really enjoy doing. I couldn’t think of anything better to do.” What Melnyk seems to want to do is not underwrite his hockey business financial losses forever and if it becomes a disaster move. Canada 150 in Ottawa is ending with a thud.
The Senators owner Eugene Melnyk is concerned about falling attendance.