Senators owner Eugene Melnyk excited about season, says league has all options on table

Eugene Melnyk is excited about this edition of the Ottawa Senators and remains hopeful they’ll take the ice for 2020-21 campaign. Ottawa Senators owner Eugene Melnyk. PHOTO BY WAYNE CUDDINGTON /Postmedia

Eugene Melnyk is excited about this edition of the Ottawa Senators and remains hopeful they’ll take the ice for 2020-21 campaign. Ottawa Senators owner Eugene Melnyk. PHOTO BY WAYNE CUDDINGTON /Postmedia

Bruce Garrioch Ottawa Sun

Eugene Melnyk is excited about this edition of the Ottawa Senators and remains hopeful they’ll take the ice for 2020-21 campaign.

Speaking on The Bob McCown Podcast on Sunday with the legendary host and respected broadcaster John Shannon, the Senators’ owner indicated NHL commissioner Gary Bettman and deputy commissioner Bill Daly are doing everything in their power to get this season under way.

Melnyk also indicated he’s confident the Senators are going to be improved this season, and they want to compete for a playoff spot, but he believes competing in an all-Canadian division will be difficult.

“I’m very optimistic about hockey and the fact we’ll go back and play. It’s very real,” Melnyk told the podcast that was posted Sunday night. “There’s no question if you listen to the comments of Gary Bettman publicly we’re full steam ahead to get it done.

“However, there’s a lot of stuff that has to get done financially because everybody’s taking a big hit. On one hand, there’s no guarantee that this is going to happen. The NHL’s working very hard to try to make it happen.”

Melnyk said there were a lot of options discussed amongst the board of governors Thursday. He added the issue for some teams playing out of their home rinks is the high rental costs because they don’t own the rink. Naturally, that’s not a concern for Melnyk, because he owns the Canadian Tire Centre.

“You’ve got 31 different interests. Many are aligned and many aren’t aligned. You throw the government and medicines in on top of that, you almost need an algorithm to figure out what actually will work here,” said Melnyk. “If (some teams) open the door up there’s a big cheque that has to be written to whoever owns the stadium.

“It’s almost to them and others who sit there and say: ‘Hey, I’m better off not playing. I’m better off financially not playing.’ Guys like me, we own the stadium and the team, and we don’t have the obstacles some others do. There’s so many moving parts. It’s very complex … Everybody wants the same thing, everybody wants to play. They wish they could turn the clock back to January and get on with it.”

Melnyk confirmed a Postmedia report the league has sent out a questionnaire asking about local conditions and they want that information by next week.

“We were asked to make submissions on every local issue we have,” Melnyk said. “I think by Friday of next week we’re going to have some answers on that.”

The border remains an issue, but Melnyk half-jokingly said he’s not a fan of an all-Canadian division.

“No,” he said with laugh. “It’s only for a hockey reason. This is not our year. We’ll be competitive but this is the year the Canadian teams are all better. Every one of them — including mine. I’m still at the beginning of my rise up. Everybody else was good and they’re getting better.

“We’ve got to work on a strategy, and we have, on how we’re going to deal with it, because we’ve got a bunch of young guys and they’re still growing and they’re good but they’re getting better. We want to be competitive and we want to be a playoff team.”

Melnyk understands you can’t move seven Canadian teams to the United States.

“The fact is I may not like it but that’s concession we have to do,” Melnyk said. “Nobody wins here. There’s no winner out of this pandemic. It’s one of the things we’d have to give up. You’re going to have to give up attendance, to at least the early games … From a hockey point of view, it’s exciting.

“We’re going to be playing a lot of Montreal, Toronto and Winnipeg plus the other Canadian teams and that’s fine. It’s just from a hockey point of view, it’s a tough, tough, tough division. We don’t get to play the weaker teams. They’re all good. It’s good for Canada and maybe this is the year a Canadian team gets there and wins.”

The Senators have made a lot of changes and he wants to see his team take the ice.

“Gary and everybody are so focused on getting (a deal) done (to start the season),” Melnyk added. “You need everybody to step up and there’s stakeholders out there who aren’t being as co-operative as they need to be. I don’t know exactly who they are and he’s dealing with them.”

With a commitment from Melnyk to help this team improve, general manager Pierre Dorion, chief scout Trent Mann, head coach D.J. Smith and other members of the hockey operations department have spent the off-season putting the pieces in place to help the Senators compete.

“This coming year we’ll be competitive. We’re still trying to grow. We’ve got a lot of young players and there’s no sense rushing them,” Melnyk said. “You guys can tell me examples of teams that have rushed players and the next thing you know they never fully develop.

“We’re in that mode of still developing yet the mandate is we want to be a competitive playoff team. D.J. Smith knows what he has to try to get done and Pierre certainly knows. Everybody’s on the same page to try to be competitive. Our fans would really enjoy to see us in the playoffs this year. We always say once you get the playoffs anything can happen and I think our big years are coming in the next three years.”

New, Melnyk designed, team logo.

New, Melnyk designed, team logo.