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Bettman Downplays Melnyk’s Comments on Ottawa Senators

Ottawa Senators

Over the weekend, NHL commissioner Gary Bettman attempted to calm concerns about Ottawa Senators owner Eugene Melnyk‘s remarks on the club’s future. 

Melnyk and the Senators have been pursuing a new arena as part of a larger redevelopment plan for Ottawa’s LeBreton Flats district. The team is seeking a new arena as it struggles with attendance issues at the Canadian Tire Centre, the venue in Kanata that has been the club’s home since its opening in 1996.

In remarks on Friday, Melnyk noted some of the issues that the team faces with its current financial picture. Furthermore, he indicated that while they are doing “okay” in their current situation, he would consider moving the Senators–rather than selling them–should their finances decline to the point of becoming a “disaster.” More from The Ottawa Sun:

“It just won’t happen,” Melnyk said when asked what it would take for him to sell the Senators. “It’s a franchise, so imagine if you own a McDonald’s franchise, you can move it. But it’s nuts, why would you sell it? It’s something that’s very difficult to buy.

“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.”

Melnyk said he’d consider moving the Senators if the picture got worse financially because his revenues are already among the lowest in the league and attendance has been an issue of late at the Canadian Tire Centre.

“If it becomes a disaster? Yes. If you start not seeing crowds showing up, yes,” Melnyk said. “For now, we are on the cusp of doing okay.”

After Melnyk made his remarks, Bettman downplayed any notion of a controversy by noting that Melnyk did not come out and say he was moving the Senators. Furthermore, the commissioner noted the process that needs to be completed if a franchise attempts to relocate. More from The Ottawa Sun:

“I read (the comments),” Bettman said in an interview with Postmedia 90 minutes before the puck dropped on the NHL100 Classic Saturday night. “I haven’t even spoken to (Melnyk), but he didn’t say he was moving the franchise.

“And (you) can’t move the franchise unless you go through the league process and get board of governor approval. So, I just think this is much ado about nothing.”

Considering, however, that Melnyk did threaten to move and should be well aware of league bylaws, will Bettman address the issue with the Senators controversial owner?

“I don’t think he announced anything other than he’s here, trying to get a new building,” said Bettman. “It’s what he didn’t say. He didn’t say he was moving.”

Several weeks ago, Bettman cited the new arena as an important factor in the Senators’ long-term ability to compete, and the commissioner has also noted the advantages that could come with the Senators playing in downtown Ottawa.

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