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NHL Could Get Involved in Ottawa Senators Arena Situation

RendezVous LeBreton, Ottawa

Recent developments have left much uncertainty over the Ottawa Senators arena situation, and NHL commissioner Gary Bettman suggests the league could get involved. 

Over the last few years, Senators owner Eugene Melnyk and his RendezVous LeBreton Group have been pitching a new Senators arena in downtown Ottawa as part of a larger LeBreton Flats redevelopment planJohn Ruddy has been serving as a business partner in that effort, but he is one of the defendants in a $700 million lawsuit filed late last month by Melnyk. The lawsuit, in which Melnyk claims that Ruddy had a conflict of interest because he was planning to build a condominium tower on a nearby property through a separate development effort, has left numerous questions surrounding the viability of the arena plan.

A new arena has been seen as way for the Senators to alleviate attendance and revenue issues that they have experienced at Canadian Tire Centre, their current home suburban Kanata, so the proposal has carried some interesting implications. Bettman weighed in on the situation following the NHL Board of Governors meeting on Monday, noting his disappointment in the project’s current status and discussing what role the league could play in the effort. While Bettman emphasized that the NHL will not get involved if its help is not wanted, he did suggest that the league would be willing to intervene if welcomed. More from the Toronto Sun:

“I would say I’m more disappointed with how this played out, but these are complicated matters,” Bettman said at the conclusion of the Board of Governors meeting on Monday. “Mr. Melnyk isn’t here, but I gave a brief update in terms of the lawsuit and where I thought things stood on the LeBreton project. But it was more of an update. No discussion.”

Melnyk did not attend the Board of Governors meeting — alternate governor Sheldon Plener represented the team — but Bettman suggested the league would get involved in helping to move the team downtown, just as long as the help was wanted.

“There are some places where we have been involved in and I think been very constructive. Edmonton, Pittsburgh, among others come to mind,” said Bettman. “There have been other places where we’ve been disinvited by one of the participants. We don’t like to go where we’re not welcome if it’s not going to be helpful.”

Melnyk has said that he believes he can make Canadian Tire Arena work, though Bettman did not seem ready to close the door on the downtown project.

As noted, the arena project in Ottawa has been viewed as potential boost for the Senators. A new downtown arena has been envisioned as a way to give the team a more modern home than the 22-year-old Canadian Tire Centre, while providing a more favorable location that could help eliminate attendance and revenue issues. There are numerous uncertainties about what effect that recent lawsuit will have on the project, and whether the NHL’s involvement will ultimately be sought, but the league will likely be watching the situation as it continues to develop.

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