TAMPA, Fla. –
Gary Bettman says the Ottawa Senators are not currently for sale following the death of owner Eugene Melnyk.
Speaking during the first intermission of Game 3 between the Tampa Bay Lightning and Toronto Maple Leafs at Amalie Arena, the NHL commissioner indicated Melnyk’s daughters — who are 19 and 23 — will have to ultimately decide how they want to proceed.
“The franchise is being professionally run,” Bettman told reporters. “The club’s not on the market. There’s no urgency. The club’s not unstable.
“There are no problems.”
Melnyk died March 28 at age 62 after battling an illness. He had previously said he planned to leave the team to his daughters, Anna and Olivia.
He purchased the Senators in 2003 for US$92 million at a time when the franchise faced bankruptcy and a tenuous future in the nation’s capital.
The team is now worth $525 million, according to Forbes.
The Senators played in the Stanley Cup final in 2007 when Ottawa lost in five games to the Anaheim Ducks, but Melnyk’s relationship with the fan base soured in recent years.
The owner said before a 2017 outdoor game in Ottawa he might move the team if attendance didn’t increase and sparked a “#MelnykOut” campaign on city billboards and social media.
The Senators haven’t qualified for the playoffs since making it to double overtime of Game 7 of the 2017 Eastern Conference final, but have a promising young core of talent let by Brady Tkachuk, Tim Stutzle, Josh Norris, Drake Batherson and Thomas Chabot.
Corporate infighting and lawsuits between Melnyk and a developer over building a new downtown arena — the team has played in suburban Kanata since 1996 — just west of Parliament Hill ultimately torpedoed that deal in 2019.
The door, however, remains open with the land still available.
“That door opens, it closes, it opens and closes,” Bettman said. “I’m hopeful that maybe at some point it’ll happen.
“Right now we’re just focusing on the family’s wishes and being supportive of the family at a very difficult time.”
WORLD CUP QUESTION MARK
Bettman said planning for the 2024 World Cup continues, including talks with the NHL Players’ Association and the International Ice Hockey Federation.
“We’re still working on structure,” he said. “Lots of discussions in terms of how to put this together and then we’ll get to the nuts and bolts of the logistics, including who’s going to participate, but we’re not there yet.”
Bettman added no determination has been made on Russia’s participation at the tournament that’s expected to take place sometime in 2024 following the country’s invasion of Ukraine.
Bettman said the league will set a record for revenues despite a number of games being played in Canada earlier this season without fans or at reduced capacity.
The commissioner said the NHL will be within $150 million or $200 million of its projection of between $5.3 and $5.4 billion.
“We came back from COVID very strong.”
This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 6, 2022.
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