Bounty on the Ottawa Senators Owner
On July 1, 1867, Canadians declared their independence from Great Britain. With that action, the fledgeling nation of Canada declared Ottawa its capital. 27 years later, the Ottawa Senators Hockey Club lost the second presentation of the Stanley Cup to the Montreal Canadiens. Both the Montreal and Winnipeg Hockey Clubs dominated the Stanley Cup competitions until 1903 when the Silver Seven led the Senators to Ottawa's first national hockey championship. Ottawa had been a regional powerhouse since hockey's development and could trace its roots back to 1883. Other than Montreal, no other city in the great nation of Canada has had a richer hockey tradition at its founding than Ottawa. And no sport encapsulates the fabric of Canada more than hockey.
The Senators left Ottawa for St. Louis in the 30's and for a brief time became the St. Louis Eagles. The Eagles were horrible and were disbanded by the league. Despite multiple teams in the Minor Leagues and the Ontario Junior Leagues, professional hockey wouldn't return to Ottawa until the 70's. Twice Ottawa hosted teams in the World Hockey Association, first with the Ottawa Nationals, then a few years later with the Ottawa Civics.
It was a great day in Ottawa when the Senators returned to the NHL in 1992. In 2003, Eugene Melnyk bought the Senators for about $90 million and 5 short years later, in the year 2008, the Senators sold out 40 of their 41 home games. Eugene Melnyk is known for being a billionaire who founded the company Biovail Corp. before selling out to Valeant Pharmaceuticals in 2010.
At the time of the sale of Biovail, Melnyk was in trouble with both the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission and the Ontario Exchange Commission. As the sale went through, he was one of the 100 richest men in all of Canada and found himself in divorce court.
By the end of the marital discord and violations of securities law, Melnyk tried to reposition himself as one of the richest men....in Barbados. We could go on and on about his business investments, the books, the TV appearances, the philanthropy, and his love of horse racing, but today we are going to focus on what he said this week about 'his' hockey team.
The Senators today are worth between $300 million and $400 million, depending on your sourcing, and their owner said the Senators "could look good somewhere else" if its market conditions don't improve.
I live in Cleveland, Ohio. Once an owner goes with the team 'could look good somewhere else' blast, it's time to get out the torches and pitchforks. But that's not just a Cleveland thing, this from yesterday's Ottawa Sun "Ottawa fans are taking the brunt of criticism for the antics of an increasingly unpopular absentee owner who makes things worse every time he opens his yap."
Or this from NBC Sports, the NHL's American Television partner: "#melnykout was one of the top trending topics in all of Canada."
But as the internet saturated with righteous Melnyk rage, what can the Ottawa fans really do? Melnyk implies he would rather move the team than sell. In a business sense, he would be cashing in a quarter of a billion dollar profit today if he sold the team, but he's probably hoping for, potentially, a half a billion dollar profit if he sells in 10 years as the owner of the Houston Senators.
You can't boycott his business. He sold the company that made the most of his money. If you boycotted any of his current holdings, it would just be a nuisance. Can you even boycott race horses?
As an Ottawa Senators fan, you have to HOPE that he does the right thing. Again, this is Beacon of Speech's stance for 95% of sports franchises. If you as the owner of the team don't like the situation, sell. You don't move franchises. In this case, the team is the OTTAWA Senators, not the MELNYK Senators. There is a public trust when you buy a sports franchise and it's a cooperation between the city and the owner. If the owner is being a greedy ass, cities should not be blackmailed into capitulating to an owner's every whim.
Editor's Note: I believe the only team move that Beacon of Speech has supported in the past 40 years would be the Oakland Raiders moving to Las Vegas. When the Raiders do move, there will still be another team a half an hour away from Oakland, the San Francisco 49'ers, and the Raiders have been looking for a true home forever. First leaving Oakland for Los Angeles, then returning to Oakland. Since the 1980's, the Raiders always seemed to be jockeying for a better deal in California, no matter what the year. What the Raiders really need is a market to call their own and I believe the Las Vegas situation will ease the Raiders' wandering spirit.
Give me a second to think.....
Okay we also supported the Atlanta Thrashers going to Winnipeg.
Other than hope, what can you do? Is there a Secretive Canadian Mafia? Is there a Canadian version of Jeff Gilooly that we could hire? Hell, is it too late to hire the real Jeff Gilooly to straighten out Melnyk? Even if I sent a subtle reminder to Eugene Melnyk about what the 1973 Philadelphia Flyers did to their opponents, I would probably be violating some terms of international law, so we can't do that...
There has to be a solution!
Okay. Who's the most famous worldwide citizen of Ottawa, Ontario?
Probably Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.
So, In theory, there is no more powerful man in Canada than the Prime Minister, right?
Could I write Trudeau a letter alerting him of the scourge that is Eugene Melnyk? Something along the lines of: The evil Eugene Melnyk, who probably sold his soul to the devil to make his billion dollars, is considering moving a national treasure, the Ottawa Senators, out of the city, and probably, out of the country. I implore you to use your bully pulpit to make Mr. Melnyk do the right thing for the citizens of Ottawa.
If bullying a bully doesn't work, maybe something more subtle.
Dear Prime Minister Trudeau:
Is there any way you could have the CSIS do a thorough and complete investigation of Mr. Melnyk?
My sources tell me he's been smuggling funds to Barbados in secret locations. Please be sure to thoroughly search Mr. Melnyk, up to, and including, full cavity searches every time he leaves and enters Canada.
Eh, that's probably not very subtle, either.