With the 2019 NHL Trade Deadline now passed, fans refkect on moves made by their respective franchises. and what was, what is, and what could be in the NHL’s pivitol second season (the 2019 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs).
Yet in Ottawa, Ontario, the reflection is of the demise of their love for the game of hockey and the perpetual rebuilding of the Ottawa Senators.
I’m not here to talk about moves made by the Sens at the deadline as-so-much point readers to Reddit’s /r/hockey community and the writings of one Senators fan who is done with hockey with thanks to Senators owner Eugene Melnyk.
We have been “rebuilding” for basically as long as I remember, and every time we reach a point where we have a talented core of players Melnyk and the rest of the organization blow things up and start again. Karlsson, Stone, and everyone else led us on a surprise run at the Cup two years ago. Then when their contracts were up they all got dealt, forcing all of us to kick our dreams another 5 years down the road. Again.
Until we have an owner that is as interested in putting a winning team on the ice as we are, I’m not going to bother getting invested in this new crop of players. In 6 years we will all be sitting here watching Chabot and Tkachuk get traded, so who the hell cares. The Ottawa Senators are a non-team, and aren’t worthy of the money and loyalty this fanbase has shown over the years. We can have all the [draft] picks and prospects in the world and we still wouldn’t get anywhere.
As a Tampa Bay Lightning fan, I consider the Senators franchise my brethren as Ottawa and Tampa Bay started playin as expansion partners in the 1992-93 NHL season. I can also say that I’ve been in the Pit of Despair as a pro sports fan before and at current. Hell, I’m in Tampa Bay and the Buccaneers record for losing and the Rays stadium issues (and potential relocation) reign supreme in town… That’s not hockey, though. I have dreaded Lightning hockey in eras such as Art Williams brief reign in 1997-99 and the end of the first decade of the 2000’s (the failed sale to Absolute Hockey Group in 2007-08 that flunked the franchise for the season, and then OK Hockey Group’s takeover of the Lightning and junking of the franchise). Things were grim in both cited tenures.
They were nothing like what Ottawa has constantly aced, though. While Lightning is housed in a non-traditional market in Florida, Ottawa is on the Ontario border with the province of Quebec. The region was divided in fandom from the start with the Toronto Maple Leafs prominence in Ontario and the Montréal Canadiens dominance of Quebec. That does not mean the city of Quebec, the capital of Canada, isn’t a hockey market in its own right, it just means you have to do it right to build a unique identity and build your own reputation.
Sadly, from the cited write-up, that reputation is #FAIL.
Ottawa can be saved as a hockey market, but with Melnyk’s reputation and other issues in the city regarding the Senators (arena location being the most prominent), the challenge is big, and with the challenge will come the all-too-traditional catcalls for relocation of the club to potential hockey markets such as Quebec City, Quebec or Houston, Texas. This hockey fan doesn’t want to hear that or see that. I want to see the Senators turn the corner, survive and thrive. In order to get it though, things have to change and Eugene Melnyk’s tenure as owner needs to end.
One last thing of note: Edmonton Oilers fans may point to themselves as another example or a more prominent, consistent failure of a franchise with ownership and management issues all of their own. I can’t exactly say that isn’t the case. Ownership and management infringement in Edmonton, Alberta is part of why the Oilers franchise keeps failing, bringing in top-tier draft talent in rebuilding efforts, only to collapse again and trade off talent. The difference is that Edmonton is endeared to the Oilers by way of Wayne Gretzky and the Oilers Stanley Cup victories. It’s a marke with it’s own identity and without infringement from other prominent clubs.