GARRIOCH: Sale of the Ottawa Senators could mark the dawn of a new era

The Senators are an attractive commodity because of the possibility of a move to a new arena downtown.

Article content

The sale of the Ottawa Senators has generated headlines across the hockey world, but it has been written about overseas and even caught Hollywood magazines by storm.

Advertisement 2

Article content

The celebrity interest in the National Hockey League franchise has taken the sale process to another level, with the popular People Magazine typing about the subject Monday.

Actor Ryan Reynolds aligned himself with Chris Bratty of the Markham-based Remington Group, while musical artist The Weeknd joined a bid by Toronto billionaires Jeffrey and Michael Kimel, and Snoop Dogg is lending his support to Los Angeles-based producer Neko Sparks.

Article content

All this interest prompted Andrew Wills, a business columnist with the Toronto-based Globe and Mail, to write an open letter to the Vancouver-born Reynolds, telling him to step away from a bid for the Senators.

Wills begged Reynolds and the Remington Group not to make a $1-billion bid (all figures U.S.) for the Senators because it “could end up being your sequel to (the movie) Green Lantern.

Article content

Advertisement 3

Article content

“We’ve watched you cringe when talking about that turkey of a film. Great concept, brutal execution,” Willis wrote in the column posted Monday. “That sums up the Senators’ potential as a sports and real-estate play: attractive idea, insanely difficult to execute.”

We’re not sure the last time Willis was in Ottawa, but it’s safe to assume he’s either a huge fan of the Toronto Maple Leafs or has lived in the Big Smoke so long that he’s caught up in the hype.

He didn’t stop there, either.

“Set aside any fan boy obsession with the Sens. Let’s talk about the business case for buying the team, starting with the hockey experience,” Wills pleaded. “Every other Canadian NHL team can charge premium prices for tickets, along with food and booze, because they cater to a corporate crowd tapping expense accounts or CEO-level salaries.

Advertisement 4

Article content

“That doesn’t fly in Ottawa, a government town with strict rules around entertaining civil servants. At an average price of $66, a Sens ticket is by far the cheapest seat among domestic teams. It’s half the cost of taking in a Toronto Maple Leafs match.”

Calling Reynolds desire to be part of the winning bid a “fan boy obsession” is over the top because he’s serious about this and has maintained connections to the city after spending part of his youth in Vanier.

Celebrity involvement in the bidding for the Senators NHL franchise includes, left to right, The Weeknd, Ryan Reynolds and Snoop Dogg.
Celebrity involvement in the bidding for the Senators NHL franchise includes, left to right, The Weeknd, Ryan Reynolds and Snoop Dogg. Photo by File photos

If you honestly believe there’s no corporate schmoozing, take a walk through Club Bell at the Canadian Tire Centre during games. There’s no shortage of businesses entertaining clients.

The hi-tech sector in Kanata, a slapshot away from the rink, is going strong. You also can’t underestimate the effect someone like Reynolds would have on the corporate community if his group was selected.

Advertisement 5

Article content

While the Senators have missed the playoffs for six straight years, they realized another goal of playing games that mattered down the stretch of the regular season, and it paid off as the club reported the largest increase in ticket sales in the 32-team NHL during the 2022-23 campaign.

Though the 83-per-cent increase in seat sales at the rink had a lot to do with COVID-19 restrictions that affected the previous two seasons, the Senators played at 90 per cent capacity in their 41 home games.

The Senators took a huge step forward by averaging 16,757 at their 41 home games this season. That was the highest attendance in Ottawa since the club averaged 16,744 in 2016-17.

Those are impressive numbers.

Postmedia has reported that seven groups are interested in purchasing the franchise, with a deadline of May 15 for final, binding bids. Other than the three celebrity bids, we believe groups led by Toronto billionaire’s Michael Andlauer and Steve Apostolopoulos are the most serious.

Advertisement 6

Article content

The Senators are an attractive commodity because of the possibility of a move downtown to LeBreton Flats or Bayview Yards, a site suggested by Mayor Mark Sutcliffe.

Willis also tried desperately to say this would have zero impact for the franchise.

“The economics of the arena don’t change if the Senators move to a potential new home at a site such as the LeBreton Flats, near Parliament Hill,” Willis wrote. “Government rules will still prevent lobbyists from treating political players to rink-side seats.

“The city will never be home to as many high-paying head office jobs as Winnipeg or Edmonton, let alone Vancouver, Calgary, Toronto and Montreal.”

Business has never been better in the nation’s capital, and Ottawa is Canada’s fourth-largest city.

Advertisement 7

Article content

The reason so many groups want this franchise is because they see the potential to take the Senators to another level, including a global stage.

If that wasn’t enough, there was also this gem.

“It’s entirely possible the entities that currently control the site, including the federally run National Capital Commission, lose patience with the Senators and decide to develop the property without a home for hockey,” Willis typed.

The reality is the NCC needs the Senators as a showcase piece for LeBreton Flats. There needs to be an events centre that will draw fans for 150-200 nights a year, and NCC CEO Tobi Nussbaum is willing to be flexible in negotiations.

This sale will be dawn of a new era for the Senators, and most people in the Big Smoke can understand that.

[email protected]


Postmedia is committed to maintaining a lively but civil forum for discussion and encourage all readers to share their views on our articles. Comments may take up to an hour for moderation before appearing on the site. We ask you to keep your comments relevant and respectful. We have enabled email notifications—you will now receive an email if you receive a reply to your comment, there is an update to a comment thread you follow or if a user you follow comments. Visit our Community Guidelines for more information and details on how to adjust your email settings.

Join the Conversation

    Advertisement 1

Leave a comment

SMM Panel PDF Kitap indir