It was a mistake for Eugene Melnyk to raise the prospect of moving the Ottawa Senators as the team entered into a festive weekend including the NHL 100 Classic. No doubt Melnyk is frustrated with the team’s struggling ticket sales, but the solution is not to try to shame fans into becoming paying customers. Instead of motivating people to support the team, it typically creates a downward spiral of disappointment and disengagement.
There’s a chance Melnyk’s comments are merely setting the stage for his discussions with the city of Ottawa over what kind of financial contribution might be possible, through tax breaks or other benefits, if the LeBreton Flats project goes ahead. But they’re still dangerous and badly timed. Once upon a time, Eugene Melnyk was viewed as the saviour of the Ottawa Senators. Now, an increasing number of fans see him as an obstacle to the team’s success.
It's an escalating problem Melnyk will have to overcome. He should stop talking about moving the team and start trying to rebuild his relationship with the city that has supported the Senators for the past 26 years and would likely embrace a new downtown arena.