Speaking after the Senators Alumni Classic at the Canada 150 rink on Parliament Hill on Friday night, and on the eve of Saturday’s NHL 100 Classic between the Sens and the Montreal Canadiens, Melnyk said he has no intention of selling the franchise.
But he didn’t rule out moving it.
“If we start not seeing crowds showing up, well yes, but for now, we’re on the cusp of doing okay,” Melnyk said.
Although the Sens enjoyed a successful 2016-17 season, pushing eventual champions Pittsburgh Penguins to Game 7 in the Eastern Conference finals, their playoff run was blighted by low attendances at the Canadian Tire Centre.
This season, the Sens are averaging 15,281. That’s the lowest among Canadian teams — 40 less than the Winnipeg Jets — and 25th league-wide.
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Nevertheless, Sens fans were left unimpressed by the timing of Melnyk’s comments, seeing as how they came with Ottawa preparing to host its first ever outdoor game in the form of the NHL 100 Classic.
“It’s not bright, not good PR, but we just have to keep doing what we do as fans and try to support the team,” one fan told Global National correspondent Mike Drolet.
Several Sens fans took to social media to vent their frustrations, with many using the hashtag #MelnykOut.
The Sens took the NHL 100 Classic with a 3-0 victory over the Habs.
The game commemorates the centennial of the NHL’s first two regular season games, played Dec. 16, 1917. One of those games was between the Canadiens and the original Ottawa Senators, while the other featured the Montreal Wanderers hosting the Toronto Arenas.
— With files from Global National correspondent Mike Drolet.