During yesterday’s Fan 590 Hockey Central at Noon program, the three hosts – Darren Millard, Nick Kypreos and Doug MacLean – an assemblage of some of the most brilliant minds in hockey, sat around discussing the lockout's ramifications. When the topic of cancelling another block of games was broached, MacLean chimed in contending some owners are desperate to generate revenue.
The pertinent audio is embedded at the bottom of the post. For the visually inclined, the following is a transcript of what was said:
MacLean: I heard last night that there is a couple of teams that I said last year that were on the market for sale and I’ve heard this week that there’s people in actually looking at peoples’ books right now.
Kypreos: Can you tell us which teams?
MacLean: I can’t divulge that. As an insider, I have to protect my sources.
Millard: Would one be in Ontario?
MacLean: One could be in Ontario…
MacLean: And it’s not the Markham franchise…
Regardless of what you think of the Hockey Central’s panel, from the dialogue and tone of their voices, the hosts beat around the bush like they already know the answer to the question.
If you’ll recall a little more than a year ago on September 12th, 2011, Doug MacLean brought up the state of the Senators finances on this same program:
“The Ottawa Senators, rumo(ur) is, that they lost $14 million last year. So what’s their payroll down this year from last? $14 million. I mean, eventually you have to get your business in order. All of a sudden, Ottawa is in a rebuilding. Why are they in a rebuilding? Well, because they had to drop their payroll by $14 million so that they don’t lose a fortune…”
Followed by Kypreos' rejoinder, “And rumblings whether or not Eugene Melnyk might be in it for the long run too.”
Memorably days later, in an appearance on PTS, when asked directly if there were any circumstances under which he'd sell the team, Gene offered up this valiant attempt at humour:
"…I would say if they moved Scotiabank Place up to heaven?… (laughter)…Not gonna happen. I mean who ever came up with that? I was hoping to come up with something funny, but that isn't even funny. No, I'm being serious the team is never going to be sold. There's only so many franchise in Canada. You're a hockey person…what else do you want in life? You own an NHL hockey franchise that can be competitive, and I have a lot of fun with. And it's not for sale, it's never for sale, there's not a number you can come up with that I would consider. It's just a waste of time."
The same day as his FAN590 appearance, another phone interview was conducted by Scanlan for the Citizen. The questions again turned to if the team was on the market:
"You know what, they're absolutely dead on — if you put me into the Wizard of Oz next to Dorothy while she's clicking her heels. They're out of their minds. That team will never be sold,"
Now with MLSE recently being sold to Bell/Rogers, it’s pretty clear the Eugene Melnyk owned Ottawa Senators are the team MacLean is indirectly referring to.
Having already been one of the first organizations to lay off employees in reaction to the lockout, coupled with predictable hearsay that Melnyk’s divorce might have hit him pretty hard in the wallet – the hyperbole and speculation are only going to intensify now. Although I don't think we should be taking the recent sale of his beloved Missisauga St. Mike's Majors of Anaheim as a sign of much.
Already icing one of the league's smallest payrolls, coupled with last season’s financial turnaround, and strong local TV ratings (6th best in the NHL) — for the would-be owner you can do much worse than Ottawa. Melnyk acquired the team and arena for a very tidy 140M$ nine years ago, have to guess the pair would fetch at least 200M$ if he were to sell.
Of course news (or rumour if you will) the books are being looked at could just be an indication there's a desire to bring further investors into the fold.
Update: 11:30 pm
James Gordon at Senators Extra has an email response from Eugene tonight, refuting speculation he is looking to sell the team:
"I will never sell the Senators. Not a chance,"