Ask any Ottawa Senators what the biggest problem is with the team and you’ll receive a two word answer: Eugene Melnyk.
The team’s unpopular owner has been criticized by fans for years now given just how badly his has mishandled the franchise. Cost savings are at the heart of every roster move the team makes as Melnyk does the best he can to save every penny he possible can. Erik Karlsson, Daniel Alfredsson, Mark Stone, Zdeno Chara, Mika Zibenajad… the list of players who who were shipped out when it came time to get paid by Melnyk is long.
It also doesn’t help Melnyk’s cause that he has regularly threatened to move the team out of Ottawa if attendance and ticket sales don’t improve. Then he goes and guts the team’s roster… so what gives?
In her latest rankings of the best and worst owners in pro sports for The Ringer, NHL columnist Katie Baker has named Melnyk as the absolute worst owner in North American pro sports.
Check it out:
Check out some of Baker’s quotes from the article below and be sure to click the link above for the full article:
Melnyk may have “saved” Ottawa from bankruptcy in 2003, but from the start, much of his wealth was tied to his pharmaceutical company, Biovail, which had been plagued by issues for years. (A 1998 Forbes article described Melnyk as “a smooth, well-tailored entrepreneur with only a medical publishing background, who has made a number of announcements about his company’s pending drugs that have yet to prove true.”) The same year Melnyk bought the Senators and their arena for $92 million, he also told investors—fraudulently, it was later ruled—that subpar Biovail profits were a result of a fatal truck accident in Illinois that had delayed shipments. Over the years Melnyk has relied on a daisy chain of loans to finance the Senators, the most recent being a $135 million line of refinanced credit announced in the summer of 2018.
All this has had ripple effects on the franchise. It was bad enough to lose team legend Daniel Alfredsson in the twilight of his career in 2013 in order to pinch pennies, but it was worse when Alfredsson was alienated for a second time after he returned for a front-office position. (It also wasn’t super reassuring when Melnyk explained his team-building strategy to the Ottawa Citizen after Alfredsson’s departure: “It’s no different than the horses,” he said. “You’ve got your superstars up here, then you’ve got the other 80 per cent.”) It was totally unnecessary when, on the eve of what was supposed to be a happy, low-drama outdoor hockey game in 2017, Melnyk said he’d consider moving the team if attendance became “a disaster,” and it seemed like gaslighting when he later complained about people bringing up relocation. Melnyk is so distrusted in Ottawa that even when he underwent a successful liver transplant in 2015, it was not without controversy.
In February, Melnyk unveiled a grand vision. The next few seasons, he allowed, would be dedicated to more rebuilding, but it would all pay off before long! The Senators’ plan, according to a statement the team released, was to be “all-in again for a five-year run of unparalleled success—where the team will plan to spend close to the NHL’s salary cap every year from 2021 to 2025.” It was a very Melnykian statement: somehow both blustering and pathetic, one hypothetical enough to be meaningless. It sounded a lot like the way he was described by Forbes more than 20 years ago, back when he was making those announcements about that company’s pending drugs, the ones that never wound up being true. The Senators are 0-2 in their first two games, but both the good and the bad news is: There’s a long season ahead.