The Ottawa Senators are facing growing rumors that the team could be relocating, but the league’s top brass is throwing cold water on the idea that the team is going anywhere.
This week, Senators owner Eugene Melnyk floated the idea of relocating while throwing what many interpreted as a backhanded jab at fans and local officials for not pushing forward plans for a new downtown arena. The talk has put a damper on the NHL 100th anniversary celebrations taking place in the capital city, the CBC noted.
There have been rumors that Melnyk could be putting the team up for sale, but he made it clear that he is thinking more about relocation instead.
“If it doesn’t look good here, it could look very, very nice somewhere else, but I’m not suggesting that right now. All I’m saying is that I would never sell the team,” he said.
Melnyk described problems selling tickets and operating the team on a budget, noting that they need a new arena and don’t appear likely to get one at the moment. While the speculation is causing some tension among Ottawa Senators fans, it appears that they have some support from top NHL officials.
This week, deputy commissioner Bill Daly noted that the team’s relocation is not anywhere near a reality at this time, the Ottawa Citizen reported. Daly said he believed that Melnyk was simply saying that nothing is off the table, not saying that they are necessarily actively looking to find a new home.
Daly noted that it is up to the league board of governors to determine if a team will be able to relocate, so Melnyk will not be able to unilaterally move the Senators out of Ottawa.
It is not uncommon for team owners to float the idea of relocation as a negotiation tactic. Until the Oakland Raiders announced a move to Las Vegas, the team’s ownership met with city officials in San Antonio, a popular city for consideration when NFL teams were looking for leverage in new stadium plans.
With Melnyk open about his desire for a new stadium, some NHL followers believe the relocation rumors surrounding the Ottawa Senators are really a tactic to give more leverage to the owner. And even if he does decide to move the team, the NHL has made it clear that it will not be a simple process.