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Recapping the Senators’ Three Town Halls

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The Fake News Media weighs in on Melnyk and Dorion’s comments in their three town halls

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2008 NHL Entry Draft, Round One Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

Eugene Melnyk is not exactly Ottawa’s favourite person right now. It seems the man sparks outrage every time he opens his mouth. #MelnykOut is Sens Twitter’s favourite hashtag, and the phrase even went up on a few billboards around Ottawa recently.

In an attempt to mend a few fences with Sens fans, Melnyk announced recently that he would be holding three town halls, alongside General Manager Pierre Dorion, during which season ticket holders could ask him any questions they wanted about the team. As confirmed by a few people in attendance, the questions were not screened in advance, so people could actually ask anything.

As you might expect from events that involve Eugene Melnyk speaking off script, it sounds like they were some of the most entertaining evenings this franchise has provided its fans in months.

Strangely, the Sens did not allow any audio or visual recordings during the event, although they did allow people to Tweet or take notes on pen and paper. Considering that one of the goals of this press conference was to communicate with fans, it seems weird that they would limit these town halls to season ticket holders, and only to those able to make it out to Kanata on a weeknight or a weekday morning. Limiting the questions to just season ticket holders makes sense, but they could have at least let other people watch the event. I’m not sure what they wanted to accomplish by banning all recordings, because it’s 2018 and you know people are going to find out what you said. By doing this, Melnyk was ensuring that fans would get all of their quotes from Twitter, thus allowing the people live-tweeting the event to potentially twist the narrative and take his words out of context. When he inevitably gets backlash for his comments at this event, he’d better not complain about being taken out of context, because he set himself up for this.

Nevertheless, some brave souls decided to record the town halls after all, and you can listen to them on Soundcloud.

The recording of the first town hall comes courtesy of our friend Tariq Anwar (@TariqAnwar00 on Twitter). The best part of this recording is his and his sister’s comments throughout the event.

The second one was recorded by Mitch Brulé (@MitchBrule).

An anonymous fan recorded the third one, and Tariq put in on soundcloud as well.

A lot was said at these events (although many of the answers were the same, and in all three cases Melnyk opened by defending himself for a solid 20 minutes and reminding fans of what he did for us 15 years ago, which, wow). Also, many of the things he said were false. He even contradicted himself many times. I will try to narrow down the main talking points, then recap all the other little things he mentioned.

Karlsson’s future

Obviously, the most popular topic of conversation was Erik Karlsson, and his future with the team. Melnyk and Dorion’s comments were less than reassuring.

They both said many times that they want Erik to stay, and that they will offer him a contract on July 1st. They also said that that contract will be for eight years. How much will they offer? That wasn’t quite as clear. They also said definitively that they will not trade Erik Karlsson at the NHL Draft.

During the second town hall, Dorion said that the organization would offer Erik “more money than we ever imagined.” But in the first one, Melnyk said this:

It is worth pointing out that the Senators are the only team that cannot get outgunned on a Karlsson extension, seeing as they are the only team allowed to offer him a contract for the next year. So unless they plan on lowballing him, they should be able to sign him before anyone else makes an offer.

It is also worth pointing out that both Melnyk and Dorion definitely knew this question was coming and probably had time to plan out their response. So the fact that they brought this up is just great.

This particular part of the second town hall doesn’t exactly inspire confidence:

Outdoor Game Comments

Another common theme was Melnyk’s comments at the outdoor game. Friend of the blog Shaila Anwar asked him if he would apologize, and this is what he said:

He also claimed that he was misrepresented by the Very Dishonest Press, and that he never actually threatened to move the team or threw his fans under the bus. You can listen to the tape right here and decide for yourself how misrepresented he was.

He did offer a slightly better apology later on, though:

The Fake News Media

One of the biggest themes that emerged from these town hall meetings was the complete lack of trust the organisation has in the media. Yes, right after saying that “losers look for blame,” Melnyk went ahead and pointed fingers at the media, accusing them of being #FakeNews.

What’s really funny about this particular complaint is that Ottawa sports media has actually been pretty easy on Melnyk so far, and many fans have been frustrated with reporters for not asking the tough questions.

Also, apparently the mainstream media people aren’t the only ones spreading lies:

Well, I guess this makes me part of the Fake News Media. Don’t listen to anything I say. Don’t believe anything you read on this website. We’re all just trying to run Melnyk out of town by misquoting and misrepresenting him. We’re probably all billionnaires hoping to buy the team once he leaves.

(Also, Bobby Ryan told us that)

In-game experience

Melnyk admitted that the in-game experience at the CTC is not as good as the experience at other sports arenas. He offered a number of solutions.

He shot down the rumours about the team moving to Lebreton Flats, making it pretty clear that he wants the team to stay in Kanata:

He also apparently had a powerpoint lined up all about the horrible parking lot:

(He had 15 years to fix this parking lot, but okay)

Apparently he’s trying to fix that problem, which would be pretty great.

He did extend a bit of an olive branch to fans by reducing the prices of parking:

Also, the tarps are coming down!!!! And the organization has plans to replace them:

They also mentioned providing incentives for fans to arrive early or stay late at the CTC, including discounts on concessions. Great news for people who live in Kanata, I guess.

Sadly, the organization also confirmed that the Racing Prime Ministers are no more. I, for one, will miss them a lot.

$$$$

Obviously, many fans were rightfully concerned about the direction of this franchise, and, of course, Melnyk’s willingness to spend enough money to make this team competitive.

His answers, ah, weren’t great.

First, he claimed that the plan was to compete in “3 to 5 years,” not right away.

Then he said this:

They also tried to explain that hiring fewer scouts is actually a good thing, because it allows for more chemistry or whatever, which sounds like a load of absolute bullshit.

Also this:

And, incredibly, this:

Yes, he did actually say that.

Melnyk and Dorion were also quite critical of the coaching staff, and it sounds like Boucher might be on his way out.

In the second town hall, they said that they were committed to getting younger and faster, which seems like a great idea, but it kind of depends on them keeping a few key players. Namely their captain.

A few other things to note:

  • The award for the hardest working player at development camp will be renamed to the “Jonathan Pitre award”
  • Melnyk said that the Sens are a small market and a receiver for the NHL’s equalization fund.
  • They will probably keep their first round pick.
  • There will be more town halls! About 3 of them every year! Given the way these ones went, that sounds like the single biggest incentive to buy season tickets.
  • Chris Neil has been named ambassador of Hockey Ops, along with Chris Phillips.
  • Melnyk said that he would never sell the team at the first town hall, but at the second complained about how hard his job is and said that he’d love to give the job to someone else. I don’t think that means anything significant, but it was funny.
  • He also said that the job of coach of the Ottawa Senators is harder than any other job in Ottawa, including that of the Prime Minister of Canada.