I like to think that we at Silver Seven are a source of credibility.
When you’re like us, and you produce just as much commentary as you relay current events, it’s important to stay in the middle and try to look at things through an objective lens. That can be difficult when you’ve spent the vast majority of your life living and dying with the Ottawa Senators. Being a passionate fan can cause one’s perspective to be skewed by emotion, and present day goings-on tend to be tainted by the aftertaste of those in the past.
Eugene Melnyk is a complicated figure. He’s done his fair share of good, saving the Ottawa Senators when they were on the brink of extinction, and a few initiatives within the community, but his legacy in Ottawa will likely not go down as one of a beloved figure. You don’t need a refresher of everything that’s happened over the last seven or so years, so I’ll spare you, but it’s safe to say that we at Silver Seven - and especially myself - have been as critical of the owner as anyone.
But I have no reason to be critical today.
I have to give credit where credit is due, and Eugene Melnyk deserves a huge amount of credit for the way that he has handled the COVID-19 pandemic, and subsequent stoppage of NHL operations.
We’ve covered it all here from day one. First, there was the announcement of Melnyk’s commitment to compensate his laid-off arena workers, in both Ottawa and Belleville. Then, the layoff of full-time staff, but with the commitment to take care of them as well. Followed by the offering of the Canadian Tire Centre and Sensplex facilities to be used as COVID-19 care centres, free of charge, and most recently, by Melnyk himself buying lunch for healthcare workers.
For all the criticism that has been levied his way, especially those about not caring or giving back to the community of Ottawa, Melnyk is knocking this out of the park. He has unquestionably done the right thing at every turn of this pandemic, and for that, it’s time to stow any gripes about his hockey operations dealings for the time being. To continually harp on him for his past misdeeds is not relevant or appropriate at this juncture.
Hockey is trivial in times like these. You can be mad about the Erik Karlsson and Mark Stone trades, you can wring your hands at every disastrous Melnyk media availability, you have every right to. But for right now, the only thing that matters is COVID-19, and what we can all do to help bring this crisis to an end. The fact of the matter is Melnyk is doing his part to aid his community in this time of strife, and for right now, that’s the only thing that matters.
There is, I’m sure, a contingent of folks that believe that one simply doing the right thing is not worthy of praise, that we should focus on those going above and beyond, rather than those helping solely within their means. There is a point to be made there, for sure, but Melnyk didn’t have to do any of this. There are plenty of owners and organizations that haven’t made a quarter of the commitments that Melnyk has, some even refusing to compensate part-time staff. In spite of his penny-pinching reputation, Melnyk has ponied up at every turn.
The depth of his acts have been, frankly, astonishing. Melnyk committed to compensating not only Ottawa’s part-time workers for the remainder of the season, but those in Belleville through one playoff round as well. For him to lend support to his AHL staff, while some have refused to do so for their NHL staff, is nothing short of a first class move.
Even aside from his own employees, Melnyk has demonstrated an unwavering commitment to the city of Ottawa, during this particular instance. It’s one thing to offer the services of the CTC and Sensplex to the healthcare system, and it’s another to do it without the expectation of anything in return. Couple that with the consideration that Melnyk is rumoured to be in dire financial straits, with multiple pending lawsuits, and it is an admirable gesture that he has extended.
The buying lunch, out of pocket, for Ottawa hospital staff is just the icing on the cake. It’s a move that we would all like to think we’d make if we had that kind of money, so to see someone with the means actually do so was heartwarming. “Heartwarming” is admittedly a word I never thought I’d utter in regards to Melnyk, but like I said, one has to give credit where it’s due.
Make no mistake, this is not me suddenly doing a 180 and pledging my allegiance to Melnyk. I believe most of the criticisms of him are valid, and when the time comes to duly criticize him again, I will do so. But for now, the owner deserves a salute for how he has handled the COVID-19 pandemic. Staff have been taken care of, he has lent a hand to the community, and made himself an ally.
Perhaps I’m wrong. Perhaps he’s doing these things for some sort of secret personal gain, or for other selfish reasons, but it’s not fair to assume so without any indication of such duplicity. All we have to go on are a series of selfless acts, and a city that is better for them.
For now, credit is due to Eugene Melnyk. I’m glad to be the one to give it.