Five Thoughts for Friday: International Hockey, Funding LeBreton, Kleven Signs, and more!
Thoughts on needing international hockey back, Tyler Kleven signing, public funding for LeBreton, and much more!
Fresh thoughts this Friday!
We Need International Hockey
If you didn’t watch any of the World Baseball Classic, I feel sorry for you. Even if you’re not a huge baseball fan like I am, there were some incredible moments that showed off the best of the sport. Every player was so into it, and the fans at the games made it absolutely electric. This wasn’t just some “exhibition” either, as Japan had around half of the entire nation tune into all of their games. Furthermore, players from the Dominican Republic literally said they’d rather win the WBC than the World Series:
“What’s more important: WBC or World Series?” pic.twitter.com/xVlph8YZdg— Calico Joe (@CalicoJoeMLB) March 16, 2023
So yeah, it’s a big deal for a lot of people.
The tournament ended with a Shohei Ohtani strikeout against his LA Angels teammate Mike Trout, the two best players in baseball in the ultimate duel.
Bragging rights forever. Shohei Ohtani is a living legend. Congratulations to Japan. pic.twitter.com/X5kW3RtaqS— Jared Carrabis (@Jared_Carrabis) March 22, 2023
It was a perfect moment for baseball, and it has everyone talking, including the face of the NHL, Connor McDavid:
"It's what we've been asking for in hockey for a long time, right? Best-on-best... 'Did you see Ohtani vs Trout?' That's what hockey's been missing for almost a decade now."— Tim and Friends (@timandfriends) March 22, 2023
Connor McDavid wants to see the NHL do best-on-best. 👏 pic.twitter.com/sSidLA1EbV
It’s a travesty that McDavid hasn’t played for Team Canada in a best-on-best tournament since he was 17 years old. Sure, he’s played in the World Championships twice, but we know those aren’t the same at all. Hockey players want to either be in the Olympics or have their own World Cup of Hockey again because it would feel incredibly special to represent your country. I can’t imagine there being any NHLers against this, and the vast majority of fans would be on board as well. In addition, these tournaments are how you grow the game. There are logistical concerns about when to have it, but either going to the Olympics in February or having their own tournament in September as they did in 2016 would be totally fine. We haven’t had a true best-on-best tournament without any gimmicks since 2014, and I’m dying for some international hockey.
Kleven Nation Army
(Thanks to @sleepenbaker for that one)
The University of North Dakota had their season end last Friday after their 3-2 overtime loss to St. Cloud State, and it seemed like Tyler Kleven was going to sign a lot sooner, giving fans a little bit of worry about what would happen. However, he signed his 3-year ELC yesterday morning and has joined the team today. We weren’t sure whether he was going to sign his ELC or an Amateur Tryout (ATO) with Belleville, which would have given him the option to play some games with the B-Sens to finish the season.
He will most likely play at least a few games in Ottawa and it will be interesting watching him due to his size and strength that we haven’t seen for a while on the backend. I think some people are overestimating how ready he is for this level because of that size, so I hope people give him some time to adjust. I’d start him in Belleville next season and only call him up if he’s really dominating or if they need him because this isn’t Jake Sanderson we’re talking about. He brings an element that Ottawa doesn’t really have, and I genuinely am very curious to see him adapt to the NHL, most likely on the third pairing. If he does anything like this, he could be a treat to watch:
Oh my god 💥🚂 #NoDakSens pic.twitter.com/Ri7PZGYZkw— Locked On Senators (@SensCentral) February 5, 2022
Tyler Kleven simply cannot stop scoring huge goals — UND upsets Omaha and advances#GoSensGo pic.twitter.com/Q31zndzKLN— Sens Prospects (@SensProspects) March 13, 2023
If not Ryan Reynolds...The Rock?
Ownership news regarding the Ottawa Senators keeps slowly leaking out, with more names being dropped along the way. We know that there are as many as nine groups interested in buying the team, although that will be whittled down to a few very soon. One group who has allegedly put in the highest (non-binding) bid so far is Neko Sparks. Sparks and his group reportedly offered $925M, and they have a big group of people, potentially with a different famous star alongside them:
Brent Wallace dropped a big rumour regarding Ottawa ownership today. #GoSensGo— Everyday Sens (@EverydaySens) March 23, 2023
Wallace added that Dwayne Johnson is good friends with Ryan Reynolds and there is some belief that Reynolds could be swayed to join this group if they were to win the bidding war. pic.twitter.com/W0NthdwqfZ
The Rock is definitely another huge celebrity that would be cool to have in the mix, although I feel like fans' hearts are set on Reynolds, especially considering how well Wrexham FC have done in Wales. Perhaps there’s a scenario where Sparks gets Reynolds in the mix as well if they win the bid, but no matter what, it’s extremely exciting to think about what a hot commodity this organization is.
In other prospect news, Leevi Meriläinen was assigned to Belleville:
Roster update: The #Sens have re-assigned goaltender Leevi Merilainen from @OulunKarpatFi to @BellevilleSens.— Sens Communications (@Media_Sens) March 23, 2023
His team in Finland, Kärpät, was eliminated from the playoffs last week after a 3-0 sweep at the hands of KooKoo. Meriläinen had a .918 SV% in 42 games, which was 5th in the SM-Liiga, although for some reason, Joel Blomqvist started all three playoff games. All of the goalies ahead of him in the SM-Liiga were at least 24 as well, so Meriläinen doing this at the age of 20 is very impressive. He’s an intriguing prospect who probably has the highest ceiling amongst Senators goalies, and I can’t wait to see him at the professional level.
We don’t know yet if he’ll be staying in Belleville for their remaining ten games or if he’ll get a few games in Ottawa, but I wouldn’t rule anything out based on all of the injuries they’ve been having. Although he’s Finnish, don’t expect him to be a finished product considering he’s just 20 years old, and goalies almost always take more time.
The Team Doesn’t Need Taxpayer Money
On Wednesday, there was a CTV news story about how Ottawa Mayor Mark Sutcliffe hasn’t ruled out public funding going towards a potential arena at LeBreton Flats. Although the tweet made it seem more likely, Sutcliffe didn’t give much of an answer and has said that he prefers not to give the money:
“There’s no question the city’s budget is tight, and there are lots of other priorities, so I’m not a fan of putting city money into an arena, but it depends on so many factors,” he told a news conference.
“We don’t even know who the new owners are going to be, we don’t know if they want to build a new arena, we don’t know if they would want to do it on LeBreton Flats or they would want to do it somewhere else. There’s a lot of hypotheticals here.”
Without ownership even being announced, there are way too many variables right now. I can’t criticize Sutcliffe or the city for funding the arena unless they actually do it, but we’ve seen politicians give in on these things before. While LeBreton Flats is poised to be a vibrant area of the city with lots of potential close to transit, whatever new owners come in will have more than enough money to fund it themselves. We see cities foot the bill for stadiums all the time, and it almost universally never works out. It’s just not a good investment, and the city can put that money to much better use.
Having said that, LeBreton will be a game-changer for the Senators organization, the fans, and the city itself. But I’m almost certain that whatever the new owners are willing to pay for the Senators includes at least some of the fees for LeBreton.