For fans of the Ottawa Senators, the topic of new beginnings has been ever-present in our discourse for the better part of eighteen months. From the moment that news of Eugene Melnyk's passing became public, the question of "What's Next" has never been far away. Though the transition to the new ownership group has at times seemed to move at an absolutely glacial pace, the dawn of a new era is well and truly upon us now. If Bruce Garrioch is to be believed, and he's as plugged in on this stuff as anyone else, the sale of the team will be completed in the early part of September; we are mere weeks away.
I found my mind wandering back to this impending new era as I was reading this brilliant piece of sports writing from Defector's Billy Haisley. In it, Haisley is reflecting on Spain's recent triumph in the Women's World Cup, and how some of the lustre might have come off in the wake of some extremely bad behaviour during the celebration by Luis Ruibales, the head of the Spanish Football Federation. This also wasn't the first time that the Spanish team had been hindered by their own federation: just last year, fifteen of the team's players left the squad in protest of poor conditions. That Spain rose to the top of the football world in spite of all the meddling, or worse, of their various bosses is a testament to their tenacity. They are the ones that deserve to celebrate their successes, along with their fans. Haisley says it beautifully:
The game belongs to the players, and the game's importance and meaning belongs to the fans. It was Spain's players who won, and it was and will be the players who win every other World Cup before and after. And it was the fans' experiences of the players' acts that will really determine what it all is to stand for.
Towards the end of Melnyk's tenure as owner of the Sens, there was a lot of debate among fans about how best to support a team we all love, but about which we felt conflicted. Some fans believed direct action was necessary to force a sale. Others saw a boycott as a direct threat to the long term viability of the franchise. Regardless of where you fell, there was something standing in the way of our shared enjoyment. It also clearly affected the players.