Stop Ignoring the Elephant
Hockey media, we need help.
I want to stress something very important.
This is not meant to be an overly negative piece. I’m not here to beat you down with morose lamentations about the state of the Ottawa Senators franchise, and how all of our lives are a miserable, soul-crushing exercise in indifference. Truthfully, I don’t have many negative feelings about the organization this season.
The on-ice product has mostly been fun to watch, and the rebuild appears to be going well, so it’s hard to drum up the energy to be too mad about anything.
I also don’t want to dwell on the matter of attendance. We’ve covered it exhaustively, we know that the team isn’t going anywhere, and we all know that attendance isn’t down because of apathy. The attendance issue is more of a springboard to propel us into a larger issue. One that was perfectly encapsulated in a Twitter thread on Monday night.
Apparently, the Ottawa Senators really, really don't like it when journalists report their attendance problems. With that in mind, there were 9,673 there for their game against the New Jersey Devils tonight. That's embarrassing for any NHL team, an abomination for one in Canada.— Ken Campbell (@THNKenCampbell) January 28, 2020
Yes, and it rhymes with Moogene Belnyk.— Ken Campbell (@THNKenCampbell) January 28, 2020
Only had so many characters. I think anyone even remotely acquainted with this situation knows it's an ownership issue and not a fan issue.— Ken Campbell (@THNKenCampbell) January 28, 2020
I don’t want to seem as if I’m making a blanket statement about all hockey writers and talking heads, because there have been plenty that have been willing to criticize ownership, and lay the blame for the Senators’ current situation at Eugene Melnyk’s feet. Names like Chris Stevenson, Ian Mendes, Ray Ferraro, and most of the crew at TSN have been vocal in their displeasure with Uncle Euge.
It’s threads like these, however, that frustrate me as a fan of the Ottawa Senators, and doubly so as someone who covers them.
Houston, we have a problem. https://t.co/PWgGdbWX5X— Greg Wyshynski (@wyshynski) January 28, 2020
It’s tweets like this that make me wring my hands and go “Yes...and...”, while waiting for much-needed followup and clarification. It’s not enough to imply that ownership is the problem, because even though we all know it, it needs to be said. A lot.
It’s easy to say that “everyone” knows that Eugene Melnyk is the problem in Ottawa, and a big part of why they’re not selling tickets, but the fact of the matter is not everyone knows this. For every tweet, or post on social media going after Melnyk, there’s at least one talking about how Ottawa is a fairweather fanbase, undeserving of an NHL team.
When does the NHL Board of Governors step in and force the sale of the Ottawa Senators?— DartGuy (@LeafsMaz20) September 20, 2019
I mean I’d hate to lose the #BattleOfOntario rivalry but there is a group of individuals with a brand new rink in Quebec that I am confident would be better for the growth of the sport.
Move the Senators to Quebec City , they obviously don’t want you in Ottawa .— JR. (@pissmeoff111) November 29, 2019
The misconception that the Ottawa Senators’ attendance woes are due to some kind of apathy still draws breath, so to throw out these vague tweets about “the problem” in Ottawa is not only irresponsible, but a slap in the face to the fans of this team that are still here. People are still watching, still buying jerseys, still hoping and praying for the first overall pick in June, so why would you not take the extra two seconds to keep them out of the line of fire? You’ll never fully get rid of those who are misinformed or willfully ignorant, but you can do SOMETHING to dispel the notion that the fans are the problem.
Again, for clarity’s sake, I don’t expect people to add the caveat “This is because of Eugene Melnyk” at the end of every tweet, article, etc. What I’m begging for, along with most other Senators fans, is a little bit of consistency.
It’s simply not enough to tweet, or write something ownership once in awhile, and then never touch it again. Melnyk has done a good job staying underground for most of this season, but if you’re so eager to publish attendance numbers every night, you’d better be prepared to grab your shovel and dig him out, because when you don’t, the blame falls on those who don’t deserve it.
This is not a situation like Arizona, or Florida, where the team has perennially struggled to draw fans, save for a few outlier seasons. There is a fanbase in Ottawa, even with the ever-present threats of Montreal and Toronto. From 2005-2013, the Senators’ yearly average attendance was a total of 19128. For perspective’s sake, if they had posted that number last year, that would have been a difference of less than 200 from the Toronto Maple Leafs.
About then was where the dip started:
Now, what may have happened in the summer of 2013 that made people want to stop coming to games?
Alfredsson being low-balled started things. The Phoenix Pay System debacle in 2017 made it worse, which a lot of hockey fans don’t know about, and from there we all know about the departures of Karlsson, Duchene, Stone, and whatnot.
So why is it that I am the one that has to keep saying it? Why is it us at Silver Seven that are constantly covering this, painstakingly analyzing everyone that comes in and out of the organization, and making the effort to get everyone to understand what is happening in Ottawa?
Greg Wyshynski has 201.4K followers on Twitter, Ken Campbell has 27.6K. If you combine all of us at Silver Seven, we don’t even come close to that kind of reach.
I hate to presume the intentions of others, but right now, I get the notion that hockey media doesn’t speak up and defend the fans of Ottawa, because they’re content with this. It’d be one hell of a story if this tire fire finally burns the Ottawa Senators to the ground, and they get revived as les Nordiques du Québec, Parte Deux.
If you want to watch this play out, hell, even if you’re hoping that the Senators are no more, at least be honest. Really hammer it home, and use that gigantic reach to make sure that people know that the Ottawa Senators’ problems lie solely with their owner. Make them understand that there are fans here, who love this team, but can’t in good conscience support it by the lining the pockets of a man who has made it painfully clear that he doesn’t give a damn about them.
Eugene Melnyk should not be the elephant in the room. Instead of casting the spotlight on Ottawa’s long-suffering fans, pull back the curtain and show everyone the man who is pulling the strings.
Senators fans know that the attendance is an “abomination”. Trust me, they’re not happy about it either, so help them. Keep the pressure on, write articles, record podcasts, do radio hits, and get it out into the ether that there is no debate to be had here. Eugene Melnyk is the reason that the Senators are struggling to get 10000 fans a night.
Help us, tell the truth, and scream it from the rooftops. Anything else just seems like you’re basking in the fire’s glow.