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The Ringer calls Sens' owner the Worst Sports Franchise Owner in North America

october 8, 2019
Ottawa Senators owner Eugene Melnyk has been in the news a lot lately, and for all the wrong reasons. Now, sports and pop culture website and podcast network The Ringer is calling him the Worst Sports Franchise Owner and Best Franchise Destroyer in North America.

That's not an easy list to top. But in the column, writer Katie Baker says Melnyk's pettiness, suspect accounting, shameless moxie, and team mismanagement make him the worst among the billionaires who own clubs in the NFL, MLB, NBA and NHL. She gives five main reasons why:

1)The suspicious origins of someone investigated by two countries for accounting fraud (his pharmaceutical company, Biovail, settled with the SEC for $24.6 million in 2008, a year after settling a class action for $138 million, and that’s not even the extent of the various lawsuits associated with the enterprise); with:

2)A complete ongoing inability to ever read the room, best exemplified when he recorded and released a bizarre video last September that was theoretically meant to be motivational but instead led off with his characterizing the team he’d owned for 15 years as “in the dumpster”; and:

3)The shameless moxie it takes to get sued for nearly a million bucks by the Mohegan Sun casino over, effectively, bounced checks from a 2017 St. Paddy’s Day gambling spree, and then claim that it’s not fair because he totally had tried cashing out when he was ahead but the casino wouldn’t let him; as well as:

4)The petty shortsightedness necessary to ban one reporter from the team plane (because the reporter had covered the existence of a video posted by an Arizona Uber driver that showed some visiting Ottawa Senators talking shit about an assistant coach) and tell another reporter “I’ll bury you” (because the reporter had asked whether it was true that Melnyk hadn’t paid out bonuses to employees); oh and neither last nor least:

5)The time, inclination, and global dark web connections to (aLlEgEdLy!) sic Ukranian hackers on a hockey blogger’s website in 2013 after said blogger began exploring the Potemkin village that was Melnyk’s—and by extension, the underperforming Senators’—financial structures. (A convincing gumshoe deep dive into Melnyk’s probable links to the hack involved a charity called “Help Us Help the Children” and a phishing attempt with “On-Paul-MacLeans-Offensive-Zone-Strategy” in the faux URL.)

Baker goes on to say that, given the passion of most sports fans, they could probably overlook "eccentricities", if it wasn't for the fact that Melnyk has "over the years, torpedoed the Senators."

It was bad enough to lose team legend Daniel Alfredsson in the twilight of his career in 2013 in order to pinch pennies, but it was worse when Alfredsson was alienated for a second time after he returned for a front-office position. (It also wasn’t super reassuring when Melnyk explained his team-building strategy to the Ottawa Citizen after Alfredsson’s departure: “It’s no different than the horses,” he said. “You’ve got your superstars up here, then you’ve got the other 80 per cent.”) It was totally unnecessary when, on the eve of what was supposed to be a happy, low-drama outdoor hockey game in 2017, Melnyk said he’d consider moving the team if attendance became “a disaster,” and it seemed like gaslighting when he later complained about people bringing up relocation.

It was only three seasons ago that Ottawa was a goal away from the Stanley Cup final, but it seems like an eternity. Rebuilds are inevitable, but the Senators have been home to and mismanaged some great talent of late. Erik Karlsson, one of the league’s best defensemen, was a player so important to Ottawa that an angry Melnyk vowed to use “forensic doctors”(?) against an opposing player whose skate blade cut Karlsson’s Achilles tendon in 2013. And yet the team balked at paying their captain market value in 2018, trading him instead to the San Jose Sharks. Ottawa engaged in a “blockbuster” trade to acquire forward Matt Duchene in 2017, only to trade him away within a season.

You can read the full column here.
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