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Senators Owner Eugene Melnyk Says Don't Blame Eugene Melnyk if Ottawa Loses 2017 Outdoor Game

The Sens owner wrote an editorial in the Ottawa Citizen after facing criticism for not securing a location for the 2017 outdoor game. Plans to host it on Canada's Parliament Hill were rejected by the federal government.

Kyle Cantlon

An outdoor classic was supposed to make its way to Ottawa in 2017, but as two egos clash, the historic event intended to celebrate two major milestones is in limbo.

The Senators proposed and intended to host an outdoor game at Canada's capital on Parliament Hill on Dec. 19, 2017, to mark the 100th anniversary of the first NHL hockey game, which was played in Ottawa. It was also supposed to add another piece of cultural flavour to Canada's year-long 150th birthday celebration, while marking the 125th anniversary of the Stanley Cup—which was born in Ottawa. The game is in serious jeopardy of not happening in the nation's capital at all anymore, but according to the Eugene Melnyk, you shouldn't put the blame on him if it all falls through.

The Senators majority owner is trying to stay as far away as possible from taking any responsibility. In a response editorial written to the Ottawa Citizen, Melnyk feels the criticism he is taking over the situation is unfair.

"It has been a week since the federal government rendered its decision to not support the outdoor game on Parliament Hill. It was a decision, that, while disappointing, involved no shortage of effort made by us to try to make it happen.

"Inevitably, more stories will be written by this paper and other media outlets who would simply like to point blame and accuse me of shortchanging the city for not jumping immediately to commit to another venue for an NHL outdoor game."

Economic factors, as usual, play a massive role in all of this. Something you figure the owner of a professional sports team would be well prepared for.

"Running the Ottawa Senators is not an easy business. Consider the fact that the team is currently eighth overall in the NHL and the second-best performing Canadian team, and yet we are far from sellouts at our home games," Melnyk continued.

"As owner of an NHL franchise, my core responsibility is to ice a competitive hockey team and to try to not lose money in the process."

Plans for the game took a serious hit and the dream of an outdoor hockey spectacle centered on Canada's Parliament Hill was halted after the proposal to host the game was rejected by the heritage ministry over costs, logistics, and scheduling earlier this month. A temporary construction zone would have been created on Parliament Hill for over 16 weeks, creating security and logistical issues in Ottawa right in the heart of tourism season.

NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman has maintained that the Senators haven't shown any interest in hosting the game at another venue, and as a result the league is starting to weigh out other options as a relocation destination outside of Ottawa for the momentous game.

"So we're going to see if we want to play a game on Founders Day somewhere else, and by that I mean in a different city," Bettman said. "We haven't made any decisions."

Despite Melnyk and Bettman's back-and-forth banter on the issue as it slowly dissipates from probability to possibility, there is still a hope that the game can take place in either Ottawa or Montreal next year.

The Senators have been negotiating to use the 24,000-seat TD Place Stadium for the game, home of the CFL's Ottawa RedBlacks and the host venue of the 2017 Grey Cup. According to Melnyk, the talks have been "very positive" so far.

The Old Windsor Hotel in Montreal—the exact place where the league was founded a hundred years ago—is also reportedly still an option. A decision is expected to be made in January.

The NHL was founded in Montreal on Nov. 26, 1917, with the first game played in Ottawa against Montreal on Dec. 19 that same year. The plan was, and still is, to have an outdoor game between the Habs and the Sens to commemorate the 100-year mark of the occasion. In case you haven't cashed in your winning Proline ticket from 1917, Montreal won that game 7-4.