There’s no question that Ottawa has to rebuild. Based on the poor season it’s had and the so-called big trades of the past resulting in very little for the Senators, rumours, intrigue, loss of star players for veritably little in return and concerns about the coach, it’s clear that the team has to go through some changes. And much like a nasty infection, the transition period is going to get worse before it gets better. Murray’s done a great job clearing cap space and getting rid of some deadweight on the team, and it’s hoped that it will pay off for Ottawa in next year’s draft. Trouble is, it’s going to take more than one year to turn this team around, and while the team may be hobbling along to repair itself, the fans may not go along for the ride.
Let’s face it, Ottawa’s a town of bureaucrats and there are a lot of government workers with good disposable income to keep the team going. But they’re also notorious for being fairweather fans and most people will not be willing to sit by while the team suffers loss after loss. The last thing that a bunch of 5-figure bureaucrats with a backbreaking mortgage want to see is a bunch of underperforming millionnaires.
The team’s introduction into Ottawa was not exactly a sure financial bet or a smooth ride. Coinciding with the IT bubble, the franchise was adopted into the city with a lot of enthousiasm, riding a wave of money and optimism that quickly and suddenly burst, making Kanata go from thriving business centre to parking lot suburbia. While fans today bemoan the presence of ScotiaBank Place way out in Kanata, it did make sense at the time for investors. It was thought that the good times would last but they did not. The team itself struggled with their pay roll and the costs associated with building the on-ramp to their arena, all of which were bankrolled by the club. Ottawa has since shown itself to be a hockey town, intensely interested in their team, as evidenced by their extensive media coverage and the fact that they’re willing to drive out of town to see a game. It’s been almost 15 years and still going- well, not strong, but good enough.
Sales and interest in the team alike soared in the 2007 Cup run. It seemed fated that Ottawa would win; it had been 100 years since the last Ottawa Senators NHL franchise hoisted a Cup back when they were still playing in the Civic Centre. There was tangible energy in the air. It was the glory days of the famous Alfie-Spezza-Heatley line, also known as the Pizza Line, and not for Jason Spezza’s Italian heritage. This line hammered the opposition with goals and every win that resulted with 6 or more goals from the team awarded the fans with a free slice of pizza. The collective spirit and waistbands of Ottawa fans were expanding. The summer of 2007 in Ottawa will always be remembered for that Cup Run, the Sens Mile down Elgin street, the sea of red and white, duck showing up on menus, and the whole city just buzzing with excitement. But like all summer romances, all those good memories finished in heartbreak.
Since that time, bad decisions have plagued this club. You could write a book on all the incidents. The fall of Redden, the infamy of Heatley, the terrible Hartsburg era, Emery, and the constantly volatile goaltending situation are just the tip of that iceberg. Interest in Ottawa has seen its fair share of peaks and valleys, but with the team skidding its way to the bottom of the standings in the East, the next valley may be Death Valley. The franchise will have to lobby the fans hard to get them back to their Sens Army status, because right now as it stands, next season will be a Sens Marching Band.
About the Author
Written by Mika Oehling
Office worker and sports nerd. Cannot play a professional sport to save my life, but love to write. Prone to rants, raves, snarky humour and caustic commentary. My team's the Ottawa Senators. Author of Armchair Hockey, a work of humourous fiction released this year and available for sale online at Chapters and Amazon.