WRITTEN BY- Cicero and el_chupacabras
Editor’s Note- Sens fans are being pushed to the brink. Instead of counting down the days to the start of a new season, the conversation continues to focus on our former-Captain and our current Owner. The frustration we all feel these days didn’t just come up over night though. It has been building for years. But for many, the Karlsson trade was the last straw. Listen, Eugene Melnyk is a serious problem. I think that’s almost unanimous at this point. Withdrawing financial support or support for the team entirely are options that a frustrated fan has at his or her disposal. But they are not without risk. Last night, there was an interesting back and forth between two comment section regulars that I felt was worth sharing. If someone has a rebuttal they’d like to share, the ChirpEd door is always open.
I was almost 30 when the Sens’ modern era began. I remember what it’s like to not have an NHL team in Ottawa. Those who are ‘playing chicken’ — divesting themselves of the live game experience and merch — might lose the gamble.
A myopic tactic of revenge may assuage fan rage, but it is destructive and dangerous. Ottawa fans filled the barn in the past, but I think the NHL will weigh this less against the apathy and disinterest in the present and, more importantly, as projected into the future.
Unless you are an executive on the NHL BOG, I suggest you think twice about the presumption that ‘the Senators will never relocate’.
If the franchise is moved, we will all get to see what it’s like to not have an NHL team here in Ottawa, and many will experience that void for the first time, and all of us for rest of our natural lives.
Speaking of longevity, I’d like to see the current incarnation of the Ottawa Senators outlive its present owner. The ultimate revenge: winning the ‘long game’. The only way that will happen is if hometown hockey fans support the team, the players, and get their bums in the seats.
I get it. I understand the choice to withdraw, and I am not infringing on anyone’s freedom to do so. The only reason I feel compelled to write this is because I hope future generations of Ottawans get to experience NHL hockey cheering for a hometown team. I think protecting that opportunity for future generations is a lot more important than mollifying one’s own personal indignation in the present.
As another guy who is old enough to remember Ottawa before the Senators, I want to add a couple more quick thoughts just to build on this…
Senators fans need to recognize that the deck has been stacked against them since the day the franchise was awarded. Every other city in this league has a large portion of their workforce in the private sector, Ottawa does not have this. It severely limits profitability when the three levels of government in this city, the three largest employers in this city, cannot purchase tickets, but it goes beyond that. Most private sector entities in this city deal with government at some level, but since their government clients aren’t allowed to accept those tickets from private industry, which is a pretty normal transaction in most client/vendor relationships, it further limits the purchase of corporate tickets by the private sector. This is a huge contributing factor as to why our season ticket base is consistently low. It’s not that businesses in Ottawa don’t care, it’s that they’re not allowed to participate in the normal exchange of tickets as incentives for employees or clients in the first place. The rules are stacked against our city.
Without corporate support, the responsibility to support the team falls primarily to the fans. We are fortunate to have a pretty high standard of living in this city, and it is well within the means of many among us to afford NHL season tickets, especially when you consider that we do have the lowest average ticket price in the entire country. We all laugh at how most of the tickets in Toronto are owned by private industry and that the fans can’t go to games, but the reality is that this is precisely why Leafs fans will never have to worry about the same things we have to worry about. The cash flow for their team will never dry up. And we MOCK them for not being able to go to games, while we simultaneously CHOOSE to stay out of our own arena because we have to drive a bit to get there, or because parking is like $10 per car more expensive than lots in the core of the city? Fuck, do we ever talk out of both sides of our mouths sometimes.
So yes, the deck is stacked against us in those ways, but it gets worse. The deck is FURTHER stacked against us by geography. In modern NHL history, no other city ever received an expansion team when the majority of the city was already filled with hockey diehards, but nearly all of those fans happened to support two other teams. To make matters worse, it’s the two teams with the deepest history, who are the most unlikely to ever change allegiance, who will pass their own Leafs/Habs fandom on to their kids like inherited fetal alcohol syndrome.?And Ottawa is located smack dab between both of those places, so the same statement applies to every small town in every direction you drive. We couldn’t have asked for a tougher spot to be located in. I mean, the guys who got our team in the first place had to build their own $30 million dollar HIGHWAY INTERCHANGE at their own expense and donate it back to the province just to be allowed to build the arena they’re currently in!
The bottom line, it’s never been easy for us. It’s been harder for us than any other fanbase in the NHL. That should be a rallying cry for us as fans, because we’ve got the unique opportunity in front of us to declare that our team isn’t floated by faceless corporations, but by private citizens who live and die by what happens to this team.
And that’s precisely why this protest against the owner is so damaging. There’s no corporate community to pick up the slack. We can’t expect Leafs and Habs fans to come in and offset our dwindling numbers. If we want this team, then we as fans need to prove that. Without the corporate base, and without the fans, there’s very little else to show the NHL that this market is viable. The Ottawa Senators NEED the fans more than any other team needs their fans.
The Ottawa Senators have made some pretty horrible decisions in terms of how they’ve interacted with fans over the past several years, so in a lot of ways they’re the architects of their own problems. That said, it’s probably high time for us to stop dwelling on the past and to try to move forward instead. Nothing productive can come from the constant browbeating that we subject our own team to on a daily basis.
The media in Toronto, the fans of other teams, everyone has been kicking sand in our faces for the past 26 years. Up until a few years ago, we had the collective spine to stand up for ourselves. But now, a big part of this group is prepared to roll over and die because Erik Karlsson was traded. Whether the reasons for this trade were purely financial or otherwise is irrelevant, the narrative around this fanbase from the media has always been that we didn’t have the stomach for a rebuild. And now, all we’re doing by staying out of the arena is proving to everyone who has ever doubted us that they were right about us all along.
So if you really feel like you need to stay away, go for it I guess. But accept that there is a very real chance that enough of us doing this will contribute to this team not being in Ottawa anymore. I don’t want that to happen. I hate the owner with the fire of a thousand burning suns, but that’s not going to stop me from supporting the team. I’ll go to the rink, and I hope that anyone who has been making half-hearted excuses to themselves to find reasons not to go will ultimately decide that having the team in Ottawa means something to them, and thus they will choose to go to the rink as well. If the lack of fan support does eventually lead to this team departing our city, at the very least some among us will be able to say that we did what we could to keep them here instead of taking our ball and going home when the game felt unfair.
Chirp, Dave, for your part, I hope you never stop running this blog. I know how hard it is to be a cheerleader when you get flamed any time you open your mouth to say something positive about the Senators. I’m right here with you dude, and I know there are many others who are as well. The comments section here is a great opportunity for healthy discourse, and many of us are able to express our different opinions respectfully because that’s part of what makes fandom so great. But I can’t abide quitters, and I can’t abide anyone who gives me shit or any other person shit for throwing our weight behind this hockey team. I honestly hope that everyone who is pissed off about this Karlsson situation but still loves this team recognizes that we, as fans, can do so much more to impact the future of this team by going to games and making our voice heard instead of sulking at home.
GAME DAY POST coming up later this morning!