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Volume 25 No. 151

Franchises

Under Melnyk, the Senators have typically operated under a tight budget
Photo: GETTY IMAGES

The Senators' trade of 28-year-old D Erik Karlsson -- a "franchise icon" -- is an "indictment of the franchise" and Owner Eugene Melnyk, according to Scott Stinson of the NATIONAL POST. The team on Thursday traded Karlsson to the Sharks for "whatever it could salvage." Melynk has "complained about losing money in Ottawa whenever the subject of contract negotiations with a star player is raised." The Senators have "never been a team that spends close to the salary cap under his ownership, and Melnyk makes no effort to pretend that will change." When he "isn’t running off fan favourites, Melnyk has managed to roil what was once a loyal base in other ways, whether it was cashiering the former team president, jacking up parking rates at the arena in Kanata during the playoffs, or making relocation threats and then acting surprised that anyone takes those threats seriously" (NATIONAL POST, 9/14). In Ottawa, Don Brennan writes under the header, "Senators Had To Trade Karlsson, Will Never Win Cup With Melnyk As Owner." Under Melnyk, the Senators will "continue to be a team that has to operate under a tight budget." Fans just "need to accept the fact that this is the team they get with Melnyk." It can be a "fun team, an exciting team and even a playoff team." But it will "never be a championship team" (OTTAWA SUN, 9/14).

NOT HOLDING BACK: THE HOCKEY NEWS' Ken Campbell wrote it is "time for Eugene Melnyk to go." Melnyk is "proving, again, his deep level of ineptitude." Senators GM Pierre Dorion "made this trade, but make no mistake" -- it had Melnyk’s "fingerprints all over it." Regardless of the "size of a market, the quality of a building, the strength of a fan base, success in the NHL comes ultimately down to one thing -- quality of ownership" (THEHOCKEYNEWS.com, 9/13). In San Jose, Dieter Kurtenbach writes the NHL "needs to step in and either force a change in ownership or take control and move the team to Mississauga or Quebec City -- places that will actually support the team." The Senators are a "blight on the league" (San Jose MERCURY NEWS, 9/14). THE RINGER's Michael Baumann wrote, "Melnyk is a closefisted crank, derided in NHL circles much like James Dolan is in the NBA and the Wilpons are in MLB." He "spends to the salary floor purely out of obligation and then refuses to keep his mouth shut" (THERINGER.com, 9/13). In Las Vegas, Ed Graney writes Melnyk is "hardly the guy those in marketing want pushing any season-ticket drive" (LAS VEGAS REVIEW-JOURNAL, 9/14).

FEEL FOR THE FANS: In Ottawa, Bruce Garrioch notes the decision to deal Karlsson "isn’t going over well in Ottawa." Not only was he the club’s "best player, he was also one of the most popular to ever pull on the jersey," second only to former NHLer and former Senators Senior Advisor of Hockey Operations Daniel Alfredsson (OTTAWA SUN, 9/14). THE ATHLETIC's Chris Stevenson writes the trade was the "darkest day" in club history. It is "hard for Senators fans to accept they have arrived here, another fan favourite, another star, another captain, gone" (THEATHLETIC.com, 9/14). Also in Ottawa, Ken Warren writes, "Once upon a time, Montreal Expos fans experienced the type of hollow feeling that hit Senators faithful Thursday." When players "hit their full stride, in position for the big payday that comes with success, they were shipped out for young and promising prospects." The concern is "what happens next "with Senators RW Mark Stone and C Matt Duchene, who are also "due to become unrestricted free agents next summer" (OTTAWA CITIZEN, 9/14).

WHAT A YEAR: The GLOBE & MAIL's Roy MacGregor writes to describe the Senators' past year as "'dysfunctional' would be a disservice." A better description "might be 'bizarre.'" Last season, the Senators were 30th out of 31 teams in the league standings and it was even "worse off-ice than it was on-ice." To cope with "declining attendance, they put a massive black tarp over 1,500 seats at Canadian Tire Centre, foolishly thinking out of sight would be out of mind." Following the Melnyk’s "less-than-veiled threats to move the franchise if people didn’t start buying tickets, several furious fans used crowdfunding to erect billboards throughout the city with the hashtag '#MelnykOut.'" Summer also began with Assistant GM Randy Lee being charged by Buffalo police for allegedly harassing a "19-year-old hotel shuttle driver." Season-ticket sales also were "widely believed to be in the tank" (GLOBE & MAIL, 9/14). TSN.ca's Frank Seravalli wrote the "about-face of the Senators in one year’s time has been nothing short of incredible" (TSN.ca, 9/13).

The franchise is arguing that it is possible to both support Watson and stand against domestic violence
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The Predators "started training camp explaining why they're keeping" RW Austin Watson after the NHL suspended him for the "entire preseason and the first 27 games of the regular season for domestic abuse," according to Teresa Walker of the AP. The NHLPA "plans to appeal" Watson's suspension, but the Predators have been "heavily criticized in Nashville for not commenting since Watson's arrest" in June. The franchise has been "very involved" with AMEND Together, a program "fighting domestic violence over the past few years." Watson was even in a "commercial against domestic violence for the program." Predators GM David Poile said that the team's players leadership group has "talked repeatedly with both Watson and his girlfriend, and players were in the room during the news conference as a show of support." Predators President & CEO Sean Henry when asked Thursday morning at an AMEND event why the Predators are keeping Watson said that it is "possible to both support Watson while fighting domestic violence" (AP, 9/13). NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman called Watson's behavior that led to his arrest "unacceptable," and the Predators said that they "'supported and worked closely' with the league during its investigation." Henry said, "We're facing this head on. We're not hiding from it. Even though it sounds like I'm contradicting myself, we're supporting the league's decision and Austin (and his girlfriend). And we're continuing our fight against violence against women. It's wrong. We know it" (Nashville TENNESSEAN, 9/14). In DC, Matt Bonesteel notes the NHL is the "only one of the four major North American sports not to have a domestic violence policy, instead judging cases on a case-by-case basis" (WASHINGTON POST, 9/14),

IS IT WORTH IT? In Nashville, Joe Rexrode writes the Predators "sure are going through a lot of trouble" for Watson "without condemning his role in this awful situation." Had the team "bought out the remaining two years" of Watson’s three-year, $3.3M contract, they would "not have this as a potential distraction all season." Henry said that his organization will "continue its efforts to fight domestic violence -- efforts that have included more than $500,000 donated to AMEND Together -- and it should." But the decision to keep Watson will be "heard by many people as just another rationalization from another sports team protecting its own." The Predators have "decided to stand by Watson," but it would be "nice to hear more disapproval for what he did" (Nashville TENNESSEAN, 9/14).

The Golden Knights are "rolling out a just-updated 'Vegas Born' marketing campaign that is fan-centric in its artwork, with a new campaign video," according to Alan Snel of LVSPORTSBIZ.com. The images "show some actual Golden Knights season ticket holders at VGK home games, from a woman waving a rally towel during the Stanley Cup Playoffs to a young girl sitting on her dad’s shoulders." A spot opens with the giant, red-glowing Golden Knights mask "dropped to the T-Mobile Arena ice to start each game of the playoffs and includes scenes of a small child grasping a stick, fans wildly waving playoff battle towels and the stunning, highlight-reel" goal by C William Karlsson that "clinched the Pacific Division." The Golden Knights will "use the new images at T-Mobile Arena, on billboards, in digital displays, during TV broadcasts and in print ads." The team's video spot is "30 seconds." As for the campaign's artwork, Golden Knights Senior VP & CMO Brian Killingsworth said that players will be "phased into the promotional marketing materials later in the season" (LVSPORTSBIZ.com, 9/13).

Sources said MLB has not heard from Peter Angelos this calendar year
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MLB "wants to know who in the Orioles' ownership group is running the club, and how the team plans to operate in the future," according to sources cited by Ken Rosenthal of THE ATHLETIC. League officials are "not pushing the Orioles for an answer, knowing that owner Peter Angelos, 89, is in failing health and that his sons, John and Louis, seemingly are in charge." But sources said that the league, which has "not heard from Peter Angelos in the current calendar year, wants the Orioles to appoint a new control person by November or December." Sources added that at the moment, "even the extent of the sons' authority is unclear." John and Louis Angelos "do not speak to reporters, and declined to answer a question posed through the team's media relations department about whether the family has established who will run the team going forward." The uncertainty surrounding the Orioles comes at "not just the competitive low point in the franchise's 64-year history, but also a time when the team faces a series of potentially transformative events." One of those is the team's "six-year battle with the Nationals over television rights fees." Sources said that it is "headed toward a hearing before an arbitration panel of major-league owners in November." Sources also said that MLB's concern is the franchise's "current governance, not its long-term viability in Baltimore" (THEATHLETIC.com, 9/13).

In Denver, Mike Klis reported Brittany Bowlen is the "clear favorite" to one day take over for her father, Pat Bowlen, as Broncos owner. Brittany Bowlen begins a new job at McKinsey & Co. this week, and gaining that sort of experience is "considered a vital step" in her effort to "become qualified for consideration" as owner, as measured by team trustees. While there is "no timetable for how long Brittany Bowlen will work for McKinsey," the expectation is that when she "completes her term there she will be brought back to the Broncos for more team front-office experience" (9NEWS.com, 9/12).

HOCKEYTOWN, USA: In Detroit, Ted Kulfan noted the Red Wings introduced "several new ticket initiatives" for the upcoming season, along with "unveiling a 'refreshed' Hockeytown logo." The new logo is "inspired by the Red Wings' jersey." Meanwhile, beginning Sept. 17, there will be "at least 100 tickets every home game that cost $20, along with reduced-price Hockeytown Value Packs starting at $69." The Hockeytown Value Packs include a "pair of tickets and $20 concessions credit." The team will also have "discounted concessions and merchandise pricing at home games" (DETROITNEWS.com, 9/12).

SEEING GROWTH: Maple Leafs GM Kyle Dubas said that he is "relaxing" a rule set by his predecessor, Lou Lamoriello, on "not allowing players to sport beards and moustaches." Dubas said, "I want the players to be at their best, whatever their individual best may be. Part of that is letting them really express themselves in a professional manner and to try and be themselves the best they can." The CP's Joshua Clipperton noted Lamoriello's "strict set of rules" also included "no high numbers or in-game promotions featuring players" (CP, 9/13).