Ottawa Senators owner Eugene Melnyk said Tuesday it's unfortunate how his December comments about potentially moving the franchise were received by fans in the nation's capital.
Melnyk said on Dec. 15 that the Senators "could look good somewhere else" and said the Ottawa market "has to prove itself."
The 58-year-old told CTV's Your Morning on Wednesday he's happy to have his team in Ottawa.
“Whatever was said in December, it’s unfortunate that it hit a real nerve in Ottawa,” Melnyk said. “The reality is I love the city, I love the people, I love the fans and it’s actually my privilege to be there and to ice a team like the Ottawa Senators.
“I’m really pleased with what’s happened so far.”
Melnyk reached an agreement in principle last week to redevelop the downtown LeBreton Flats as a future home of the Senators. Melnyk said Wednesday the team's new arena will benefit the entire city.
“It’s a big, big deal. It’s huge. It’s a $3 or $4 billion project that’s going to basically remodel the city of Ottawa,” he said. “I’m so excited for it because it’s going to revive a lot of things including building a state-of-the-art arena for the fans to truly be engaged in a great experience.”
“In the end, I think the people of Ottawa will be very, very proud to walk around the world and when they say, ‘I’m from Ottawa’ the first thing people will say is, ‘Oh, I’ve been to your LeBreton Flats area and I’ve been to your RendesVouz’. I just want to make sure people have their heads held high and are proud of the Ottawa Senators.”
He added the franchise's goal remains to win a Stanley Cup in Ottawa.
“I really believe we have the wherewithal and the vision and I’m committed. This is going to happen. I don’t want to jinx things,” Melnyk said. “We’ve got smart people in the hockey organization. We stepped back this year and that’s unfortunate but it also leads to opportunities for us going forward."