By Hafeez Janmohamed
The Sens are staying, and Ottawa Senators majority owner Rod Bryden has assured fans that never again will a vice-grip be put on fans to keep the team here.
Bryden made the much anticipated announcement last Friday, three days before the last-ditch ticket campaign deadline.
Bryden says yearly ticket campaigns will still occur to keep the franchise successful, as happens with other NHL teams. However, he was obviously impressed with the response of individual fans to the recent ticket campaign.
Centretown’s Senators fans are also pleased the campaign worked.
“(Bryden) is honestly trying to keep the team here, although I have a mixed opinion on paying those players,” says Jacques Gingras, a worker in Centretown. “We’ve lost enough teams, so we should keep those that we have here.”
Bryden had threatened to sell the team and move it to another city if local fans and corporations did not buy enough tickets.
By the end of last week, about 87 per cent of season ticket holders had renewed, more than 1,500 new ticket subscribers had committed, and more than 120 companies had agreed to pay 10 per cent increases on luxury boxes. Bryden was confident his targets of 90 per cent season ticket renewals, 1,500 new ticket subscribers and two-thirds corporate support would be met.
The common fan’s support was critical to the success of the ticket campaign. Early on, more than 80 per cent of season ticket renewals were coming from individuals, before the corporate sector, as had been hoped by Bryden, made their presence felt.
KPMG, a world-renowned accounting firm located in Centretown, is a strong supporter of the Ottawa Senators. Representative Bob Wener says the firm renewed their tickets early on in the drive.
“We certainly have renewed our tickets for next year, and are firmly behind the club” says Wener.
However, Wener acknowledges that corporations have to weigh the need to support the Senators drive against their financial capability.
Roseline MacGillivry of Clarica, a well-known insurance company in Centretown, says that even though the company does not hold season tickets, they support the drive.
“Our employees are welcome to get involved, but as a company we support the community in other ways,” she says.
The Senators claim a perennially-low Canadian dollar and high player salaries, which are paid mostly in American dollars, contribute to the continuous financial turmoil of the team and Canada’s four other NHL clubs.
Bryden has taken the role of frontman for Canadian NHL teams in asking for financial aid, especially from the federal government.
In late January, federal Industry Minister John Manley announced an aid package for Canadian NHL teams worth about $20 million over four years. The day after the package was put on the table, Manley and the federal government pulled it back off amid public backlash.
Bryden and the Senators were left in a precarious situation when the promised aid was no longer available. It was understood that aid from the other levels of government depended on federal support.
Kanata council voted to give the Senators a tax break on the Corel Centre, but Regional Coun. Alex Munter says the Ontario government has been less than helpful. Bryden also found a tax loophole when he registered the Ottawa Senators Foundation as a charitable organization, but Premier Mike Harris has threatened to close that loophole.