Ottawa Senators co-founder Cyril Leeder was 6,000 feet in the air, riding a hot air balloon over France at the time former Senators captain Daniel Alfredsson was announced as an inductee into the Hockey Hall of Fame. .
The anecdote of Leeder, who scored in Twitter with a ‘where were you when Alfie entered the Hall?’ segment, seems like an apt metaphor for the senators’ cultural shift recently.
It feels like the sky is the limit where these good vibes can take you. What’s next, general manager Pierre Dorion signing a breakout player to lead Ottawa to a playoff berth for the first time in six seasons?
Anything seems possible when you consider the change in atmosphere around the Senators franchise in recent weeks.
Some of the news:
• On June 23, the Senators and their new corporate partners (under the umbrella name Capital Sports Development Inc.) were cited as the preferred bid to build a new NHL stadium on LeBreton Flats west of Parliament Hill, a concept that he was pronounced dead in 2019.
• This week, Alfredsson is inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame after being eligible since 2017 and, for the first time in five years, the Senators franchise officially endorsed Alfredsson as a candidate.
• On June 1, the Senators showcased a rainbow theme to their team logo while announcing their Pride month initiatives, a move club staff might not have felt comfortable following a year ago. Since becoming owners of the club, Anna and Olivia Melnyk have made it known that they want a more progressive approach to the team’s website and content channels.
• In early April, the Senators partnered with OSEG, the owners of the CFL Redblacks and the OHL Ottawa 67’s to launch a bid to host the 2023 IIHF World Junior Hockey Championship in Ottawa. Although the bid was unsuccessful, it was the first joint venture by Ottawa’s two professional sports organizations in years.
Keep going. It’s no wonder Ottawa’s fans are as committed to their team as they haven’t been in years.
Aside from the progress and excitement surrounding young Senators players like Brady Tkachuk, Josh Norris, Tim Stützle and Drake Batherson, etc., fans haven’t been very proud of their franchise. In fact, the black humor that comes with being a Sens fan resulted in the ‘Sickos’ campaign, which took a kind of perverse pleasure in remaining a Sens fan despite the darkness surrounding the team.
Today, there is a bright sun breaking through those dark clouds.
Alfredsson has not only been welcomed to the HHOF, but he has also been symbolically welcomed back into the franchise family.
For about five years now, both Alfredsson and Leeder have been estranged from the hockey club, a harrowing scenario that unfolded under Senators owner Eugene Melnyk. Leeder, who had been president/CEO of the hockey team, was sacked by Melnyk in early 2017, the same day former GM Bryan Murray was honored with the club’s ‘Ring of Honour’.
For a long time, Alfredsson has barely set foot in the Canadian Tire Centre. In February 2020, when his old teammate Chris Phillips retired his No. 4 at the CTC, Alfredsson attended but stayed in the background and left the arena without speaking to reporters. Everything felt terribly uncomfortable.
A week after Melnyk’s death in late March, Alfredsson returned to the track with members of the Swedish Embassy to mark Swedish heritage night at a Senators game. The images said a lot.
In a Zoom call with the Ottawa media on Tuesday, Alfredsson spoke about the importance of Bryan Murray bridging Alfie with the property. Murray passed away in August 2017, but a few years earlier, he had made it possible for Alfie and Melnyk to get back in the same room, despite the stalled 2013 contract.
“When I went to Detroit, I think it wasn’t the best relationship,” Alfredsson said of his 2013 departure from the Sens to Detroit, where he spent one final season as a player.
“Bryan Murray really allowed me to come back and work for the team again, and retire as a Senator from Ottawa (2014), which I think healed a lot of wounds, but we weren’t at the stage yet where, you know, it was a relationship. open.
“But that’s life sometimes and here we are today, it’s different and I’m very happy that it is.”
Alfie takes the right path once again. He credits his father, Hasse, and his mother, Margareta, with keeping him grounded. Hasse told him, “It’s not enough to be a good hockey player, you still have to be a good person.”
Giving back to the Ottawa community came naturally to him. He calls the connection with fans and residents here “organic”, however, in Sweden, it was not common to do charity work and support a cause. He learned that here.
You can feel much more comfortable being the face of the franchise again.
Melnyk is rightly credited with saving the Senators franchise in 2003, and he did some good things as an owner. But the sense of liberation since ownership passed to his two young daughters and a board of directors is palpable.
Managers feel freer to run their business as they see fit, without worrying if they will be questioned or called out.
Chairman Anthony LeBlanc has made regular appearances on radio and television and, along with CFO Erin Crowe, helped put the senators’ LeBreton Flats bid in order. It must be recognized that Eugene Melnyk made sure that the senators presented that offer in the National Commission of the Capital before he died.
Not only did LeBlanc help orchestrate support for Alfredsson through the team’s official website, but the Senators also supported the #AlfieToTheHall campaign, started by superfans Corey Meehan and Stephen MacDonald.
In their effort to draw more attention to Alfredsson’s Hall of Fame credentials, Meehan and MacDonald approached Leeder, who not only supported the initiative, but invited former Sens staffer Craig Medaglia to put together. some attractive videos and online content.
Now, a lot of the media in Ottawa – this writer included – have been sounding the horn on Alfredsson’s bid for Hockey Hall for several years. But the timing of this campaign was right, and it mattered both to those involved and to what he accomplished.
Did the campaign make a difference in the end? Alfredsson himself said that he was not sure and that he felt that his own career had been enough to get him in. But he was more than moved by the feeling of effort, a kind of crescendo to the decades of support he has received in Ottawa from fans, who appreciate his efforts in the community, especially in the realm of mental health, and not just his résumé. ice hockey
They could all come back into the fold, in some capacity. Alfredsson has said that he is open to the idea of a team spot, although he is not sure what that might entail.
“Before, it’s always been, I don’t want it to take up too much time with a young family (wife Bibi and four kids), but now the kids are growing up,” Alfredsson said Tuesday.
Medaglia, who created such brilliant content for the Senators during some of their most difficult times, should roll out a red carpet on which to walk back to his old job with the team.
Leeder is happily involved in the local corporate world, but belongs to the Senator family in a way, if only as a figurehead.
Regardless of how these important ties from the past are reconnected, it is inspiring to see them a part of the present and future of this organization as it moves into its 30th anniversary as an NHL franchise.
“There’s a different perspective on everything now than five years ago, I would say,” Alfredsson said, “so who knows?”
Who knows actually. Whether it’s 6,000 feet in France or boots on the ground in Ottawa, the sky is the limit for the Ottawa Senators and their fans.