A Brief History of Eugene Melnyk

By Luke Peristy

I believe it was Leo Tolstoy who once wrote, "All popular sports owners are alike; all unpopular sports owners are unpopular in their own way." Speaking of which, you can't spend much time on the Senators-related internet without noticing that Eugene Melnyk is a somewhat controversial figure, much in the same way George W. Bush or Justin Bieber are controversial. Some people would describe him as an arrogant, tone-deaf blowhard, but then again, he also has his detractors. Sports owners in general are a mixed bag, but I think it's safe to say that few bags have been more mixed than The Euge over the past 11 years.

I'm sure that you could go back through what Melnyk has said over time and say that he's contradicted himself, but I beg to differ. If you read between the lines, you can see that he's been saying the same things all along. This is the basis for what I'm calling The Unified Theory of Melnyk. Let's take a look at my Unified Theory using the one thing The Man Himself couldn't possibly disagree with: Eugene Melnyk.

I present to you Eugene Melnyk as expressed by Eugene Melnyk.

Melnyk on Building a Winner

"It's pointless to say okay this is the one year that we are going to win. What do you do for the next five?" - Eugene Melnyk, 2006

"It's one thing to have a team that is a one-hit wonder, then collapses the following year. That's not something we want to do here in Ottawa. I know for sure the fans don't want that and the players don't want that." - Eugene Melnyk, 2007

"(Bryan Murray) wants to walk out of there, as do I, with a Stanley Cup but we don’t want to wait for years three and four to do that.” - Eugene Melnyk, 2013

Taken at face value, Present Eugene seems to be in conflict with Past Eugene, but it's important to examine the context in which these quotes were made. In 2006 and 2007, Ottawa had some of its most talented teams in franchise history. You look up and down those lineups and say to yourself, "Man, why limit ourselves to just winning once?" A few years later, a little older, a little wiser, you say to yourself, "Man, before we decide not to limit ourselves to winning just once, we should win once." Fair enough.

Soundbite generated by The Unified Theory of Melnyk: "I've been saying for years that we want to build a consistent winner here in Ottawa, and frankly the way you do that is by winning once over and over again."

Melnyk on Alfredsson

"It's something I promised our organization and our fans when we signed him (to his current contract) in 2005...I recently repeated that's what we wanted to get done, so that Daniel finishes his career in Ottawa." - Eugene Melnyk, 2008

“(Retiring Alfredsson's number is) not a gimme, but if I was a betting man, I’d bet on it,” - Eugene Melnyk, 2013

"I'm not a betting man. I just spin The Wheel of Recognition."

Look, I'm not going to pretend to know exactly what happened with Daniel Alfredsson's contract negotiations this summer, but I will say this: it's got to be frustrating when an individual of whom you've come to expect certain things turns his back on your relationship and contents himself with communicating via passive-aggressive quotes to the media.

Soundbite generated by The Unified Theory of Melnyk: "I know how much the fans and this community love Daniel Alfredsson, and love, of course, is something that's highly conditional on the actions of those whom we choose to love."

Melnyk on The Fans

"You don't want to be raising ticket prices just to keep key players. But, saying that, we've got a program in place that we want to make sure that players who want to play in Ottawa, we want them to say, ‘We want to play here in this city in front of the best fans in the world.' We want to give them a great environment to play in." - Eugene Melnyk, 2005

"You're coming off a season where you had distractions...So everybody sits back. But I really think it'll take just a few games for people to see this is the real deal and I think it is. They'll be coming back and we're going to get that funk together and that old swagger back." - Eugene Melnyk, 2009

"We have a finicky fan base and you’ve got to live with it." - Eugene Melnyk, 2013

If there's one thing I know about fans, it's that the best ones are the ones that only invest their time, energy, and money into a winner, and if there's one thing I know about Eugene Melnyk, it's that he loves discerning spending. But more on that later.

Let's be real here: not all owners can keep up with the ever-changing mindset of their fanbase, but Eugene Melnyk always seems to be tuned in to the tumultuous landscape that is Ottawa Senators fandom. I don't even know what I'm going to say next, sometimes. Melnyk knows me better than I know myself. It's almost as if The Euge has a special source of insight into the mindset of the fans. . .

"My first draft of this column was started two hours after losing last Saturday night around midnight. By 2 a.m., I realized that this was not the time to write a letter to our fans and supporters. It was titled "Crushed" and I was writing it only from the perspective of a passionate fan and not as a fan AND an owner." - Eugene Melnyk, 2006 

We cannot confirm at this time that this photo was taken in Mrs. Melnyk's basement.
Who among us has not sat at their computer in the early morning and typed out some rambling screed more full of emotion than Halle Berry winning an Oscar? Eugene Melnyk's been there. You know why? Because Eugene Melnyk is a fan like us. Did you punch a hole in the wall when the Senators lost to the Leafs in the playoffs for the fourth time? Eugene Melnyk did too (allegedly). You know the fan that every fanbase seems to have who loves the team no matter what, and makes the most crazy predictions about how his team is going to win the Cup, just you wait? That's Eugene Melnyk. He is our crazy fan. He is truly a man of the people.

Soundbite generated by The Unified Theory of Melnyk: "We have great fans, they are the best in the league! Sure, they can be a little high-strung and finicky at times, but I should know; what fan is more finicky than me? Also, I believe that funk is a positive attribute to have, especially if it's in a state of togetherness."

Melnyk on Finances

"If we don't make the playoffs, I'll probably lose a few million dollars. If we make the playoffs, we make a few million...That's kind of how tight it is. It's very well managed."Eugene Melnyk, 2003

“We’re not the New York Rangers, we’re not the Toronto Maple Leafs, and I’m trying to keep ticket prices reasonable, because there’s a very delicate balance between ticket pricing, attendance and being able to put a competitive team (on the ice).” - Eugene Melnyk, 2013

Ok, admittedly it's never been hard to read between the lines where this topic is concerned.

Soundbite generated by The Unified Theory of Melnyk: "At the end of the day, I've got books to balance. The Ottawa Senators are not a charity. Unless you're thinking of The Ottawa Senators Foundation. That's totally a charity."


It can't be easy to own an NHL hockey franchise. An owner has to be constantly involved in the day-to-day operations of his franchise, whereas the fans merely make an effort to be aware of the day-to-day operations of the franchise. Fans don't make the news.

An owner develops a close relationship with his players. An owner wants to see them succeed. Fans don't have that close relationship with players, but still wish success upon anyone on the team, regardless of how well they know them. They don't know any better.

Furthermore, while fans can be content with merely cheering for a hockey team, owners have to cheer for a hockey team while paying the bills. Well actually, fans sort of pay the bills too, but it's different because the owners pay from their own bank accounts whereas the fans pay from . . . uh . . . well, I'm sure it's different somehow.

Imagine if you owned the Ottawa Senators. Think about how that would affect your attitude towards the team. You'd be more invested because you'd literally be more invested. Who is a sports team meant to benefit anyway? The owner or the fans? (Hint: It's whichever one is more likely to write an emotional blog post at 2 AM.)

The uninitiated might look at these facts and say that there's not much of a difference between being a fan and an owner, but if that's true, than so is this:

We are all Eugene Melnyk.
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