Ottawa

#MelnykOut billboards go up, signalling fans' frustration

Billboards designed to put pressure on Ottawa Senators owner and CEO Eugene Melnyk to sell the team have gone up at several locations around Ottawa.

Fed up Senators fan's fundraising campaign amassed more than $10K for pointed signs

Senators fans have put up billboards around Ottawa signalling their frustration with the team's owner and CEO 0:16

Billboards designed to put pressure on Ottawa Senators owner and CEO Eugene Melnyk to sell the team have gone up at several locations around Ottawa.

The billboards went up Monday and will remain for two weeks at:

  • Ogilvie Road near St. Laurent Boulevard.
  • Hunt Club Road near Paul Benoit Drive.
  • Bank Street near Riverside Drive.
  • Carling Avenue near Preston Street.

A fifth sign is set to go up April 2 and stay up for one week at Bank near Riverdale Avenue.

Spencer Callaghan raised money for the billboards in February. In an interview with CBC Radio's Ottawa Morning Monday, he said it "feels good" to know they're finally being installed.

"I'm doing this for the fans. More than 420 fans donated to this campaign, and we raised over $10,000," he said.
Ottawa Senators owner and CEO Eugene Melnyk is the target of an advertising campaign designed to pressure him into selling the NHL franchise. (CBC)

'Your empty seat doesn't speak'

"Quite honestly, people are sad that this team is going through such a tough time, and that doesn't just mean on the ice — quite frankly this has nothing to do with the product on the ice; this has to do with the organization as a whole.

"They're happy that there's a way now for them to have a voice and be heard, because unfortunately, if you simply don't buy tickets, your empty seat doesn't speak."

Asked why the billboards aren't closer to the Senators' rink, Callaghan said the space simply wasn't available.

"Unfortunately there was no availability around the Canadian Tire Centre until the fall, according to the company that we approached. So our next best bet was to try to get maximum visibility," he said.

Spencer Callaghan started a fundraising campaign in February to raise money for the billboards. (Kristy Nease/CBC)

Letter failed to mollify fans

In early March, Melnyk sent a letter to season ticket holders promising sweeping changes to rebuild the team and reaffirming his commitment to keep the Senators in Ottawa.

"Enduring a tough year has given us a chance for clear-eyed evaluation," Melnyk wrote. "This is an ongoing process but I can tell you one thing: we are not looking to just tweak our lineup nor mortgage our future for stop-gap solutions."

Callaghan said it did little to mollify angry fans.

"I would suggest it made it worse, because the letter really came off as kind of tone-deaf. One, the letter was only sent to season ticket holders ... but second, it was just a very vague letter without a lot of concrete actions involved."

Much of the disgruntlement has to do with the team's perceived penny-pinching, Callaghan said.

"I think most Sens fans are perfectly OK with the fact that the Senators are not going to spend at the cap — we understand that it's not a rich market team — but if you're not going to spend at the cap, then you have to do the little things around the edges that you can do to be successful, and you can't do that with the smallest front office in the league.

"Now we have our third CEO in the past 14 months, who is Eugene Melnyk himself, and I just question the level of chaos and uncertainty. The level of chaos and uncertainty in the front office just does not give fans a lot of confidence."

CBC Radio's Ottawa Morning