Ottawa

Cyril Leeder wishes Senators well in emotional goodbye

Speaking in front of blank blue screens instead of the familiar centurion logo of the team he helped create, outgoing Senators president Cyril Leeder delivered a farewell news conference in the arena he helped build.

Cyril Leeder makes classy exit after being fired from the NHL team he helped build

Cyril Leeder at an emotional news conference at the Canadian Tire Centre one day after being fired from his role as Ottawa Senators president. (CBC)

Speaking in front of blank blue screens instead of the familiar centurion logo of the team, outgoing Senators president Cyril Leeder delivered a farewell news conference in the arena he helped build.

The irony in the fact he was permitted to do so by the organization he's credited with helping to save from bankruptcy on more than one occasion wasn't lost on the assembled reporters.

But for people who have dealt with the man for any of the two-plus decades he's been involved with the Senators, his professional tone came as no surprise. Leeder's departure from the club was announced Wednesday by team owner Eugene Melnyk, and attended by Leeder's successor, Tom Anselmi.

"My only regret and really is the only regret I have is that we didn't, during my tenure, we weren't able to reward that [fan] support with a Stanley Cup," said the Brockville-born Leeder, who was visibly emotional when he began to speak about the impact his work has had on his family life.

"I got to get through this part because this is important. It's to my family," said Leeder. "Long nights and weekends, a 24-7 schedule and you're never actually on holiday. It always meant compromises for family." 

Leeder joked his wife has always wanted him home for a few extras hours per week. He addressed her, saying "Careful what you wish for."

Not a surprise

Leeder described his Tuesday meeting with owner Eugene Melnyk as "professional" and he also said he'd be disingenuous if he didn't admit he saw the move coming.

Fans and former colleagues expressed their gratitude immediately on Wednesday.

Part of an open letter on the popular Silver Seven blog read, "Thank you for personally being there for the fans. Stories abound of encounters that fans have had with you. Always willing to chat about the Sens, taking both compliments and letting fans vent to you.

"This is beyond casual encounters too, with stories of you going out of your way to engage fans during your time with the team. I would bet that not many other NHL team presidents have been as approachable as you have."

Fellow Senators co-founder Bruce Firestone tweeted:

And Mayor Jim Watson expressed hope that Leeder would remain in Ottawa.

"I've worked with a lot of business leaders and, you know, Cy is one of the most dedicated Ottawa boosters that you'll come across, a true gentleman. His word is always his bond and it's always been a great honour to work with him. And he's very well regarded in the community. My hope is we won't lose him to another city," said Watson. 

And that appears to be Leeder's hope as well, saying he'd like an opportunity to present itself in Ottawa. 

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