Former NHL tough guy pulling no punches on state of Sens ownership
Eugene Melnyk 'crippling the Sens and the hope of their fan base,' Mark Fraser says
Ottawa's Mark Fraser rarely pulled any punches during his NHL career, and he's not about to start now.
Fraser is calling on Senators owner Eugene Melnyk to step aside for the good of the city, tweeting on Wednesday in response to the failure of the LeBreton Flats venture: "This owner is crippling the Sens and the hope of their fan base. This stubborn man needs to go."
"We know that the owner doesn't want to leave, and we also know that once upon a time he may have been a saviour to this team. But that's in the rear-view mirror now," Fraser told CBC from Slovakia, where he now plays pro hockey with HKM Zvolen.
It's a sad time right now in the Ottawa hockey community because of all this.- Mark Fraser
Fraser, a former defenceman with the New Jersey Devils, Edmonton Oilers and Toronto Maple Leafs, also spent a season in Binghamton playing for the Senators' American Hockey League affiliate.
There, he said he witnessed an organization that wasn't willing to spend money on its crop of future stars.
"The environment they were building for their youth, and the prospects ... It was a shame to see, again, because of this frugal behaviour, the environment that was being built," he said.
According to Fraser, the Binghamton team bus frequently broke down, leaving then head coach Luke Richardson to plead for a new one. As a result, the players sometimes arrived late for games, where they competed against better-rested opponents.
"There's no excuse for that, at that level," he said.
Fraser said he felt compelled to sound off on Twitter Wednesday after hearing news that attempts to revive the LeBreton Flats redevelopment plan had failed.
In a series of tweets, Fraser called his time playing for Melnyk the "worst experience in my 13 year professional career."
An owner with deeper pockets could have gotten shovels in the ground by now, said Fraser, who played for Edmonton when the Oilers began building their new arena, and has seen how such a project can revitalize a city and rev up a fan base.
"I just think all that is very telling, and it's a sad time right now in the Ottawa hockey community because of all this," he told CBC.