'He's nuts to stay there': Don Cherry says Sens owner should relocate team
Hockey personality responds to crowdfunded 'Melnyk Out' campaign
Some Ottawa Senators fans have voiced their displeasure with the direction of the team by putting up billboards calling for the ouster of Eugene Melnyk.
Don Cherry agrees that the Senators owner should get out of the nation's capital, but the colourful hockey personality thinks Melnyk should take the team with him.
"He's nuts to stay there," Cherry said Saturday on his popular "Coach's Corner" segment on CBC, going as far as to suggest that the Senators should move to Quebec City.
Speaking in response to the "Melnyk Out" campaign, which created a buzz in the hockey world when three crowdfunded billboards bearing that hashtag went up in Ottawa with a fourth on the way, Cherry criticized Ottawa fans for not filling the Canadian Tire Centre in suburban Kanata and painted Melnyk as a generous owner who has bankrolled the city's hockey infrastructure.
"He put millions of dollars into the franchise, and what do they do? They give him a hard time," Cherry said.
"There's seven Sens rinks around Ottawa he puts it on, the only bad rink is where they're playing."
Discontent goes deeper
The Senators, who were a goal away from reaching the Stanley Cup final last season, have had a miserable 2017-18 campaign. The team is mired near the bottom of the Eastern Conference standings and there is rampant speculation that popular team captain Erik Karlsson will be traded before he becomes an unrestricted free agent at the end of next season.
That prompted fan Spencer Callaghan to spearhead the GoFundMe billboard campaign that raised $10,000 in less than a month.
Cherry instead put the blame on the fans, calling them out for not packing the arena even when they were on their impressive run last season.
"He'd sell out Quebec in a heartbeat," Cherry said.
But Callaghan said the roots of fan discontentment go deeper than simply a lost season.
"The really clear message I want to get through is this is not about this season, this is not about a bad season," Callaghan said when the billboards went up Monday. "This is about Daniel Alfredsson leaving, twice, this is about why Kyle Turris left, this is about why Mr. Leeder left, why Mr. Anselmi left. This is about a series of decisions over a long period of time."