A New Era For Our Team
The Ottawa Senators have a new owner, who is considering building a stadium downtown, and a roster of hot young players who are off to a good start this season. After several lackluster years, there appears to be renewed excitement about the team.
HERE WAS A palpable energy in the standing-room only crowd at City Hall’s Jean Pigott Hall when Ottawa Senators owner Michael Andlauer was the guest of honour at the mayor’s monthly breakfast. And there was news, too. Andlauer told the crowd his gut feeling was that a downtown arena for the Sens was the “the right thing.
“Our fans seem to feel that way as well, so there’s alignment,” Andlauer told Mayor Mark Sutcliffe when he was interviewed by Sutcliffe on stage. “Now, it’s just a matter of working collaboratively and doing what’s right.”
Andlauer said he also wants to make sure that this big decision is still the right one in five, 10 or even 15 years.
It all added up to what many Ottawa Senators fans had been feeling since the announcement of the purchase by Andlauer from the estate of the late Eugene Melnyk. Namely, it’s the dawn of a new era for the beleaguered team, and fans are more hopeful than they’ve been in a long time about the prospect of a solid team that might actually make it to the Stanley Cup finals. Andlauer’s goals are more ambitious than that: He told the mayor that he had taken a lot of selfies in the past few weeks since the paperwork for his purchase of the team had been signed.
“But the next selfie? I want to take some selfies on the ice, with the [Stanley] Cup,” he says. “That’s what I want.”
Asked how he would apply lessons learned from his very successful business career as a shipping magnate for pharmaceuticals and a hockey club owner, Andlauer said he thinks it’s important to be on very positive terms with all members of your team.
“We have holiday parties and we create that environment that it’s not just a job — I think that’s really important,” he said. “The other aspect is if you have a vision and you have to be very clear [about it.] Communication is important and the feedback is probably more important.”
Finally, he said, you have to find a differentiation.
“As a hockey team, we are constantly trying to find the point of differentiation,” he says. “I think it was the combination of those things have helped me with my experience working — being close with your employees and finding that point of differentiation. One thing that transcends generations is hard work. I haven’t heard of many successful people who haven’t worked hard, whether in business or in sports.”
Andlauer was until recently a part owner of the Montreal Canadiens, but with that franchise, majority shareholder Geoff Molson has the last word. With the Sens, it’ll be Andlauer who has the final say. And, Andlauer loves the idea of being underestimated as well as being a franchise between two major markets.
“I love being an underdog,” he says. “When I started my business, the big players said there was no way I was going to make it. So give me that challenge. Plus, Ontario hasn’t had a Stanley Cup in a long time.”
Newly minted president and CEO Cyril Leeder, who returns to a position he held as a founding member of the movement to bring the Senators back to Ottawa in the early 1990s and left only six years ago, is excited about what the team can do.
“It’s an exciting time for the franchise, you can feel it in the city and everywhere you go; there’s been a buzz here since Michael has arrived,” Leeder says. “We hope this talented young team can continue to grow and have success and at the same time we want to really strengthen our connection to the Ottawa-Gatineau community.”
He says it “feels a lot like the team in the late 1990s” when they were a “young, inspired group that captured and hearts and imaginations of Ottawa.”
Erin Crowe, executive vice-president and COO, says that in addition to on-ice success, the franchise wants “to have positive interactions with our fans and customers on every level” and that the team is working at making the fan experience the best in its class.
“I’m excited to see so many fans in the building — we sold out 15 games last year and are trending to surpass that number this year,” she says. “The atmosphere inside of Canadian Tire Centre when the building is full and the team is playing great is unrivalled and something you really need to experience in person.”