Ottawa Senators owner Eugene Melnyk says disgruntled fans who stay away from Scotiabank Place because of the NHL lockout will be missing out.
Melnyk said the fans will want to be part of the Senators’ shortened 48-game season that begins next Saturday. The Senators will play the Jets in Winnipeg and will have their home opener Jan. 21 against the Florida Panthers.
“My message to the fans to come out and support the team, you’re going to want to be part of this because this is going to be a great, great team for the coming years if not immediately and you don’t want to be left out in the cold,” Melnyk said at a news conference before the Senators opened training camp Sunday.
“As a die-hard fan, you are part of this organization. I just want you guys back.”
Winning some fans back could prove difficult. Some showed anger or indifference the 113-day lockout, which officially ended Saturday when the players ratified the new CBA.
Some teams around the league are offering incentives to try and bring paying customers back into the arenas, and the Senators are no different.
Among the offerings to the fans is free parking on opening night, free admission to kids 14 years of age and younger in four of the first 10 home games, $1 popcorn and pop in seven of the first 10 games and half price merchandise up until the end of opening night at home.
“For all of our fans, we know you love Senators hockey and have missed the games these last few months,” team president Cyril Leeder said. “We’re sorry that you had to miss those games and we can’t get those games back, but we can make the remaining 48 game meaningful and important to you.”
Melnyk said that wins rather than discounts and giveaways is the best way to appease fans after four months of bitterness.
“Other than free hot dogs, although they’re important, the most important thing that we can give is to have these players come out every night and deliver you a winning team,” Melynk said. “Ownership for me is secondary to the passion. I’m sorry for all of us because we had to endure these four months.”