Another week has begun and yet I still have not been asked to join a consortium bidding for the Ottawa Senators.
My e-mail address is easy to find. On short notice, I am confident I can free up three, possibly even four, figures in investment cash. The first of the month is tough, but catch me in week three and there’s some budgetary wiggle room.
Send me your Venmo details. If you think it will look more impressive, I can mail you the money in a No. 10 envelope.
Because if Russell Peters is bidding for the Senators, all of us should be able to.
No knock on Peters. Funny guy. But he has sports franchise money? Who’s next? Michael Bublé? A couple of the guys from Nickelback?
It’s not that it’s wrong. It just doesn’t seem fair to the rest of us. We’re also Canadian. Since everyone else is in on this, why can’t we own the Senators, too?
There are four groups in the running for one of hockey’s risky propositions. Peters has joined one led by Los Angeles-based businessman Neko Sparks. The other three are backed by billionaires nobody’s heard of. Ryan Reynolds was sniffing around for a while. The Weeknd’s in there somewhere, as well as Snoop Dogg, and Donovan Bailey.
Everyone who wants to buy the Ottawa Senators
Essentially, if you have seen them in an ad for the Junos (but not actually at the Junos because who goes to the Junos?), they’re in the mix somewhere.
You get the attraction. This is the big time for small-to-medium timers.
Everybody would like to own the New York Yankees, but that club is never going to be for sale. The Yankees are the Ferrari Enzo of sports. Impossible to find one, never mind buy.
But you could get something that kind of looks like one. Something a bit dinged up. Might hold its value, but it’s never going to appreciate much.
That’s the Senators – the Mazda Miata of the big four sports leagues. Is it a sports car? Sort of. Is it a Ferrari? Absolutely not.
Whoever gets the Senators is buying one thing – the ability to go to parties in Tulum filled with rich dolts and say things like, “Tell me about it. Union busting is exhausting. I know all about those headaches because I’m in the sports business.”
After the obvious question – “What sports business exactly?” – they get to say, “Oh, I’m part-owner of a team.”
In their fantasies, that’s where this conversation ends. Because if it continues, it will go downhill like a boulder.
“Oh wow. Which team?”
“The Ottawa Senators.”
“I’m sorry. Who?”
“Is that pickleball?” “No, it’s hockey.”
“Ah. Well. That’s so nice for you. Is that the one with the, you know, with the, with the teeth?”
That’s it. That’s all they’re getting. A party trick.
As my colleague Andrew Willis pointed out in a column a couple of weeks ago, the Senators are not like most sports franchises in that they are not a cash fountain. They are a rebuilding team attached to a real estate nightmare. They are a place people with some money go to bury their dreams of big money.
The only people getting rich out of this deal are the daughters of Eugene Melnyk, because they have the sense to cash in now.
Willis’s piece was pitched as a warning to Reynolds, an actor and collector of mediocre sports teams. At the time, people figured he had the inside track on winning this fight. Perhaps not coincidentally, Reynolds dropped out of the race a couple of days later.
Maybe he read the paper. Maybe he also counted out a billion on his fingers. It’s a lot of fingers.
In the way of these things, the cautionary tale is in the news right now. The NHL’s Arizona Coyotes just failed to convince taxpayers to buy them a new arena for their birthday. They are the only multimillion-dollar concern on planet Earth currently experiencing homelessness.
The commissioner of the league has been leaned over the prone body of the Coyotes franchise for more than a decade, trying to give it the kiss of profitability. So far, no joy.
The Coyotes have many of the same problems as the Senators – real estate problems, fanbase problems, attracting-corporate-interest problems, winning-at-hockey problems. But even if they’re playing in a parking lot in Tempe, Ariz., surrounded by artificial snow machines, someone with too much money will want them because of cocktail chit-chat.
Whoever wins the Senators’ bid will disappoint because the team can’t be what they want it to be. It’s never going to make a ton. It’s not going to excite the people you run into jet shopping at the Lear dealership. Nobody in America has heard of it, will hear of it or cares to hear of it.
The only good reason to buy it is because you really like hockey. How many of the people involved in all four bids hit that bar?
In a sensible world, the Senators would go the community ownership route, like a Dollar Store Green Bay Packers. This would free ownership from the Sisyphean mission to make the Senators glamorous.
They don’t need to be. They just need to be enough fun that people who live in Ottawa are willing to pay a reasonable amount to see them. Not having to drive out to Kanata would be a nice bonus.
In that utopian sports scenario, all Canadians would be invited to own the Ottawa Senators. That’s a shtick with legs – “Unlike the body after which it is named, our team represents the people.”
Russell Peters should be one of them. I’d much prefer to see him do 10 minutes of material at each season’s exit interviews than whichever poor sap they hire as GM. If the team can’t be good or sexy or double in value every four years, it could at least be entertaining.