Taking their puck and sulking

Two weeks ago, city council decided that the location for a new casino would be at Rideau Carleton Raceways, denying Senators owner Eugene Melnyk his request to have a casino out in Kanata by the hockey arena. I have few strong opinions about the casino, and I’ll probably never write about the issue in depth (short version: I thought Kanata was probably a better location, though I have no real insight into this; I don’t like casinos as corporate welfare; I’m glad they didn’t shoehorn it downtown), but there are some new developments that indicate the city may have made a very wise choice.

As The Citizen‘s David Reevely reports, the Senators only appear to care about Ottawa as long as they can leverage certain rents from the city:

Less than two weeks after city council snubbed the Ottawa Senators in their pursuit of a west-end casino, the hockey team’s president has quit the city’s task force planning a celebration of Canada’s 150th birthday in 2017.

He’s also quit the board of the Ottawa Convention Centre and committees he served on with Ottawa Tourism and the National Arts Centre.

There’s nothing immoral about a bunch of wealthy men sulking when they don’t get the shiny new toy they want (though it is rather unseemly); the Ottawa Senators are, after all, a business, first and foremost. They are not here to ameliorate the city or make life better for us citizens. They exist to bring pride, prestige and money to the Toronto-born, Barbados-residing owner, Eugene Melnyk.

Melnyk will, no doubt, continue to run the Senators as a business, and it is for this reason that the city cannot afford to give him any favours. Sure, today he’s “just” asking for a casino, but there’s no telling what his next demand will be. He has shown his true self, and we cannot trust him to refrain from blackmailing the city in the future.

Ottawa is blessed to have a sports franchise owner who actually cares about the community. Jeff Hunt, owner of 67s and our yet-to-be-re-born CFL franchise, the RedBlacks, is truly a part of our community. But not every owner is going to be like Jeff Hunt, and we can’t expect them to be.

Eugene Melnyk is a business man, and business ventures are inherently self-interested. We have to remember this and treat all businesses, even The Senators, as just that, businesses.