In early November, it became official. The Ottawa Senators were going up for sale.
As one of seven NHL franchises in Canada, owning the Sens would mean a chance to be a big part of the country's most popular sport. And this opportunity has brought a lot of interested people out of the woodwork, including celebrities.
But buying a sports team is also something that doesn't happen quickly. A lot of people need to approve this process, including the Senators current owners and the NHL commissioner, Gary Bettman. They want owners that will be stable and committed to a long, bright future for the team. Sounds like a good idea!
Let's dig into the future of the Sens ...
Who owns them right now?
The main owners are two sisters, Anna and Olivia Melnyk. They are both under 25 and inherited the team from their father, Eugene Melnyk, who died last April. Though neither of them wish to continue as owners, they are working hard to find the best replacement possible.
Could the Senators leave Ottawa?
Sometimes when a team is sold, it is also moved. This happened in 1982, when the Colorado Rockies were bought by Jersey City businessman John McMullen, who moved the team to New Jersey and renamed them the Devils.
So should Sens fans be worried? No. One of the top conditions of anyone buying the Senators is that the team must remain in Ottawa. Phew!
What do the Senators cost?
Buying a sports team isn't like buying a bag of milk. And we don't just mean that it's more expensive. The value of a sports team changes all the time, based on a number of factors. How popular is the team? Do their games sell out? Is the team good on the ice?
Right now according to Forbes, a financial magazine, the Senators are valued at about $800 million. That puts them in the lower third of the league (The Rangers, Leafs, and Canadiens all hover at values around $2 billion). The Sens' lower value has a lot to with the fact that the team hasn't won much in the last few years and because the team needs a new rink (construction is supposed to begin on one in fall 2023). But the hockey club is also full of many excellent young players with bright futures.
In other words, it is a safe bet that the Sens will come to be worth more in the coming years—maybe a lot more. Great news for someone looking to buy them!
Will there be a celebrity owner?
Many people have come forward expressing interest in the Sens. One of the people who is generating the most excitement is Canadian movie star Ryan Reynolds.
He grew up in Ottawa and already owns another sports club: the Welsh football team, Wrexham A.F.C. (the third oldest soccer club in the world!). He has been seen at several home games over the past few weeks and met with Bettman, who said he was impressed.
The fever around Reynolds has caught on to the team and its fans, too. Sens goalie Cam Talbot even revealed a new mask that featured the Marvel character Deadpool, who is played by Reynolds on the big screen.
— Friedesigns (@Friedesigns) January 4, 2023
What is an ownership group?
But the problem for Reynolds? He doesn't have enough money to buy the team on his own. Not many people do! Instead, he would need to form a partnership—called an ownership group—with other business people. Who might those people be?
All December, many such groups have been examining the Senators finances, planning out their bid (this will be the package that they present to the league to show why they're the best choice). Many of these names are billionaires who are not that well known to the public. But that doesn't mean their stories aren't interesting.
Take for example, a group led by Canadian billionaire Patrick Dovigi nearly bought the Arizona Coyotes recently and is looking to try again with Ottawa. He is a former hockey goalie himself, and was even drafted by the Edmonton Oilers in 1997. He never actually played in the NHL though, and instead became the founder and president of Green For Life Environmental, a waste management company.
And then there is another group led by an L.A. businessman named Neko Sparks. He has been putting together an ownership group that features several people of colour, as well as a still-not-known 'major player' in the music industry. If successful, Sparks would become the first Black owner of an NHL franchise. (This is an important point, as the NHL has received a lot of criticism recently for its lack of diversity.)
How will this end? Your guess is as good as ours. But with a new arena, a new owner, and a handful of great players, we're thrilled to hear that the Ottawa Senators are moving forward in a positive direction.