LAS VEGAS — The Ottawa Senators are, at the moment, the most maligned franchise in the NHL, and many fans have wondered whether the NHL might step in to steady the franchise, giving the swirl of controversy around it.
But NHL commissioner Gary Bettman said the Senators are just another team whose troubles have been overstated.
“There always has to be some issue, somewhere, that has to be dealt with. The headstone has been written over the years for many franchises, under a variety of circumstances, and none of the burials ever took place,” Bettman said of the Senators while speaking before the NHL Awards in Las Vegas on Wednesday.
The Senators’ troubles came to the fore this month with a shocking cyberbullying scandal, in which the fiancée of forward Mike Hoffman allegedly harassed the wife of captain Erik Karlsson, culminating in Hoffman being traded this week. Then there was the team’s suspension of Randy Lee, the assistant general manager who is facing a harassment charge from an incident during the NHL’s pre-draft scouting combine. There’s the stalemate between the team and the city over a new downtown arena. There was the statement from team owner Eugene Melnyk about potentially relocating the Senators, which was a catalyst for the campaign to get him to sell the team that included fan-funded billboards around Ottawa.
Melnyk attended the NHL Board of Governors meeting on Wednesday morning in Las Vegas. A large group of reporters and television cameras were waiting for him in the hallway of a casino hotel to discuss the compendium of controversies facing his franchise, including calls from fans for him to sell the team.
Rather than exit through the media throng as other owners did, Melnyk ducked out a side door and avoided the media.
Bettman stressed, however, that the mess wasn’t severe enough to have the NHL clean it up.
“We don’t think the club is anywhere near cardiac arrest, to use your analogy. No, we don’t need [the paddles]. There’s no issue up there. I think it’s more sensationalized than anything else,” he said.