A sec­ond chance

Se­na­tors owner Mel­nyk is cau­tiously op­ti­mistic his team will make the play­offs

Cape Breton Post - - SPORTS - BY LISA WAL­LACE

It’s no sur­prise that fol­low­ing a life-sav­ing liver trans­plant Eu­gene Mel­nyk has a greater ap­pre­ci­a­tion for life. The Ot­tawa Se­na­tors owner is grate­ful for his sec­ond chance and plans to make the most of it.

Mel­nyk was in the na­tion’s cap­i­tal Wed­nes­day to launch his new foun­da­tion, The Or­gan Project, whose main ini­tia­tive is to end wait­lists for trans­plant pa­tients. Mel­nyk, who re­ceived a live liver do­na­tion in May 2015, wants to take an ac­tive role in cre­at­ing more aware­ness about or­gan do­na­tion.

“Be­ing on death’s door is not a pretty sight when you’re sit­ting there, and you can’t do any­thing about get­ting peo­ple to do­nate de­ceased or­gans or even live or­gans un­til you do a pub­lic plea, and then it’s a shot in the dark,” said Mel­nyk. “The best way to do it is to make sure there is no lineup and that re­ally is the ob­jec­tive.”

Mel­nyk plans to take a per­sonal role in the new foun­da­tion while keep­ing a close eye on his team with the play­offs ap­proach­ing.

In the 14 years since he bought the Se­na­tors, Mel­nyk has only seen his team ad­vance to the Stan­ley Cup fi­nal once, in 2007. Since then, Ot­tawa has not made it past the sec­ond round.

En­ter­ing Wed­nes­day night’s games, the Se­na­tors (29-19-6) were tied for sec­ond place in the At­lantic Divi­sion. A post-sea­son berth is a real pos­si­bil­ity and Mel­nyk sees rea­son to be hope­ful.

“I think now, fi­nally, (we) have dug out of a three-year hole,” he said. “It was kind of sad. One out of three years you get into the play­offs and you get blown out and the oth­ers you don’t get in. Now it’s ex­cit­ing.

“I just think we have the po­ten­tial, first, of get­ting into the play­offs and se­condly, po­ten­tially go­ing into the sec­ond, third and even the fourth round. I think fi­nally I’ve be­come op­ti­mistic cau­tiously.”

With the trade dead­line two weeks away, the Se­na­tors are still in­ter­ested in adding a few pieces. How­ever, Mel­nyk said he would wait un­til af­ter Satur­day’s game against Toronto be­fore sit­ting down with gen­eral man­ager Pierre Do­rion to dis­cuss how to pro­ceed.

“Did you see what they want for (Avs for­ward Matt) Duch­ene and stuff, oh my God,” said Mel­nyk. “It’s go­ing to be silly be­cause there’s so many com­pet­i­tive teams, es­pe­cially in our con­fer­ence. From bot­tom to top, even if I was at the bot­tom I’d still have hope. I think it will be way too ex­pen­sive and we’re not go­ing to jeop­ar­dize our fu­ture. Ev­ery­one wants our young stars and I don’t blame them.

“I think we’re go­ing to be smart about it to build a longterm base and a long-term team, but we’re ur­gently want­ing to win of course.”

Mel­nyk said he’s not op­posed to bring­ing in a player or two, but doesn’t want to spend ex­ces­sively. He added that team pay­roll is con­nected to how well the Se­na­tors can draw on home ice.

Over 31 home games this sea­son, the Se­na­tors have av­er­aged 16,336 spec­ta­tors at Cana­dian Tire Cen­tre. That’s well be­low the arena’s ca­pac­ity of 18,572.

“It’s a catch-22,” he said. “You need more peo­ple to come to the games to spend more to get a bet­ter team and the bet­ter your team is the more peo­ple come.”

Mel­nyk also said he’s hope­ful an an­nounce­ment re­gard­ing an out­door game in De­cem­ber will be forth­com­ing.

“We’re done as far as the Se­na­tors are con­cerned, we’re all in,” he said. “We’ve made our deals. I think all the other parties, which in­cludes the city, OSEG, the NHL they have to do their deal. That’s the only rea­son. We’re done. We’re in. I want to do it. I’m ex­cited about it.”

CP PHOTO

Ot­tawa Se­na­tors owner Eu­gene Mel­nyk is shown in this un­dated file photo.

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