Sen­a­tors in rough shape

Ac­cu­sa­tions from Karls­son’s wife over al­leged ha­rass­ment lat­est prob­lem for team

Cape Breton Post - - SPORTS - BY JOSHUA CLIPPERTON

The Ottawa Sen­a­tors were one shot from play­ing for the Stanley Cup last May. Next to noth­ing has gone right since.

On and off the ice, the Sen­a­tors have been an un­mit­i­gated dis­as­ter in the wake of their 3-2 dou­ble over­time loss to the Pitts­burgh Pen­guins in Game 7 of the 2017 East­ern Con­fer­ence fi­nal.

The team stum­bled its way to a for­get­table 30th-place fin­ish this sea­son, but that doesn’t even be­gin to scratch the sur­face of what has been an epic face­plant.

Apart from the long los­ing streaks and abysmal per­for­mances, the past year has seen a for­mer player lash out, owner Eu­gene Mel­nyk threaten to move the fran­chise on the eve of his show­case out­door game, the un­cer­tain fu­ture of cap­tain Erik Karls­son, a mi­nor fan re­volt, and as­sis­tant gen­eral man­ager Randy Lee be­ing charged with ha­rass­ment.

The most pop­u­lar player in team his­tory, Daniel Al­freds­son, was also quoted say­ing he hopes the Sen­a­tors are sold to en­sure their fu­ture in the na­tion’s cap­i­tal, the club’s plan for a new down­town arena re­mains very much up in the in the air, and a baby gar­ment fea­tur­ing the Sen­a­tors logo was re­called be­cause of a po­ten­tial chok­ing haz­ard.

But things hit a stun­ning new low this week when it emerged Karls­son’s wife has filed an or­der of pro­tec­tion against the spouse of one of his team­mates, al­leg­ing ha­rass­ment and cy­ber­bul­ly­ing.

Melinda Karls­son al­leges that Monika Caryk, the long­time part­ner of Sen­a­tors for­ward

Mike Hoff­man, posted hun­dreds of deroga­tory on­line mes­sages aimed at her and her hus­band.

“Monika Caryk has ut­tered nu­mer­ous state­ments wish­ing my un­born child dead,” Melinda Karls­son said in the sworn state­ment. The Karlssons’ first child, a son named Axel, was still­born in March.

The al­le­ga­tions and the ap­pli­ca­tion for a peace bond, which was filed in court on May 4, were first re­ported by the Ottawa Cit­i­zen.

Melinda Karls­son also claimed that Caryk “ut­tered that she wished I was dead and that some­one should ‘take out’ my hus­band’s legs to ‘end his ca­reer.”’

It’s hard to en­vi­sion a worse

12-month span for a team.

It’s also im­por­tant to ask, es­pe­cially with the NHL draft, free agency and what could be a fran­chise-al­ter­ing sum­mer just around the cor­ner, ‘How did the Sen­a­tors get to this point?’

While the last year has been es­pe­cially bad - and the gro­cery list of head­lines are by no means all con­nected - the re­la­tion­ship be­tween Mel­nyk, who saved the club out of bank­ruptcy in 2003, and fans has been volatile for some time.

Things weren’t helped when Sen­a­tors pres­i­dent Cyril Leeder, a mem­ber of the or­ga­ni­za­tion since 1992, was abruptly fired in Jan­uary 2017.

Tom Anselmi, the for­mer Maple Leafs Sports & En­ter­tain­ment ex­ec­u­tive, took over from Leeder and was tasked with boost­ing ticket sales and work­ing on the down­town arena pro­ject that would see the Sen­a­tors move from sub­ur­ban Kanata to Le­bre­ton Flats, just west of Par­lia­ment Hill.

But even as the team surged through the play­offs last spring, ticket sales lagged, with empty seats dot­ting Cana­dian Tire Cen­tre for sev­eral games.

The re­sponse was to tarp off the up­per por­tions of the arena this sea­son with an eye to­wards in­creas­ing de­mand, but at­ten­dance dipped fur­ther. Anselmi was fired in Fe­bru­ary.

A few days prior to De­cem­ber’s out­door game, for­mer Ottawa cen­tre Kyle Tur­ris, who was traded to Nashville in a three-way deal the pre­vi­ous month, told The Cana­dian Press that Mel­nyk was the rea­son he was no longer in the na­tion’s cap­i­tal.

“I think man­age­ment did want to sign me, but I think that the owner didn’t,” Tur­ris said in Vancouver on Dec. 13. “And that was his de­ci­sion.”

The Sen­a­tors, not sur­pris­ingly, de­nied the as­ser­tion.

Then on the eve of the out­door game, Mel­nyk mused that he might have to move the team if ticket sales didn’t im­prove.

The #Mel­nyk­Out hash­tag was launched on Twit­ter the same month, and while the owner even­tu­ally back­tracked on the re­lo­ca­tion talk, some fans de­cided to vent their frus­tra­tion by rais­ing money to fund a se­ries of bill­boards fea­tur­ing the slo­gan.

Through it all, Karls­son’s fu­ture - he can be­come an un­re­stricted free agent and walk for noth­ing in July 2019 - re­mained a key talk­ing point ahead of Fe­bru­ary’s trade dead­line.

JUSTIN TANG/THE CANA­DIAN PRESS VIA AP, FILE

In this Aug. 24, 2017, file photo, Ottawa Sen­a­tors as­sis­tant gen­eral man­ager Randy Lee speaks at a memo­rial ser­vice for for­mer coach and gen­eral man­ager of the Sen­a­tors, Bryan Mur­ray, at the Cana­dian Tire Cen­tre in Ottawa. Lee will miss at least part...

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