BUFFALO — The Senators are confident their bid to host the 2012 NHL all-star weekend is a slam dunk.
While team president Cyril Leeder told reporters on Tuesday that Ottawa will be up against 25 other bids for one of three all-star games (2011-13) being made available by the NHL, he believes the application will be successful.
The Senators are the only Canadian team that has never hosted an all-star game. Ottawa will be up against the Maple Leafs, but Toronto hosted the game in 2000. Senators owner Eugene Melnyk has been bidding for the game since he came into the league seven years ago.
“(The chances) are excellent,” said Leeder before the club’s departure for Buffalo. “We’ve got a great bid. We’ve bid on a lot of different events and I’ve just got a good feeling about this one.”
The City of Ottawa jumped on board with the bid Tuesday by pledging $200,000 in support if it is successful.
“This is just as big as the Grey Cup,” said Orleans Coun. Bob Monette.
Not only is the all-star weekend — which includes a rookie game and skills competition on the Saturday and the game on Sunday afternoon — one of the premiere events on the schedule, NHL officials believe it brings more than $30 million in economic impact to the host city.
Working in conjunction with Noel Buckley, president and CEO of Ottawa Tourism, the Senators don’t think they’ll be rebuffed this time around. The city has made bids before, but was rejected because Ottawa lacked the convention space.
By 2012, the new downtown convention centre — with the required 200,000 sq. feet of floor space — will have opened its doors.
That space is needed so the league can hold NHL Fantasy — which normally includes interactive displays as part of the festivities.
The indications are the Senators were asked to hold a draft before being rewarded an all-star weekend. Ottawa hosted the scaled-down 2005 draft at the Westin Hotel coming out of the lockout and a full-fledged draft in 2008.
“We think it would be a great event for the community, both from a hockey perspective with the fans and all the stars here,” said Leeder. “I’ve attended the last three and Montreal (in 2009) was the one I enjoyed the most. We’re the only Canadian team that hasn’t hosted an all-star game yet, so we think our time has come.”
Senators captain Daniel Alfredsson would love to see Ottawa host the game.
“That would be a great treat for the fans here,” said Alfredsson. “Having an all-star game in Canada, with the interest for hockey so big, I think that would be a great fit for everybody.”
C Jesse Winchester will return against the Sabres after missing 11 games with a knee injury. “I’m chomping at the bit to get back,” said Winchester. “I feel strong and I’m confident about getting back in there. It’s nice to get back. I’ve worked hard, doing what the training staff tells me to do and I’m looking forward to playing.” Winchester missed the first 12 games of the season with a knee injury.
THIS ’N’ THAT
Ottawa D Anton Volchenkov returned to practice Tuesday after sitting out Monday’s session. He will play vs. Buffalo ... Sabres D Tyler Myers was named the NHL’s rookie of the month for January. He led all newcomers with an average ice time of 24:42 and was third in scoring with four goals and six assists in 14 games. The 6-foot-8 Myers scored his first game-winning goal on Jan. 6 vs. Tampa Bay ... The Senators penalty-killing unit has been doing a solid job, killing 40-of-43 penalties ... Captain Daniel Alfredsson needs only six assists for 600 in his career.
— with files from Jon Willing