Sens to host 2012 all-star game

BRUCE GARRIOCH, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 10:18 AM ET

In the exact same place 21 years ago, a group of men announced they were bidding to bring an NHL franchise back to Ottawa.

On Wednesday morning in the Drawing Room of the Chateau Laurier, commissioner Gary Bettman confirmed the Senators will celebrate their 20th anniversary in style with the 2012 NHL all-star game festivities to be held Jan. 26-29 in Ottawa.

The announcement by Bettman, who was accompanied by Senators owner Eugene Melnyk and president Cyril Leeder, was the perfect way for the organization to kick off the opening of training camp with 50 players reporting for medicals Friday.

"This is one of those activities for our fans that we're willing to go that extra mile for them and go the extra step. This is a way of thanking them for the support that they've given," said Melnyk.

"What we're trying to do, and I think we've been able to do successfully, is continue to deliver that message. It's not just talk. We're actually getting things done. This is going to be phenomenal and something that will help us build a solid foundation for the Senators."

Bettman promised Ottawa an all-star game after it held successful drafts at the Westin Hotel in 2005 and at Scotiabank Place in 2008.

"We're very excited to be bringing the (game) to Ottawa.

This is a franchise that has over recent years performed very strongly in terms of fans. Even in terms of on-ice performance," said Bettman.

"It's a good organization, a good building, a good owner. This city has hosted a Stanley Cup final, a draft, the world juniors, there's a new convention centre coming -- all the variables are falling into place that we think will make this a perfect place."

It was Bettman who helped ensure the long-term stability of the Senators when then-owner Rod Bryden filed for bankruptcy in 2003 and Melnyk saved the team.

The Senators have been passed over before because Ottawa didn't have enough convention space. The new Convention Centre with the required 200,000 square feet opens in April.

"A lot gets written, discussed, speculated about things that happen off-ice and sometimes they get blown up," said Bettman. "We always believed in Ottawa, we always believed in the fans of the Senators.

"We believed we could make it right here and make it work. And, we never wavered from that. So the fact that the franchise is now doing so well never came as a surprise to me."

Not only will the weekend be highlighted by the skills competition Saturday and the game Sunday afternoon, there will also be events throughout the city. Winterlude will start its celebrations early.

Melnyk said the economic impact on Ottawa will be more than $30 million.

"This is a major win for Ottawa, Canada and the organization," said Leeder. "We've had success with hosting major events."

Bettman said there's a simple solution for fans who will be clamouring for seats.

"If you want to go to the game, I suggest you become a season-ticket holder if you want to give yourself an opportunity," Bettman said with a grin.


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