Leeder: 'This has been a long time coming'

DON BRENNAN, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 7:28 AM ET

BUFFALO -- Eugene Melnyk should have sore cheeks this morning.

The huge grin never left the face of the Senators' owner as he floated around the visitors' dressing room yesterday wearing a T-shirt, a black sweater tied around his shoulders and, of course, an Eastern Conference champions hat.

"I believed in these guys from Day 1," Melnyk said as he shook the hand of GM John Muckler. "I believe these guys will go all the way."

Cyril Leeder, a "Day One-er," was also enjoying the moments following confirmation of the team's first-ever reservation into the Stanley Cup final.

Eighteen years after Leeder, Bruce Firestone and Randy Sexton announced they would bid for an NHL franchise, Ottawa has officially established itself as one of the top two teams in the league.

'ONE MORE TO GO'

"It seems like yesterday since the dropping of the puck against Montreal (for the first game)," Leeder, the Senators' COO, said outside the victorious dressing room. "I'm really happy for the team and the coaches, but especially the city. It's pretty exciting, obviously. This has been a long time coming ... 15 years. But you'll notice the guys aren't jumping around in the room. There's still one more to go."

Leeder got 25 e-mails on his blackberry immediately after the 3-2 win, and they were still coming as he spoke.

He was looking forward to getting back to Ottawa, where fans poured out of Elgin St. bars and marched to Parliament Hill.

"I was just glad to be here," said Leeder. "But my first thought was I can't wait to get back and celebrate with everybody. I think the city is going to really enjoy this one.

"When we get back I'm going down to the market. I'm going to have a celebratory steak with my family and enjoy the atmosphere."


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