Melnyk hooks up in paradise

BRUCE GARRIOCH -- Ottawa Sun

, Last Updated: 9:51 AM ET

TORONTO -- It will be Hockey Night in Barbados for Eugene Melnyk.

While the Senators owner thought he might be blacked out of tonight's pre-season opener against the Toronto Maple Leafs at the Air Canada Centre, Melnyk is going to end up with the best seat in the house.

After learning the game will be shown in Toronto on Leafs TV, Melnyk immediately ordered a link to the broadcast on the satellite dish at his Barbados home so he can get a glimpse at his new-look team.

"I was on a conference call with (team president) Roy Mlakar and (COO) Cyril Leeder and we were talking about seeing the game when somebody told me it was Leafs TV," Melnyk told the Sun.

"I told somebody that we had better arrange to have it linked up to here because I want to see it. Is it going to be expensive? Yes. But when you haven't seen your team play in over a year, then you don't want to miss the chance to see them. I'm excited."

In fact, Melnyk can hardly contain his excitement. He's pleased with the changes made by Senators GM John Muckler -- including the decision to hire coach Bryan Murray to replace Jacques Martin.

Melnyk is also anxious to see how goalie Dominik Hasek and winger Dany Heatley are going to fit into the mix. The Senators have made big changes and Melnyk is convinced they're the right ones.

"We knew (after the loss to the Leafs in April, 2004) that changes had to be made," said Melnyk. "I took my advice from John Muckler. That's what I hired him for. He came to me with a sound plan and a direction that he wanted to go in.

'WE'VE GOT IT ALL'

"I respect his experience and his desire to have a winning team that is going be successful. Yes, we've made a lot of changes, but I think they're going be the right ones. If (Hasek) is able to play the way he did a few years ago and we're able to fit together as a team, I think we've got it all. That really excites me."

Melnyk said this isn't a one-shot deal for the Senators, even though defencemen Wade Redden and Zdeno Chara could become unrestricted free agents at the end of the season.

Melnyk isn't sure if the Senators will be able to keep their team together, but efforts will be made to sign Redden and Chara during the season.

"If you could, you'd like to be able to keep all of your players," said Melnyk. "I'm committed to the long term with this team. I want to have a team that is successful and competitive.

"I have no interest in owning a team that's going through the brutality of a losing season. I wouldn't accept it and I don't think the fans in Ottawa would accept it either. I believe in the concept of a winning team."

So, what's bigger: Winning a Stanley Cup of beating the Leafs in the playoffs?

"Beating the Leafs would be great, but winning the Cup would mean a lot more," said Melnyk. "Let's face it, the rivalry with Toronto is fun for the fans."

bruce.garrioch@ott.sunpub.com


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