September 9, 2007
Melnyk to Leafs: Get betterSens owner says rivalry healthy
By TERRY KOSHAN, SUN MEDIA
Eugene Melnyk has a novel idea to spice up the Battle of Ontario.
How about if the Maple Leafs got into the playoffs for a change?
"You would like to see the Leafs competitive," Melnyk, the owner of the Ottawa Senators, said. "I think they are making changes that will make them more competitive. They have to. We'll see what happens. (The rivalry) does lose a little lustre, but it is still there and it will continue. But hopefully it never gets reversed and we keep winning."
Melnyk was at Mississauga City Hall yesterday for a rally for his re-located Ontario Hockey League club, the St. Michael's Majors. The Majors have settled into their new home at the Hershey Centre and Melnyk is firm in his belief they will make inroads in that part of the 905 region, even if their predecessor, the IceDogs, did not make a big dent.
"In Ottawa, we will sell out virtually every game because (the fans) know they can commit themselves to a team that is going to be around," Melnyk said. "The same thing is going to (happen) here. I'm going to stay for as long as I am on this earth.
"You have to work it, invest in the community, and that has not been done. It will cost money and effort to do this and it is just a building process.
"There's not a silver bullet. It is just hard work."
Senators goalie Ray Emery joined Melnyk and the Majors coaching staff and players under a cloudless sky as a few hundred fans gathered for autographs. Emery is nursing a wrist problem but expects to be in uniform for the Sens' final three or four exhibition games. Ottawa and Toronto open the 2007-08 regular season with a pair of games against each other Oct. 3 and 4.
"It's tough to play against them and definitely it's a good way to really get back into things, playing them twice," Emery said. "They're always crazy games."
While the Leafs will attempt to get into the playoffs for the first time since 2004, the Senators, who largely are intact from last season, will try to rekindle the play that took them to the Stanley Cup final, where they lost to the Anaheim Ducks.
"We have the same team, but with more experience," Emery said. "I think it looks good. We're not going to be happy with anything but a Cup."