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Senators owner Melnyk silent amid uncertainty

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, CTV Ottawa


Published Thursday, December 20, 2018 3:58PM EST


Last Updated Thursday, December 20, 2018 6:28PM EST

Senators owner Eugene Melnyk isn’t talking. Melnyk stayed mum today following the National Capital Commission’s announcement Wednesday revealing plans to terminate a Melnyk-led RendezVous LeBreton Gorup deal that would move the team downtown.

Shielded by staff from questions by reporters and mired in a billion dollar legal battle with partner-turned-enemy John Ruddy, Melnyk hosted his 15th annual Skate for Kids event.

Enduring one of the toughest weeks in franchise history, the owner, through team representatives said he wasn’t going to discuss business; focusing instead on the children.  

Melnyk’s former players however, had plenty to say on the idea of moving the team.

Chris Neil and Chris Phillips – who spent their entire NHL career in Ottawa said bringing a team to LeBreton flats would help grow the fan base.

“That’s out of everyone’s control but it would be unbelievable if it was to go downtown.If it’s not meant to be, it’s not meant to be, but if it did go down there it would be awesome.” said Neil.

“I like it here, it’s close to home right now but I would love to see a new rink downtown, hopefully things will get ironed out.” said Phillips.

Current Senators forward Mark Borowiecki hopes Ottawa will one day have a downtown arena.

As an Ottawa native and a defenceman for the NHL’s Senators, he said a new facility in the city’s core would be a boon for its citizens.

But on Thursday morning, he was left wondering what lies ahead after the National Capital Commission moved to terminate a development deal that would have included a new NHL rink a short distance from Parliament Hill.

“As someone who grew up here, plays here now and likely will be living here in the future, I think a rink downtown is something that the city needs eventually,” Borowiecki said. “I’m not at the negotiating table, that’s not for me to decide or understand, but as someone who plans to stay here for a long time as a resident, it would be nice for my wife and I to be able to bring our kids downtown for a game one time.

“At this point, it is what it is and hopefully things get worked out.”

There was a sense of excitement in the city back in April 2016 when the NCC selected a bid from the RendezVous LeBreton group, which included Senators owner Eugene Melnyk, to redevelop the prime land near the downtown core known as LeBreton Flats. Part of the development plans included a new arena.

Ottawa’s mayor, Jim Watson, said the NCC decision to terminate the deal between parties engage in a legal dispute is the right move.

“It was clear when I got involved that there was a pretty strained relationship between the two proprietors and obviously that dragged on a fair amount of time and we don’t have a lot to show for it, quite frankly.” said Watson.

Not hiding her frustration. Ottawa Centre MP Catherine McKenna weighed in on the deal’s collapse for residents and fans of the team.

“We are in a very unfortunate situation when it comes to LeBreton flats. We have seen a very dysfunctional relationship playout and like residents of Ottawa and Gatineau I’m really disappointed” said McKenna.

More than two years later, a downtown arena in the foreseeable future seems unlikely. The NCC announced Wednesday that it is seeking to terminate the agreement with RendezVous, effective 30 days from initial notice.

The news was hardly a surprise as Melnyk and business partner John Ruddy had sued each other in recent days over struggles within the RendezVous consortium.

The Senators released a brief statement Wednesday expressing disappointment at the NCC’s decision.

“For over a year, we have tried to resolve our concerns about the flaws in the economic model for the redevelopment, both within the context of our private negotiations with the NCC and then publicly since November 22, 2018.”

“There’s definitely some uncertainty right now,” Borowiecki said. “I get it. It’s tough probably for the city and this community. You probably look at a place like Edmonton, they got a beautiful new rink downtown, and Detroit just got one.

Cody Ceci, who grew up in Ottawa’s east end, said a downtown arena would have facilitated things for friends and family who live clear across the city from the Canadian Tire Centre — the Senators’ current home in Kanata.

He added recent developments were also disappointing for players who don’t hail from the nation’s capital.

“Some guys want it down there because they live down that way and it would make for an easier commute,” Ceci said. “It would have been fun. They could go to different restaurants and stuff.

“A downtown arena would make it easier for a lot of people since they could go right from work instead of getting in their car and driving to the west end. I know people are trying to move downtown, but not every team has a downtown rink.”

The NCC meets again in late January to decide the fate of the RendezVous Group agreement.  

With files from Lisa Wallace / The Canadian Press

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‘Too soon to celebrate’ Ottawa’s low case count, says Etches

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Ottawa Public Health (OPH) logged just 11 new cases of COVID-19 on Tuesday, the lowest daily total since Sept. 1.

Because of the lag between testing and reporting, the low number could simply reflect low turnout at the city’s testing sites on weekends — all month, new case counts have been lower on Tuesdays and Wednesdays. 

During a virtual news conference Tuesday, the city’s medical officer of health Dr. Vera Etches said she doesn’t read too much into a single day’s report.

“I don’t think we can make too much of 11. Actually, it could be a lot higher tomorrow — I would expect that, on average,” she said. “It’s too soon to celebrate.”

Provincewide, public health officials reported 1, 249 new cases Tuesday.

OPH also declared 62 cases resolved Tuesday, lowering the number of known active cases in the city to 462. Two more people have died, both in care homes currently experiencing outbreaks, raising the city’s COVID-19 death toll to 361. 

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Santa Claus isn’t coming to Ottawa’s major malls this year

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Santa Claus may still be coming to town this Christmas, but he won’t be dropping by any of Ottawa’s major malls, thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic.

On Friday, Cadillac Fairview said Santa won’t be making an appearance at any of its 19 malls across Canada, including Rideau Centre in downtown Ottawa. On Tuesday, Bayshore and St. Laurent shopping centres confirmed they, too, are scrapping the annual tradition.

“Due to the evolution of the situation in regards to COVID-19, we have made the difficult decision to cancel our Santa Program and Gift Wrap Program this year,” Bayshore spokesperson Sara Macdonald wrote in an email to CBC.

Macdonald said parent company Ivanhoé Cambridge cancelled all holiday activities “due to the rising number of COVID-19 cases across the country.”

Macdonald said families that had already booked an appointment to visit Santa will receive an email with more information.  

Virtual visits with Santa

Rideau Centre said based on customer research and discussions with public health officials, its North Pole is going online this year.

“Children will be able to have a private chat with Santa,” said Craig Flannagan, vice-president of marketing for Cadillac Fairview. “You’ll also be able to join a 15-minute storytime with Santa over Facebook Live.” 

At Place d’Orléans Shopping Centre, visitors are invited to take a “selfie with Santa” — actually, a life-size cutout of Santa Pierre, the man who’s been playing Santa at the east end mall for years.

“We understand that this is not ideal, but in lieu of this tradition we will be doing what we can to maintain and encourage holiday cheer,” according to a statement on the mall’s Facebook page.

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Ottawa Bylaw breaks up two large parties in Ottawa over the weekend

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OTTAWA — Ottawa Bylaw is investigating social gatherings of more than 10 people in private homes across Ottawa last weekend.

Mayor Jim Watson tells Newstalk 580 CFRA that Ottawa Bylaw broke-up two house parties over the weekend, with 20 to 25 people at each party.

“That’s the kind of stupidity that angers me, that’s where the bulk of the transmissions are taking place, if we exclude the tragedy of the long-term care homes; it’s these house parties with unrelated people,” said Watson on Newstalk 580 CFRA’s Ottawa at Work with Leslie Roberts.

“The message doesn’t seem to be getting through, particularly to some young people who think they’re invincible.”

In a statement to CTV News Ottawa, Bylaw and Regulatory Services Director Roger Chapman says, “There are still ongoing investigations from this past weekend that could result in charges.”

Chapman says recent investigations led to two charges being issued for social gatherings of more than 10 people in a private residence in contravention of the Reopening Ontario Act.

“In one case, up to 30 individuals were observed attending a house party in Ward 18 on Oct. 24,” said Chapman.

“The second charge was issued following a house party in Ward 16 on Oct. 31, where up to 16 individuals were observed to be in attendance.”

The fine is $880 for hosting an illegal gathering.

Alta Vista is Ward 18, while Ward 16 is River Ward.

Ottawa Bylaw has issued 24 charges for illegal gatherings since the start of the pandemic.

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