Before the first game of the Colorado Avalanche-Ottawa Senators series in Stockholm, Sweden (which Ottawa won 4-3 in overtime) NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman took to the podium (video via Sportsnet) to speak with the media. When asked his thoughts on a new, downtown arena in Ottawa Bettman didn’t hesitate.
A new arena, a downtown arena I think is vitally important for the long-term future, stability and competitiveness of the Senators and the process is ongoing. I think asking Mr. Melnyk or the Senators as to the status of that would be more appropriate than asking us, however we believe there needs to be a solution long-term.
Ottawa currently plays at the Canadian Tire Centre in Kanata, a good thirty minutes outside of the downtown core and inaccessible by many modes of public transportation. There has been complaints about the arena’s location for some time, and this summer Bettman and Senators’ owner Eugene Melnyk went to speak with Ottawa mayor Jim Watson about a proposed downtown arena project. Melnyk’s financing group wants to build a new rink in the LeBreton Flats right down along the Ottawa River, serviced by transit and within walking distance of much of the city.
In August, Bruce Garrioch of the Ottawa Citizen wrote about the proposal, including a timeline of early 2018 for a decision to hopefully come down. While Bettman didn’t answer anything to do with the timeline so far, it’s clear that he supports Melnyk’s group in their pursuit of a downtown arena. With the Senators in the midst of some of the best hockey in the organization’s history and with a true franchise player in Erik Karlsson, a move downtown can only help their popularity and success in the region.