Nobody seems to doubt that the Ottawa Senators organization and its players will continue their efforts on behalf of charitable organizations in the region despite the National Hockey League lockout.
Things just won’t be the same.
“It depends on how much they’re allowed to do, which is where you are going to see the impact,” said Scott Bradford, executive director of the Ottawa Boys and Girls Club. “It’s spread across the whole community and in many ways.”
Because of the lockout, the Bell/Ottawa Senators Charity Golf Classic scheduled for last Thursday was cancelled.
Last year’s event raised $115,000 for the Royal Ottawa Foundation for Mental Health and project s.t.e.p., a youth addition organization, and the tournament, which matched contributors with members of the Senators, was said to have generated more than $1.4 million over its first 18 years.
No recipients had yet been announced for this year’s proceeds, which would have been routed through the affiliated Sens Foundation, a team spokesman said.
Still on the schedule, though, is Saturday’s Plane Pull Challenge organized by the Sens Foundation and the Ottawa Airport Authority. It is to feature 34 teams of 20 pulling an Air Canada jet, but does not involve Senators players, who, if not for the lockout, would be involved in the first day of on-ice workouts at training camp.
Spokespeople for a handful of charitable organizations contacted this week said the lockout would have limited impact on fundraising over the short term, but could be felt in other ways.
For example, planning was on hold for the United Way Leadership Skate with Senators players for donors who contributed more than $1,000.
However, Michael Allen, United Way Ottawa’s president and chief executive officer, said the fall campaign was not limited to the Leadership Skate and would “find other ways to do something,” adding a similar event involving Senators alumni was held during the 2004-05 NHL lockout.
Senators players have frequently been enlisted as honorary chairpersons, including, among others, captain Daniel Alfredsson (Royal Ottawa Foundation, Boys and Girls Club), defenceman Chris Phillips (Snowsuit Fund, Candlelighters) and winger Chris Neil (Roger’s House).
In addition, Senators items such as sweaters, pucks and signed photos are often requested for auctions and raffles and as rewards for contributors and fundraising campaigns.
When games are cancelled, though, that removes one tool from the charities’ tool boxes. Like sweaters, pucks and photos, tickets are often used as fundraising prizes, and attending games is a perk some agencies give to clients and their families.
One such program is run by Candlelighters, which services young cancer patients. Executive director Jocelyn Lamont said a corporate sponsor paid for a suite at Scotiabank Place, allowing three or four families to attend each game.
There are many concerts and other events at the arena, “but they don’t get to see their hockey heroes,” during an NHL labour dispute, Lamont said.
“These guys are all over the place,” Bradford added, referring not just to games at Scotiabank Place, but also to player visits to Boys and Girls Club sites and to Alfredsson’s role as a presenting sponsor of the Ringside for Youth boxing fundraiser in May.
On Monday, the Senators announced that all 170 full- and part-time office workers had either been temporarily laid off or asked to accept reduced hours, but president Cyril Leeder said that the team would remain “very active” in the community and that players would not leave charities “in the lurch.”
Allen said he believed both sides of the organization would continue to make good on their pledges to act, but it could be better.
“For sure it’s not as good as when they are working together,” he said.
“When they’re working together, they have something that is very special to this community, and we hope they can get back to it as soon as possible.”