Senators back realignment, want more playoff series against Bruins and Habs: Leeder

Ottawa Senators president Cyril Leeder is a fan of the NHL’s proposed realignment. Speaking at the mayor’s monthly breakfast series Thursday morning at City Hall, Leeder said the new divisional playoff format would help “foster more rivalries” between the Senators and other teams not named Toronto.

Senators back realignment, want more playoff series against Bruins and Habs: Leeder
Ottawa Senators President Cyril Leeder. (Photo by Wayne Cuddington / Ottawa Citizen)

Ottawa Senators president Cyril Leeder is a fan of the NHL’s proposed realignment.

Speaking at the mayor’s monthly breakfast series Thursday morning at City Hall, Leeder said the new divisional playoff format would help “foster more rivalries” between the Senators and other teams not named Toronto.

“We’ve been in the league 20 years and we haven’t played Montreal or Boston in the playoffs,” said Leeder, responding to a question from the gallery. “Whether you’re playing Detroit, Montreal, Toronto or Boston … we’d like to see more of that.”

Under the proposed plan, the Senators would play in the Eastern Conference’s Central Division with Toronto, Montreal, Boston, Detroit, Buffalo, Florida and Tampa Bay.

Unlike the current format, the new setup would see the post-season begin with divisional matchups.

“It would be good for the tourism aspect as well,” said Leeder, who was awarded the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee medal at the event. “Obviously, we get a lot of Montreal and Toronto fans traveling here. But I could see us getting more from Buffalo and Boston as well if we can get that rivalry going.”

Though his presentation focused on sport tourism, Leeder touched on a variety of topics at the event, including the organization’s desire to host an outdoor game at the newly renovated Lansdowne Stadium (which, coincidentally, Mayor Jim Watson said is ahead of schedule and on budget).

There’s nothing definitive just yet, but Leeder confirmed the Senators’ brass is in discussions with the league and he’s “hopeful” something will get done.

“We’d just like to find something that’s special and unique,” he said. “We’re talking to the league now about what some of the opportunities might be.”

An appealing opportunity, according to Leeder, would be to host the game the same year Ottawa’s incoming CFL team hosts the Grey Cup – something he’s already discussed with the Ottawa Sports and Entertainment Group.

It makes the most sense from a logistical point of view, he said, as Lansdowne Stadium would need to extend its seating capacity to around 40,000 for both events.

“The Grey Cup takes place at the end of November, the outdoor game could take place in December or January,” he said. “You just leave that temporary seating up and you get to use it for a couple of different events as opposed to one.”

It has been speculated that the plan is to host an outdoor game against the Montreal Canadiens in 2017, which would coincide with Canada’s 150th anniversary and the 25th anniversary of the Senators’ franchise. Leeder did nothing to quell those rumours.

“Perhaps,” he said. “That’s a good one.”

Leeder also said the Senators are in constant talks with the city in regards to the planned light trail transit stop at Scotiabank Place – which he estimates is another 10-15 years away – and that he expects construction of Bell “Sensplex East” to begin some time in March.

Other highlights from Leeder’s presentation:

- Through concerts, NHL hockey games and other “one-off” events, Leeder estimates that Senators Sports & Entertainment generates around $175 million per year in economic activity. That’s close to $3.5 billion over the last 20 years.

“When you have economic prosperity, that leads to a lot of other good things,” Leeder said. “You don’t get the great projects, the light rail, the redevelopment of Lansdowne, without economic prosperity. Any time we can contribute to that, it benefits all of us.”

- As far as those “one-off” events go, the 2009 IIHF World Junior Hockey Championship had the single biggest impact, generating over $80 million in economic activity. The annual Bell Capital Cup, however, is the cumulative leader. It has brought in around $105 million over the last seven years.

- The upcoming IIHF Women’s World Championship is expected to generate over $35 million, which is about $5 million more than what the NHL All-Star Game festivities brought in last year. This is in large part due to the OWHA Provincials, which are being held in partnership with the women’s worlds.

“Every single hotel room in Ottawa with two beds, or that could accommodate a bed a cot, is booked for that event – to the point where we had to leave 100 teams in Toronto,” Leeder said. “If you have a hotel room with a double bed in it, we’d like to hear from you.”

- Leeder said he had a chance to hear Carleton Ravens basketball head coach Dave Smart speak last week, and according to Smart, Carleton would “easily” compete among the bottom 32 teams in the NCAA March Madness tournament.

“They would fit in very well if they were eligible to qualify,” Leeder said. “They would be a sixth or seventh seed in the tournament. That’s how good a quality basketball this team has.”

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