Sens owner refuses to deny interest in Gades**

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Eugene Melnyk was tight-lipped about playing the role of saviour for the city of Ottawa ... again.

While the Senators owner has deep enough pockets to keep the Renegades alive, he wouldn't say if he's going to be part of trying to save Ottawa's CFL franchise, but he didn't deny it either, electing not to comment yesterday.

Melnyk, who asked Senators president Roy Mlakar to look at the 'Gades' books before the club was sold to Bernie Glieberman in 2004, wouldn't say anything regarding the matter, which means it may not have been ruled out.

Melnyk told the Sun after looking at the books during last year's NHL lockout that owning the 'Gades didn't make financial sense.

"I have never commented on other NHL teams, junior teams and I'm not going to comment on any CFL teams either," said Melnyk at Scotiabank Place.

'WOULD BE A SHAME'

"All I'm going to say is it would be a shame if Ottawa didn't have a CFL team. I have always loved football and I remember going to Argos games as a kid. Ottawa deserves to have a CFL team because it's great for the city, but I really can't comment at all."

Naturally, CFL commissioner Tom Wright would love to have Melnyk, who was in town to help kick off Ottawa's bid for the 2009 world junior championship, take over the team and it would be a great marketing tool if he was able to own both franchises

Melnyk was asked if he could "hypothetically" take over Frank Clair Stadium, get it upgraded and make the franchise into a winner; would it not be a great marketing tool for his Capital Sports and Entertainment company?

"Hypothetically, I'm not going to comment," said Melnyk.

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THE FATE of the Renegades has been handed off to governors of the eight other CFL teams.

And today, commissioner Tom Wright will chair a conference call with those administrators to discuss options for Ottawa's CFL club.

Then they will determine whether the Renegades will continue operating during the upcoming season.

"No decisions will be made (today) of any kind," Calgary Stampeders president and part-owner Ted Hellard said yesterday. "It is just an opportunity for the league to update the governors on what has taken place, to educate the governors on what the possibilities are, and the consequences. Everybody has to learn what the options are."

With CFL camps set to open in two months, time is a critical factor.

Renegades majority owner Bernie Glieberman said last weekend he would cover some of the team's losses should the team actually hit the field.

He repeated that pledge during a meeting with Wright in Toronto on Monday.

Glieberman is prepared to deliver at least $2 million, but estimates have the team losing as much as triple that amount during the upcoming season.

But other sources have indicated a different revenue and cost figure that would result in a significantly lower deficit, closer to $3 million.

If that were the case, the governors might be inclined to bite the bullet and finance the shortfall through the 2006 campaign while the league and Glieberman attempt to find new ownership.

Renegades fans would also be expected to shoulder some of the load, with the days of deeply discounted ticket prices a thing of the past.

Earlier this month, Wright assured the league's commitment of keeping the CFL in Ottawa after Glieberman's son, Lonie, stepped down as president of the team.

The commissioner will attempt to convince the governors to support the Renegades during today's conference call, but sources say it will be a tough sell.

The league doesn't want to bear the negative image of another franchise in Ottawa biting the dust.

Governors, however, aren't as fretful about how the public views such a collapse.

To the other teams, of ultimate importance is the amount of cash each would be required to fork over to keep the Renegades viable.

One source told the Sun that some governors view Glieberman's problems as his own and expect him to find his own solution if he wants to keep the team alive.

If that were the case, Glieberman would likely walk away, and the Renegades would die, along with Wright's aspirations of a 10-team league.

As requested by the CFL, Glieberman declined requests yesterday for an interview.

Governors also want to learn the status of the league's broadcast deal and sponsorship revenues should the league contract to eight teams.

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Ottawa Senators owner Eugene Melnyk has left the door open if the CFL comes knocking with a proposition for him to take over the nearly rudderless Ottawa Renegades.

The billionaire Melnyk, who operates the giant pharmaceutical company Biovail, had plenty of opportunity yesterday to shut the door tightly on the matter, given the money pit the Renegades have become since their inaugural season in 2002.

However, Melnyk, following a news conference where he was introduced as chairman of the Ottawa committee bidding for the 2009 world junior hockey championship, wouldn't say he wasn't interested.

Unless owners of the CFL's eight other teams agree to help majority owner Bernie Glieberman cover the club's losses for the upcoming season -- projected to be as high as $5 million or so -- the league may put the four-year-old franchise out its misery as early as today. Team owners and governors are to hold a conference call today to discuss the matter.

"What I don't like to do is to comment on any other franchise whether it be in the NHL or the Ontario Hockey League, or, for that matter, the Canadian Football League," Melnyk said. "It would be a shame to see Ottawa lose a football franchise because I think, frankly, the fans have been very supportive here."

What would Melnyk hypothetically say if the CFL did ask for his help? "I would hypothetically say I cannot comment at this time."

There has been speculation that one reason Melnyk might be interested in taking over the Renegades is that the entertainment-ticket company he established after taking over the Senators also sells tickets for Renegades games.

Ottawa 67's owner Jeff Hunt, who is also on the bid committee for the 2009 world juniors, has often been mentioned in the past few weeks as a potential Renegades investor, too, given his quick success with the once-struggling Ontario Hockey League franchise he acquired in 1998.

Hunt said he would be very willing to give advice to the Renegades, as he did when the Gliebermans took over last season and Lonie Glieberman was named president, but Hunt made it clear he wouldn't be investing money.

"If there was a way I could help, I would love to, but I'm not really a candidate for an ownership position."

Suggestions he made last year to help the football club at the gate were ignored.

"Lonie listened and then did the exact opposite of what I had said," Hunt recalled, letting out a laugh. "I talked to him about going after the youth and families, and he went out with the Mardi Gras promotion (where women were encouraged to bare their breasts for ultimately a $1,000 cash prize).

"Maybe we were both remiss in not spending more time together, and maybe I should have been more aggressive in reaching out (to the Gliebermans), but that's past now, so hopefully there's still a chance that somebody will come in and run this franchise the way it needs to be run to ... succeed in this market."

Ottawa Mayor Bob Chiarelli, also a member of the bid committee, said the Renegades needed a strong management team. Chiarelli, who wouldn't speculate on whether he thought the Renegades would survive, said Ottawa was "a football city. It will support a franchise."

Chiarelli said he spoke to CFL commissioner Tom Wright by telephone from Friday through Monday, but didn't have any new information to offer.

Mark Kosmos, a former star for the old Ottawa Rough Riders and now a local restaurateur, also said strong management had to be in place if the Renegades were to succeed. He pointed at Melnyk's Senators as a model for sound management that has kept the NHL club highly competitive over the years and given it a huge profile in the community. Even during the NHL's 10-month lockout, Kosmos said, Senators president and chief executive Roy Mlakar was still visible in the community.

Shane Johns, a member of Renegades Nation, a group of about 150 devoted fans to Ottawa's CFL team, said the club's problems were largely due to neglect from incompetent management.

Johns, who said the group has been e-mailing CFL clubs and fans in other cities urging their support to keep the Renegades alive, thinks the league "will throw the team a lifeline."

Johns said the league would risk losing credibility and would have to shelve any plans of expanding to a fifth city in the east, with Halifax mentioned most often.

Tasso Vasilas, one of Kosmos's business partners, said talk at his sports bar on Bank Street mainly centres on the Senators, and these days, specifically goalie Dominik Hasek and whether he'll have fully recovered for the playoffs from a strained adductor muscle.

The Renegades and their problems are a distant second in bar talk, Vasilas said, and some of his clientele is already saying "see you" over news that the CFL may fold a second Ottawa football club in less than 10 years.

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Do you laugh or cry?

The Ottawa Renegades, perhaps down to their final hours as a CFL franchise, fire off a missive to the media. This is on Blue Monday, while embattled majority franchise owner Bernie Glieberman is meeting with CFL commissioner Tom Wright to discuss survival terms.

Reporters anxiously pop open the e-mail news release from the Renegades offices.

The announcement of a life-giving rescue plan from the CFL?

A renewed commitment from Glieberman?

No. The Renegades announce the hire of an offensive-line coach. Someone named Steve Kazor, who apparently resides on Mars, or some other locale light on Renegades news.

(Pssst! Coach. Did you get the money up front?)

How reassuring that the Renegades are hiring. Just minutes before the icy plunge, a deck chair is rearranged on the Titanic.

The doings of this team in this league make me want to tear out what little hair is left on my head.

Most maddening, to all who follow football in Ottawa, is the knowledge that the CFL could fly here, if only the commissioner had heeded the alarm bells sounding over the past two years.

The man is Alfred E. Neuman: What, me worry?

The league news release from the Glieberman-Wright session was helpful.

"Significant progress was achieved in establishing clarity and identifying options for 2006 and beyond."

Oh, it's clear all right.

Clear that Wright and the league governors have fumbled the ball in Ottawa right up to this moment, with the clock about to strike midnight.

Repeatedly, Wright told us the Ottawa situation was going to be OK. League governors sat back, blissful that their own precious fiefdoms were not in this kind of mess. Never mind that the Toronto Argonauts and Hamilton Tiger-Cats both required league intervention just a few years ago to avoid financial collapse.

The difference? Wright was able to find committed local owners in those CFL cities.

He should have continued on the path to Plan B in Ottawa, with potential owners in reserve, even as the league turned to the renowned homebuilders and football franchise-killers from Michigan. Back for a third go-around in the CFL.

Wright introduced Bernie and Lonie Glieberman as the club's retro ownership solution on May 31, 2005, the exact day on which a deadly tornado had swept through Ontario 20 years earlier.

Nice omen, that.

As he sat alongside the returning owners who walked from the Ottawa Rough Riders in 1993, Wright's body language amounted to holding his nose.

Yet Wright's firmest course of action was to direct Lonie, Bernie's then 37-year-old son and the Renegades president, to reform school for implying that no cheerleader was too young for him to date.

What football person, from Vancouver to a CFL wannabe in Halifax didn't foresee this day coming?

Now that it's here, it will take a strong course of action to salvage Ottawa's football franchise, but it is worth trying to save. With Glieberman open to eating up to $2.5 million of an expected $4 million to $5 million operating loss in 2006, Wright is expected to ask league governors to help prop up the Renegades for 2006.

The rosiest scenario would see the other eight franchises contributing $200,000 per to keep Ottawa afloat.

Skeptical governors will worry that, with the Renegades minus any real infrastructure, with no hope of fielding a competitive team and with as few as 2,000 season-ticket holders, the losses could escalate far beyond $5 million.

In their hearts, those governors will also know that Ottawa could work, if a proper search can produce a legitimate owner capable of following any of the many responsible CFL blueprints out there.

Install a local, identifiable president who knows the market. Hire experienced CFL staff. Let them run the operation.

Fans here will support it.

It's not as though the team needs to win anytime soon. That would cause mass coronaries from the shock. The Renegades, and Rough Riders before them, have had remarkable support without producing a winning season since 1979.

Fans still care because they watched their first Riders games when Tom Clements was quarterback, or Condredge Holloway, or Russ Jackson.

They care because there is no sports franchise in the city, the soaring NHL Senators included, with as much uninterrupted history and tradition.

If the CFL can see through the current mess, it can pick up the ball it dropped here long ago, and strike up a search committee to find the kind of sound operators now in place in Toronto and Hamilton.

If the Argos could turn around a club in a city that didn't care, Ottawa remains rife with possibilities, despite a modern string of calamity.

His spring contract renewal already on thin ice, Wright probably won't be part of any Ottawa revival, but he has a role to play today, in a conference call that might mean life or death to Ottawa's football team.

There is plenty of blame to share for this mess, including the league brethren who handcuffed Ottawa's expansion program in 2002.

If the Renegades die, there will be blood on many hands.

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It has been billed as "doomsday," but don't be surprised if Canadian Football League governors punt following this morning's conference call about the Ottawa Renegades' future.

Around the league yesterday, clubs were still trying to get a handle on how much it would cost them to see the financially troubled Renegades through the 2006 season. The telephone session of league power-brokers is expected to be lengthy as commissioner Tom Wright lays out the league's options.

Many of the stakeholders contacted yesterday said an ultimate decision could still be a couple of days away, and almost no one expected a snap decision to fold the team.

The league has two to three weeks to determine the Renegades' fate. After that, there would be little time to draw up a new schedule and hold a dispersal draft of Ottawa players.

Renegades majority owner Bernie Glieberman has made it clear he will need financial assistance to keep the club afloat this season, and there are significant differences between estimates of how much that could cost.

The most dire projections suggest it could take as much as $400,000 per club to properly fund the Renegades. More optimistic scenarios suggest it could be done for $160,000 each from the other eight teams.

Glieberman has told the league he is prepared to cover the first $2 million to $2.5 million in losses. The Renegades are expected to lose between $4 million and $6 million this year.

However, there are other complications, including deductions in broadcast rights fees and national sponsorships, if the league drops to eight clubs.

Many reports have said these costs could be offset somewhat because league revenues would have to be divided by one less team, minus the Renegades.

However, one CFL source said the additional revenues, about $140,000 per team, would effectively be erased by penalties, some of which are severe.

"We certainly don't have a wide margin of error or profit, so it's always a concern," Saskatchewan Roughriders president and chief executive officer Jim Hopson told the Regina Leader-Post earlier this week. "But I think the one thing the Riders understand as well as anybody is that our success is really dependent upon a strong CFL. On our own, we can do well, but, when we're part of a strong league, it bodes well for us and our financial success."

Today, Wright will distribute a CFL research document that shows the assorted financial ramifications for folding the Renegades or funding them.

"I don't know what the right option is, but I think there are many people who believe Ottawa is a viable market and an important market," Blue Bombers president and CEO Lyle Bauer told the Winnipeg Free Press. "There are some very, very good football fans in that market and, under the right circumstances, they would absolutely be there."

Also today, Wright is expected to update governors about the prospects of selling the Renegades. That is a key ingredient in this puzzle as most owners want to see the Renegades delivered to the right hands if they decide to finance the team this year.

Unanimously, the league would like to see a local buyer, but Glieberman was the only one in line last year, and few believe the climate in Ottawa has changed. Still, that doesn't mean there are zero prospects.

It is believed the commissioner was in dialogue with two potentially interested buyers last week, and even yesterday, another potential investor was making calls about the Renegades' economic state.

Renegades players are following the saga with concern. Their contracts are guaranteed by the CFL, but many have roots in Ottawa and couldn't conceive of playing elsewhere.

"I don't even want to think about it right now," said quarterback Kerry Joseph, the likely top pick in a dispersal draft. "We know we'll get our money this year, but a lot of us who signed long-term deals made a commitment to Ottawa. We wanted to be a part of turning it around."

Linebacker Jason Kralt, the Renegades' representative for the CFL Players' Association, said teammates had been calling "all the time" for updates.

"It's that time of year where you get the urge to go out and start hitting people," Kralt said. "It is frustrating for everyone. It seems like, every year, there is more drama with the Renegades."

Excellent stuff dg as usual.

Interesting, very interesting. It would be utterly fantastic if someone of the calibre of Eugene Melynk came on board but if it doesn't make economic sense, as he mentioned it didn't when he looked at the books previously, then I don't blame him for passing. But man I hope it is different now, Eugene we want you to keep football alive and well in Ottawa if it is economically viable for you and for everyone!

if TW can get Melnyk to buy the Gades, does that make him CFL commish 4-LIFE?...how could the BOG's get rid of him after that track record?...saviour of 3 teams!

You do have a point there dg without a doubt although I am hesitant to make TW into some sort of a demi-god. I like TW but I'm not sure he is mover and shaker but then, I guess commisshes in any league don't really need to be that, or perhaps shouldn't be that? I don't know.

Anyone read the following article on CANOE:

Lynx deserve more support than 'Gades

[url=http://slam.canoe.ca/Slam/Baseball/Ottawa/2006/03/19/1495636-sun.html]http://slam.canoe.ca/Slam/Baseball/Otta ... 6-sun.html[/url]

I didn't even know there was a baseball team in Ottawa called the Lynx. Nothing agains't the Lynx but baseball is so boring compared with football, so many games and one game seems to mean little. Guess I'm just not a baseball fan, the game is way too slow for me and they don't play for any Canadian trophy like the Grey Cup.

The Lynx are a TripleA level team...at one point affiliated with the Montreal Expos, the Team That Selig Shafted.
The writer of this article, is indeed, an idiot, from the same clueless mindset of Rosie DiManno of the Toronto Star. Comparing farm team baseball to CFL football is irrelevant.
On this whole topic....if Melnyk were to become involved in Renegades ownership, I might just have to tone down my dislike for the Senators.

Yes argofan, I also would have to shut it with my not liking of the Sens. I’m a Habs fan (man they better start playing better, keep Huet in goal for CS’s) and I’ve always disliked the Sens as they beat out Hamilton to get an NHL franchise.

But Eugene Melynk in the CFL just might change how I think about the Sens, for sure. Hmmmmm

Maybe you will get some revenge this playoff year if the Habs draw Ottawa in the first round of the playoffs. As a former Leaf fan (I will not cheer for the Leafs again until Lindros is off their payroll), and temporary Habs supporter, I would love that, Earl. But if Melnyk buys in to the Gades, my dislike for the SEns would end with the start of the new season in October. (I guess I'll finish what I started for this season)
Cheers, Earl!!

Yes, I can definitely see myself taking in a weekend trip on the train from Hamilton for a Sens-Gades package no question about it. I'm sure that Mr. Melnyk could see this type of co-marketing between the two teams.

who cares about baseball (one day cricket is so much better), or tripe A for that matter? the gades are more important, and I hope they the Sens owner is able to buy the gades and created a partnership beteew the two pro teams.

You guys missed a couple of points of the article.

(1) The writer correctly identifies Ottawa as a hockey town. Baseball and football are secondary.

(2) He was comparing owners. Again having only read the one article, I'm sure the Ottawa posters will correct me, but it sounds like the baseball owner is more stable, and more bussinesslike than the Gleibermans ever were.

(3) He points out that since Loonie stepped down, and Bernie "polled" some fans, he learned how everyone in Ottawa hated Loonie.

So here you have the football team being run by a "Nutbar" ownership group. (Bernie and son) And a solid baseball owner which gets little coverage or respect. I don't know, it just sounded like the writer was just pointing things out to me.

The Wayne Scanlan article, in particular, I think sums up what every football fan in Ottawa has been saying in the past 3 months. Fantastic article.

Knowing the Gliebermen, that's a pretty safe bet.

The article doesn't say anything bad about the team, the sport, or the league. Basically he's criticizing Bernie & Son (a past-time we've all enjoyed ourselves) and wondering why a team owner who is committed to the city is getting very little press. I don't really blame him for that.

But the reason is obvious: CFL football is a bigger sport than Triple-A baseball. Look at the number of fans: about 2400 for the Lynx, compared with about 18,000 for the Gades, which is considered low. This situation is comparable to if the Renegades had stable, committed ownership, while the Senators' owner was running a circus that was on the verge of collapsing. Of course the Senators would get all the press.

None of those articles bash the CFL (I admit I didn't read the baseball one - is that the Scanlan article? I respect him). It's refreshing to see that these articles are all critical, but not derogatory. Good articles. There's a difference between critiquing and needless bashing, and these articles critique ... there was none of "the CFL is bush league" "this wouldn't happen in the NFL" (even though it could, would, has), etc. Good!

As for the articles themselves, one claims that Wright has been in contact with 3 potential (emphasis on potential) buyers.That's a great sign to me, clearly he is doing his work. As well, if there are 3 potential buyers out there, that's 2 more than when the Renegades were sold to the Gliebs. The CFL can pick and choose - a MUCH better position.

Keep in mind that when the Gliebs bought the team, no one else would. That didn't leave the CFL with much choice. The priority is, and was, keeping the team alive, and the Gliebs had the money (and they were the only ones to show interest). What else are you supposed to do? To no one's huge surprise, it didn't work out too well. But the situation is not lost yet. Clearly the CFL is doing all it can to save the franchise (says so in the articles). And of course they'll take as long as possible to make a decision, so as to ensure they make the right one.

But I still despise the Gliebs, and the Smiths, for backing out on the Renegades. That's lousy. And what was Lonie thinking, going blatantly against the advice of an established Ottawa owner (the 67's)?!? Oh, right .... that implies that Lonie thinks ...

Maybe the new owner can find out what ideas Lonie turned down, and set out to implement them immediately. :slight_smile:

Oh, I know Big Dave, comparing the two really shouldn't be done. I was just trying to rebuttal a comment about the CFL taking a shot when it really didn't. Perhaps a poor comparison.