Are you getting your $4 million back from Dany Heatley? How much are you willing to pay Anton Volchenkov this summer? Are you willing to send players to the AHL and eat their contracts?
But instead, I asked the Senators owner only one question. One that has been burning on my mind and without the slightest bit of hyperbole, I believe it is the most important question he’s ever been asked:
When are we going to get a new scoreboard at Scotiabank Place?
Before I give you his answer, let’s get a little perspective here and take brief look at how NHL scoreboards have evolved over the past 30 years and where we are currently at in Ottawa:
1980s - The animated Lite-Brite scoreboard takes over, giving birth to such great moving animation as the fan-o-meter, the screaming puck and the clapping Mickey Mouse hands (How Disney’s lawyers didn’t sue Maple Leaf Gardens, I’ll never know).
1990s - Big screen TVs appear at centre ice, allowing instant replays to be shown and ushering in the era of mildly annoying in-game hosts.
2000s - Wide-screen HD scoreboards start to dominate, with pictures so clear you can see the wrinkles on Chris Chelios’ face.
But right now at Scotiabank Place, we are stuck in the 1990s, somewhere between the Mickey Mouse hands and the world of HD. Down the road in Montreal, the Bell Centre has been equipped with a state-of-the-art wide screen that allows the male fans to ogle the attractive Quebec females in crystal-clear HD.
Here in Ottawa, we feel a little bit jealous; like the guy who has the wood-paneled TV set while his neighbour has a 50-inch plasma flat screen.
My scoreboard question probably caught Melnyk a little bit off-guard, but he admitted that a new scoreboard is on his radar.
“It’s a big investment, but it would add a lot of excitement. It is something we’d like to do, there’s no question about it,” Melnyk told me.
But Melnyk also directed me to Cyril Leeder to get more information on where things stand. And the Senators president promptly responded to me with an e-mail, which certainly gives more details.
Leeder confirmed that the club is studying the scoreboard situation, but he said there are three legitimate hurdles to getting a new one installed:
1. Cost – This is one of the most expensive endeavors for an arena. The cost for a new scoreboard like the one at the Bell Centre is in the neighborhood of $7 million. (And please don’t start the trade rumors of Spezza-for-a-scoreboard, because a scoreboard can’t get you 90 points and you will never be able to find a No. 1 centre again.)
2. Technology – “Some (not all) teams are upgrading to HD technology,” Leeder wrote. “But it may be superseded in the next two years by a new format.”
In other words, the Sens don’t want to be like the guy who waited for five years to buy a PS2, then purchased one in the summer of 2006 – only to find out that the PS3 was being launched that fall. (I debated using the Blu-Ray analogy here, but I’m still bitter because I was suckered into buying an HD-DVD).
3. Fan Demand – Apparently, the fans in Ottawa haven’t been clamouring for a new scoreboard.
“When they are given alternatives, they would rather see money applied in other areas,” says Leeder, who constantly canvasses fans for their opinions with surveys.
I’m not sure where else the fans would like to see money spent, but I’m all in favour of individually covered and heated parking spaces (at least in the media lot).
So judging by Leeder’s comments, if I were a betting man, I would have to say we are at least 2-3 years away from a significant scoreboard upgrade. And his last comment to me probably was the most telling on that front, as the organization wants to be sure they make the right choice.
“The board is a big expenditure and must last 7-10 years so we have to get it right. So we will continue to review the options available and where new technology is headed,” Leeder concluded.
So hopefully you have a better picture of the scoreboard situation in Ottawa – even if’s not in HD right now.