Mark Borowiecki is standing up for team owner Eugene Melnyk.
The Ottawa Senators defenceman was asked about a series of billboards that have gone up around the nation’s capital with the hashtag “MelnykOut”.
“Everyone is entitled to their own opinion,” Borowiecki told Bruce Garrioch of the Ottawa Sun. “I will say I don’t think running a sports franchise is quite as easy as some people think it is.
“There’s a lot to it that people can’t understand and don’t appreciate.”
Meanwhile, in Ottawa…
What do you think of the #MelnykOut billboards? pic.twitter.com/EQqCoV6iRc
— Sportsnet (@Sportsnet) March 19, 2018
The Senators filed for bankruptcy in the middle of the 2002-03 season, and were bought by Melnyk in August of 2003.
“Eugene stepped up for the city. He brought this team back to us and he kept hockey in this market,” said Borowiecki, an Ottawa native. “I think it’s important to remember all that.”
It’s been a rough year for the Senators organization as a whole. The team was an overtime goal away from the Stanley Cup Final last spring, but saw its playoff run marred by unsold seats at Canadian Tire Centre.
The 2017-18 season has seen the club take a step back, and the ever-popular Kyle Turris was traded to Nashville in a blockbuster deal that landed Matt Duchene. Turris, who was a pending unrestricted free agent at the time, immediately signed a six-year extension with the Predators.
“It’s tough because I think management did want to sign me, but I think that the owner didn’t,” Turris said in December when asked why he wasn’t signed to an extension in Ottawa. “And that was his decision.”
Things only got worse at the NHL100 Classic, when Melnyk spoke ahead of what was supposed to be a marquee event for the Senators franchise, and didn’t exactly downplay the possibility of moving the team one day.
“I’m not going to blow a lifetime of working hard to support a hockey team. It’s not gonna happen,” he said at the time.
He later added: “We have options for us, that’s the main thing. A lot of options. I don’t bluff.”
Melnyk’s rocky relationship with at least a loud portion of the Senators fan base has reached toxic levels, and might only get worse when the team makes a decision on what to do with potential 2019 free agent Erik Karlsson.