By Neil Becker
Make no mistake, since taking over ownership in 2003, Eugene Melnyk had a burning desire to bring a Stanley Cup to Ottawa.
Melnyk burst on the Senators scene on August 26, 2003, when at that time he showed his passion for the hockey team by saving them from possibly leaving Ottawa by buying the Senators and Corel Centre out of bankruptcy for $92 million.
During his run as team owner, the Senators never won the Stanley Cup but came close in 2007 when they lost in the Stanley Cup finals in 5 games to the Anaheim Ducks. They also had a long run in 2017, which fell short when they lost Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals to the Pittsburgh Penguins.
Throughout his run as owner, Melnyk had a turbulent relationship with the Ottawa fans. That run sadly ended on Monday, March 28, 2022, when Eugene Melnyk passed away from an undisclosed illness at 62 years of age.
"Eugene Melnyk was a son, he was a father to two great daughters, Anna and Olivia," Senators general manager Pierre Dorion shared at the NHL general managers meeting. "He's someone that meant a lot to a lot of people. "He's someone that brought stability to the Ottawa Senators franchise. If not for Eugene Melnyk, the Senators would not be in Ottawa. He's someone that had great passion for the game of hockey."
During the early 2000s, Ottawa had some strong exciting teams but then, beginning in the 2012-13 season, there was a sudden continuous dip in attendance numbers.
Eventually, in 2017, Melnyk, perhaps out of frustration, took some backlash from Ottawa fans when he proclaimed that if more fans didn't come to the games, he would possibly move the team to another city.
Following that heartbreaking 2017 Eastern Conference Finals, fans didn't hesitate to criticize Melnyk for not spending money to bring in the missing parts for a Stanley Cup team.
In March 2018, fans were so disillusioned with the Senators owner that through a fundraising campaign, they raised money to get billboards up in the city, putting pressure on Melnyk to sell the team.
There were many hockey highlights during Melnyk's time as Senators owner. These highlights include Ottawa hosting the 2009 World Junior Championship, the 2012 NHL All-Star Game, and in 2017, the NHL 100 Classic outdoor game.
Melnyk, along with Dorion and the scouting/front office staff, played a big part in bringing in some exceptional young talent over the past few years through the draft. Talents such as captain Brady Tkachuk, forward Tim Stutzle and defenceman Thomas Chabot, to name a few.
"Mr. Melnyk provided me, my teammates, and many Sens players who came before us with an opportunity to live out our dream. The Ottawa community will miss you greatly. Condolences to your family," Tkachuk wrote on his Twitter account.
Prior to becoming the Senators owner, Melnyk got involved in hockey in 2001 by buying the St. Michael's Majors, who play out of the Ontario Hockey League.
In 2006, Melnyk also purchased the Mississauga Ice Dogs, only to sell them a year later to ownership who moved them to St. Catharines. Eventually, Melnyk relocated the Majors from Toronto to Mississauga and on May 10, 2012, he sold the St. Michael Majors, which are today known as the Mississauga Steelheads.
This businessman also bought the Senators American Hockey League farm team Belleville Senators in 2016, which moved to Belleville prior to the 2017/18 season.
Besides hockey, Melnyk leaves quite the legacy as a horse racing breeder. In 2001, he became involved by purchasing Mockingbird Farm located in Ocala, Florida.
After purchasing, he changed the name to Winding Oaks Farm and created Melnyk's Racing Stables. His horses ended up winning the Queen's Plate, the Prince of Wales Stakes and the Breeders' Stakes. Many hockey fans might not realize that Melnyk is a prominent member of the Canadian Horse Racing Hall of Fame.
As a businessman, Melnyk's resume of accomplishments includes; Trimel Pharmaceuticals Corporation, Neurolign Technologies Inc., Barbados real estate, Pur Genesis Technologies Inc., Clean Beauty Collective Inc., Providence Charitable Trust and Berts Bar, to name a few.
One thing is certain is that Melnyk loved the Ottawa Senators. Throughout the good times and bad times when fans wanted him out, this man was on a mission to deliver a Stanley Cup to the Nation's Capital.
Melnyk leaves behind two daughters. He will be missed in the hockey world.