Senators Owner Eugene Melnyk Backtracks on Plans to Host 6,000 Fans at Games

Joseph Zucker@@JosephZuckerFeatured ColumnistJanuary 12, 2021

Ottawa Senators goaltender Craig Anderson takes a drink in the second period of an NHL hockey game against the Nashville Predators Tuesday, Feb. 25, 2020, in Nashville, Tenn. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)
Mark Humphrey/Associated Press

Ottawa Senators owner Eugene Melnyk issued a clarification after initially announcing he submitted plans to allow up to 6,000 fans to attend games at Canadian Tire Centre. 

In a since-deleted tweet, Melnyk said his plan included "proper physical distancing, rapid testing and mask-wearing at all times."

Joshua Clipperton @JClipperton_CP

Ottawa Senators owner Eugene Melnyk has deleted this tweet about a plan to allow 6,000 fans into Canadian Tire Centre this season. https://t.co/5B0NapuY8r

However, the Canadian province of Ontario issued an emergency measure that included a stay-at-home order because of surging COVID-19 cases in the area. The order will be effective Thursday at 12:01 a.m. ET.

Melnyk responded by issuing a new statement that said the Senators "are committed to continuing the development of a plan that allows fans to safely enjoy NHL hockey in-person — but only when the time is right."

The Senators open the season at home Friday against the Toronto Maple Leafs and have three more home contests before embarking on their first road trip.

NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman told reporters Monday the league is expecting to incur billions of dollars in losses during the abbreviated 2021 season since games will have limited attendances or no fans at all. He added that wiping out the season altogether would've been less costly than forging ahead with the current plan.

ESPN's Emily Kaplan and Greg Wyshynski reported in November some owners cited that reason as grounds to cancel the season. Bettman, however, successfully argued the long-term consequences from that plan would be far worse.