Ryan Reynolds is the Senators’ Best Shot at Future Success
After the release of the valuations of each of the 32 NHL teams by Sportico, it’s clear that the Ottawa Senators are in a position to sell. It’s no surprise, really. The expectation following the passing of Eugene Melnyk was that the team would attempt to build value before selling. Current co-owners Anna and Olivia Melnyk have done a good job of allowing the team to build on the ice, as well as increase the community reach of the Senators. Now, the organization stands at a reported value of just over $650 million. We don’t know who could come out of the woodwork to buy the team, but we do know that famed Canadian actor/comedian Ryan Reynolds has shown tremendous interest.
Is Senators Sale on the Horizon?
On Nov. 4th, 2022, the Senators announced that they had taken the necessary initial steps to sell the club. Now that they have retained an investment bank to broker the deal, they can start taking bids from interested groups. However, in the same press release, the team was quick to note that any sale is conditional on the team staying in Ottawa. If unable to relocate, any prospective owners will need to make significant investments in the club. The team has been working to get a new deal in place for a downtown arena and is closer than ever. It’s not a done deal, but there is progress on a redevelopment plan. The Seattle Kraken’s Climate Pledge Arena cost over $800 million in renovations. The New York Islanders’ UBS Arena was over $1 billion for the area redevelopment and new arena building.
Anyone interested in owning the Senators must be willing to invest well over $1 billion, even if there is public money involved in the redevelopment. Those costs, while astronomical, are unlikely to dissuade serious buyers. These investments are critical to generating additional revenue. The Senators, in particular, suffer from the location of their current arena. Away from city centers and nightlife, it lacks the community presence of other arenas. This limits ticket sales and prevents additional fan engagement. Recouping those investment dollars is critical, and there’s no better way than attaching the team to a major star.
Seriously, Ryan Reynolds?
One of the Senators beat reporters, Bruce Garrioch, indicated that a source close to the “Deadpool” star has confirmed that Ryan Reynolds is genuinely interested in being part of the team. It’s not his first foray into sports ownership. Documenting his ownership of the Wales-based Wrexham FC in “Welcome to Wrexham” shows two things are clear: First, they’ve hired people who can help the team succeed, and they trust them to make the right decisions; and Two, the community has fallen in love with them, and that likeability can create monumental brand growth. These are both things the Senators desperately need.
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For his part, Reynolds has been stoking this fire, liking tweets related to him taking over or commenting on the occasional mention of the sale. On an appearance on “The Tonight Show”, Reynolds told host Jimmy Fallon in his witty style that it’s true that he’s interested, but he would need to find the right group. This interaction alone helps highlight Reynolds’ reach and what he could do for a team like the Senators. From an interest and audience perspective, hockey has been at the bottom of the “Big Four” sports in North America. The simple rumour of his interest was enough to give the Senators some airtime on a majorly popular late-night show. Just how far could his nameplate push the team?
Even if he becomes a minority owner of the team, his name recognition alone could add millions of dollars to the Senators’ coffers. For a team that has been mired in controversy and a fanbase that has feverishly jumped at every piece of “exciting” news, this would be a big moment. Attaching one of Canada’s biggest celebrities to this sale would be an easy way to ensure some level of increased revenue.
What Could Happen Post-Sale?
While the NHL has been an “old boys” club, we’re seeing new owners doing new and different things. The Vegas Golden Knights are built around theatrics, experience, and a culture that fosters aggressive decision-making. The Kraken are community-oriented, with a fan-first identity that aims to make hockey fun and (somewhat) accessible for all. For the Senators, having an A-Lister directly tied to the team could carve a new path we’ve not seen yet.
Any new owners of the Sens will be looking for what they believe is the best way to increase profits and team value. The Senators have seen their value ebb and flow, and their financial success is directly linked to their on-ice product. A team like the Chicago Blackhawks is valued at over $1.4 billion, yet they haven’t been successful since their last Stanley Cup win in 2015. But the club’s rich history has paved the way for them to continue being valuable even if they fail to perform.
Any potential owners will want to get the Senators to that point. That starts with creating new fans. With a household name like Reynolds attached, that’s an easy one. Reynolds’ personal Twitter following of 20.7 million not only dwarfs the Senators’ camp, but it also dwarfs the NHL’s official account at 6.7 million. His reach is monumental and provides untold opportunities for outreach and social networking. His reach is a large part of why the Wrexham FC is seeing a 600% increase in merchandise sales. With that ability to gain a following, it should be relatively easy to bring new fans into the fold and drive revenues that aren’t directly tied to on-ice performance.
Ottawa is a diverse city. As the national capital, there are many opportunities here. Whether it’s a singular owner, a multi-faceted group, or a majority stakeholder with a “free guy” tagging along, someone’s going to buy the club. There’s major potential for the brand, the team, and the city. With the team finally turning a corner, there’s no better time to buy.
Devin resides in Ontario, covering the Ottawa Senators for The Hockey Writers. He’s interested in where the eye test intersects with advanced stats and is on a quest to make a formula to determine who really is the best overall defenseman.