The Ottawa Senators have about a month to go in their regular season. Might they have a new ownership group in place by the time game No. 82 rolls around?
Speaking to the media at the conclusion of the general managers meetings in Manalapan, Florida, NHL commissioner Gary Bettman — while acknowledging everything is still “a work in progress” — indicated there’s been a lot of interest in the Senators and things are now transitioning to a new stage of the process.
“The first round of bidding is in the books,” Bettman said. “I’m not prepared to share who or what, but I think everybody involved in the process feels good about the level of interest.”
What does that mean in terms of a timeline?
“As we get to Phase 2, it’s a matter of weeks,” Bettman said. “You begin the process of winnowing down the number of interested parties and while you’re reducing the number of parties, you’re hopefully increasing the magnitude of the interest for those who are remaining. There’s no magic there, it’s typical of what goes on for the sale of a franchise in any sport.”
While fans — specifically in Ottawa — and media are obviously clamouring to know more, Bettman is, not surprisingly, playing this one close to the vest. “This is a process that is best conducted the way these processes are, which is among the parties directly involved,” he said.
The most glamorous of those parties, of course, is Canadian movie star Ryan Reynolds, who grew up in the Ottawa neighbourhood of Vanier. Last month, Reynolds partnered with the real estate development organization The Remington Group in pursuit of this rare chance to buy an NHL team. One thing Bettman did say is, regardless of who winds up owning the Sens, any call to move the team downtown to the much-discussed LeBreton Flats location will, at the end of the day, rest with the new owners.
“Whether or not they want to do that, obviously there’s a lot to be done including with the (National Capital Commission) and the City of Ottawa,” Bettman said. “Ultimately whether or not a new owner wants to stay in the existing arena (the Kanata-based Canadian Tire Centre) or move downtown is a decision they’ll get to make.”