Featuring a talented young core of exciting players, the club have more high-end prospects ahead after setting the North Division’s third best record after a disastrous start to the season cut short by the NHL pandemic.
While there are encouraging signs on the ice for a team that has resided at or near the bottom of the league standings since reaching a goal in the 2017 Stanley Cup Final, the owner Senators Eugene Melnyk continues to make waves.
Melnyk, however, does not comment on the separate lawsuits related to a Caribbean vacation he took over Christmas during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Statements filed in Florida court last month by fellow travelers against five defendants allege travel on a $ 500,000-a-week yacht quickly deteriorated into disagreements with the captain, “reckless driving” and “abuses” which resulted in “panic” attacks “on rough seas.
The lawsuits do not specifically name Melnyk, but he issued a statement to The Canadian Press acknowledging them and declining to comment while they are in court. He added that he and his family’s travels followed all public health laws in Canada and abroad during the COVID-19 pandemic, and they continue to do so.
CBC was the first to report that Melnyk’s girlfriend, Sharilyne Anderson, and her mother, Vera, are claiming a total of US $ 10 million in damages, alleging that the 60-meter captain M / Y Dream was “a smelly, cranky man who was abrupt and dismissive with the guests and downright angry and insulting to the crew. “
The complainants allege that the captain “was easily annoyed and overwhelmed and seemed totally unknown to the region, the crew or the vessel”.
The lawsuits, which both name companies related to the boat, an agent for Dynamic Yacht Management and the captain, allege the trip aboard the Dream with Anderson, who lives in Toronto, and Eugene Melnyk began Dec. 22 in Nassau with a much of Canada under lockdown to escape their “isolated existence and vacation with family and friends”.
The couple planned to spend five days together before being joined by their guests, but the situation, according to lawsuits, began to deteriorate when the captain refused to travel between Andros Island and an archipelago – au instead, he took the yacht east to open. ocean.
The statements say the captain mapped out a route that led to a “grueling 10 am to 3 pm ordeal” where both passengers “fell seriously ill, vomiting all night.”
None of the allegations have been tested in court. Messages left with Gurmeet Ahluwalia, the agent who works for the companies that own and manage the Dream, were not immediately returned. An email was also sent to the attorney representing Anderson and Vera Melnyk for comment.
“(The captain) appeared angry and resentful that a charterer would consider infringing on his alleged expertise, experience and authority,” the statements read. “(The captain) instead sought to punish the charterer and his group for their insolence by intentionally piloting the yacht on the high seas.”
A lawyer representing the yacht management company told CBC that the 12-passenger luxury boat was too large to follow the requested route.
“It would have been nice if the boat had been able to take the inland route,” Chris Fertig told the public broadcaster. “But you can’t. It’s just a physical impossibility. “
After a few days on calmer waters, the yacht picked up Vera Melnyk and the rest of the guests, but lawsuits say they were also forced to face “violent episodes of vomiting and illness” due to ‘”intentional and reckless conduct” by the captain.
Anderson and Vera Melnyk, who live in Barrie, Ont., Are each claiming $ 5 million for negligence, fraudulent imprisonment and willful infliction of emotional distress.
The suits allege that “the passengers were again subjected to hours of hectic navigation, some having to crawl on all fours in order to be able to walk safely on the decks of the ships” and that the captain once again ignored the request to the charterer to take the boat on the west side of the archipelago.
“Less mobile passengers, like Vera, have been functionally prevented from moving for fear of serious physical injury,” according to the lawsuits. “Almost all of the passengers suffered violent episodes of vomiting and illness due to the sailing conditions. “
The suits allege the waters were so rough that “an insecure lounge chair on the ship’s upper deck crashed into the glass bulkhead above the dining area, raining shards of shattered glass that rained down on them. narrowly missed the guests but caused severe emotional distress over the likelihood. to be hurt. “
The yacht company’s attorney told CBC that strong winds were common this time of year, adding that the swell was up to two meters, but the boat was never in danger.
With the trip due to end on January 1, allegations allege that the captain refused to allow anyone to get off the boat on Exhuma Island due to the rough waters, which led to an extra 18 hours of returning to Nassau. on the high seas – an act of “false imprisonment” which resulted in “panic attacks, trauma and fear of death by drowning”.
News of the lawsuits related to Melnyk, who had owned the Senators since 2003 and resided in Barbados since the 1990s, diverted some of the attention from his young team’s promising ending to another non-playoff campaign that culminated with a skyrocketing ranking.
Led by Brady Tkachuk, Tim Stutzle and Thomas Chabot, the future looks bright in the nation’s capital.
Ottawa was a double-overtime goal in Game 7 away from reaching the four-year Cup final, but highlights have been scarce since – often with Melnyk at the center of the storm.
It started before Ottawa’s all-star away game in December 2017, when he thought the team might be forced to move if attendance didn’t increase.
Some fans furious with the property, four billboards with the #MelnykOut hash tag were mounted in four locations across town thanks to a GoFundMe campaign that raised over $ 10,000 in less than a month as attendance problems persisted.
In May 2018, then Senators assistant general manager Randy Lee was charged with second-degree harassment after allegedly making lewd comments and rubbing the shoulders of a 19-year-old hotel shuttle driver. years in Buffalo during the NHL pre-draft. He was suspended by the team in June and resigned in August. The team and Lee ultimately settled the lawsuit out of court.
A month later, news emerged that the wife of Senators captain Erik Karlsson had filed a protection order against the fiancée of Senators forward Mike Hoffman, alleging harassment and cyberbullying. Hoffman was traded a week later.
And just before the Lee and Karlsson-Hoffman stories, franchise icon Daniel Alfredsson was quoted by a blogger as saying he hoped the team would be sold to secure its future in Ottawa. The blogger chose to post the quote after Alfredsson told the writer they were unofficial.
Ahead of training camp this fall, defenseman Mark Borowiecki and Melnyk appeared in an awkward team-produced video focused on rebuilding the franchise that went viral. With only a year off his contract and after he did not accept an extension offer over the summer, Karlsson was distributed to the San Jose Sharks for four players and two draft picks shortly thereafter.
A report then emerged in November 2018 on a video of an Uber vehicle featuring seven Senators players discussing their ineffective systems and poking fun at assistant coach Martin Raymond.
Despite all the drama, supporters were still supported by the fact that the team was working on securing an arena downtown to replace the Canadian Tire Center, located in the Kanata suburb far from downtown.
But that deal to redevelop the Lebreton Flats site fell through when Melnyk and his former project partners started suing them. Since then, Melnyk has been involved in more lawsuits, including separate claims involving his private jet and a Connecticut casino.
The team has also burned a number of high-ranking executives since Cyril Leeder, a member of the organization since 1992, was abruptly sacked in January 2017.