|Former Senators president/CEO Roy Mlakar (centre) shares a laugh with his wife, Tamera, and CTV Ottawa anchor Max Keeping during a City Hall luncheon held to honour Mlakar's contributions to the community and the success of the hockey team. Mayor Larry O'Brien proclaimed it 'Roy Mlakar Day' in Ottawa. Mlakar spent 13 years with the organization (Roger Lalonde/City of Ottawa). |
For more than 13 years, he spearheaded the building of a hockey team that filled the nation's capital with pride.
Along the way, he also ensured the Ottawa Senators forged a link with the community that remains as strong as ever to this day.
For all of that and more, the City of Ottawa said thank you to former Senators president and CEO Roy Mlakar, with Mayor Larry O'Brien officially proclaiming 'Roy Mlakar Day' during a noon-hour luncheon at Ottawa City Hall.
"For over 13 years, Roy Mlakar has worked hard to build the Ottawa Senators into something in our community that we can all be proud of," said O'Brien. "Under your leadership, Roy, the Senators became one of the most feared franchises in the world. Your winning attitude helped build the culture of excellence within the organization, ultimately leading to regular-season sellouts and post-season success, including the team's incredible Stanley Cup (final) run in 2006-07."
Mlakar and his wife, Tamera, have also been fixtures with numerous local charities and worked tirelessly on their behalf. One of those charities, Candlelighters, was to honour Mlakar at a birthday celebration fundraiser Tuesday night at Dow's Lake pavilion.
"He is just as committed to the community as he is to his hockey team," said O'Brien. "He is as committed to sharing what we have as a community with those less fortunate as any single individual that I have ever met."
CTV Ottawa anchor Max Keeping, who also addressed the luncheon, said Mlakar's honour "is reflective of a great partnership between the City of Ottawa and the Ottawa Senators. I don't think anybody in this room would deny that in the last decade, the best economic generator this city has had is the Ottawa Senators."
Mlakar, who left his post with the Senators at the end June, said "today is truly an honour for Tami and I, for the last 13 years have provided me with great memories. It really comes from you people."
"As we get closer to leaving this wonderful city, we realize how many friends and people have made it great and say 'there's probably not going to be a better place.' "
It was back in 1996 that Mlakar joined an organization that was struggling financially and eventually fell into bankruptcy seven years later. But Mlakar still remembers the words he heard from National Hockey League commissioner Gary Bettman during the darkest moments.
"I remember Gary Bettman saying to us, 'You've got a great team. I think you're going to see your way through this,'" said Mlakar. "Now he calls it an elite franchise in the National Hockey League. I have no doubt that the significant (new) management team that (Senators owner Eugene) Melnyk has put together is going to take this franchise to even further success. Absolutely no doubt."
Melnyk, who was unable to attend the luncheon because of family commitments, expressed his appreciation for Mlakar's contribution to the franchise in a statement read by O'Brien.
"I remember Gary Bettman saying to us, 'You've got a great team. I think you're going to see your way through this.' Now he calls it an elite franchise in the National Hockey League. I have no doubt that the significant (new) management team that (Senators owner Eugene) Melnyk has put together is going to take this franchise to even further success. Absolutely no doubt." - Roy Mlakar
"Roy Mlakar's leadership over the past 13 years has been an impressive achievement and success," said Melnyk. "Roy has worked in professional sports for nearly 40 years. That depth of experience and leadership, along with his constant compassion and support for Ottawa's many charitable organizations, has contributed greatly to defining the Ottawa Senators and our relationship with our community and our fans.
"Roy has much to be proud of and I'm grateful to have worked alongside one of North America's most accomplished sports executives. I know all of our fans and the entire community will join me in thanking Roy and Tami for their many, many contributions to our community and our Senators family."
But Mlakar was also quick to acknowledge he and his wife have benefited from their years of living in what he believes is a generous city.
"This is a community that gives back. Always has, always will," he said. "It helped us build Roger's House. To think it's only the second pediatric and palliative care hospital in this country, and we did it in less than two years in the name of my good friend Roger Neilson, is remarkable. The work that's done at CHEO, the work that Candlelighters does, the boards I've served on... it's been my distinct pleasure over the years. It's been fun.
"It's been a ride to give back and see the smiles on the faces of the kids in this community. For all of you who have made it richer, thank you Ottawa. Tami and I will miss you all."
Author: Rob Brodie