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Cyril Leeder: Big Things Ahead

by Chris Lund / Ottawa Senators

Senators Sports and Entertainment president Cyril Leeder gave some insight into exciting developments coming for the Senators and Canadian Tire Centre in coming years as the keynote speaker for an Ottawa Kiwanis Club meeting.

With the big things coming over the next three years being tied very closely to the team's 25th anniversary season in 2017-18, there was a layer of irony in the setting for today's update taking place at an Ottawa Kiwanis luncheon. The original "Bring Back the Senators" campaign was in its infancy when it was tabled at a similar luncheon with the Kiwanis in 1989, according to Leeder. While the back drop is familiar, the outlook of the Ottawa Senators Hockey Club has changed considerably.

As he noted at his end of year press conference with Ottawa media in mid-April, the 2013-14 season was a "huge leap forward" for the club. Between the integration of Canadian Tire as the arena's new naming partner, a landmark regional broadcast deal with Bell Media, the addition of Cisco's Canadian Tire Centre Vision, the building of a new bus ramp as well as numerous other initiatives, the past year has been a landmark one for the franchise off the ice.

The big leaps forward over the past year are just the beginning of the organization's efforts to work towards what stands to be a historic 25th anniversary. Today's talk was a sneak peek of the plans the franchise has in store for its fans in the coming months and years.

After the success of the team's 2008 trip to Sweden where they took on a Frolunda team led by an 18 year old Erik Karlsson and opened their season against the Pittsburgh Penguins in Stockholm, the Sens are exploring a second trip overseas. Another European tour would give the squad a chance to hit the ice in another part of the world as well as get fans in another country donning Senators colours.

For the fans who can't join the team on European soil, there are also plans to bring back the Montreal Heritage Train trip of 2012, which saw almost 300 Sens fans travel with the team to see them take on the Canadiens at the Bell Centre.

In Ottawa, Senators fans can expect a handful of upgrades in and around Canadian Tire Centre.

Getting into Senators games will soon require little more than a smartphone with new upgrades coming from Capital Tickets. Sens fans can already purchase tickets and send them to friends and family as gifts over their phones through but they won't need to print them off at home much longer. With new upgrades coming in the service, fans will be able to present their phone to staff at the rink to be scanned in with a digital barcode.

Once they're inside, fans will be able to enjoy the ever-expanding capability of Canadian Tire Centre Vision. With access to different cameras in the rink from the standard hockey broadcast that will soon include cameras that go behind the scenes in the locker room and tunnels, fans will get closer to the team than ever while inside the building. Going forward there are also plans to introduce player cameras on-ice in addition to GPS technology which will track player movement in-game. Fans will be able to experience all of this while participating in the game at Canadian Tire Centre.

The seating layout will also be receiving a facelift over the next few years. Fans can expect renovations that will see an increase in the club and loge style seating in the 100 level areas in addition to a broadcast desk where Senators' broadcasts will be filmed in the arena amongst fans. In the 200 and 300 levels, there are plans to increase the amount of lounge area in place of conventional seating where patrons will be able to enjoy games in a casual setting. There are also plans to have food trucks inside the building as additional concession locations.

For those who have struggled with their arrivals or departures from Canadian Tire Centre in the past, the organization has begun working with the city to improve traffic flow to and from the building. These improvements are set to take place for the start of the 2014-15 season and coincide with the widening of the Queensway, which is nearing completion itself.

There are also plans to bring major events to the city of Ottawa.

The Senators have hosted the NHL Entry Draft on two occasions in 2005 and 2008 and will be putting in an application for a third, which they hope to host by 2017. Considering the previous drafts hosted in Ottawa have seen players like Sidney Crosby, Steven Stamkos, Bobby Ryan and Erik Karlsson drafted into the League, another draft at Canadian Tire Centre would surely be a good omen for hockey fans everywhere.

Finally, the club hopes to host an outdoor game in the city in 2017 to mark the first NHL game played in Ottawa between the original Senators and Montreal Canadiens. The game would be an effort to re-create the match which took place 100 years earlier. While the process is ongoing to secure an outdoor game for the city, you'd be hard-pressed to find a better location for a game with the Senators celebrating 25 years since their return to the NHL, the NHL celebrating its 100th birthday, 125 years since the Stanley Cup's commission in Ottawa and 150 years since Canadian confederation.

With the Sens building to celebrate their 25th birthday in style, there is plenty for the organization and their fans to be excited about as 2017 draws closer and closer.

"There's big things coming in the years ahead," said Leeder. "There will be many more announcements this year on our plans and what the future will hold and bring in 2017."

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