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Cyril Leeder on ESPN: The Magazine's Sens ranking

by Chris Lund / Ottawa Senators

With news that the Sens had been voted the top sports franchise and Canada and third best in the NHL in ESPN: The Magazine's Ultimate franchise ranking, Sens president Cyril Leeder weighed in on the news.

Here's what he had to say...

On the ranking:

Yeah, it's great news. It really validates what we've been saying for a while, we think we provide great value for our fans and it's always nice when someone like ESPN recognizes that.

On what was graded:

There was eight different categories and I guess in all of the categories we scored fairly well. Certainly the areas we had done the best were the bang for the buck, fan relations, ownership and coaching were the top four. I think across the board we scored very well.

On if they thought they were doing well relative to other franchises:

Yeah I think on the what you get for what you pay, the sort of value scale, we've always felt we were a leader, certainly in the NHL. That's where we do most of the comparison and this survey would rank us number one among professional sports teams in Canada, but just as important for us is number three in the NHL and right behind one and two which is Pittsburgh and Anaheim. We're pretty pleased with that.

On if that will impact ticket sales:

I hope so, we hope so, but again I think our fans recognize that we have a unique situation. We do provide great value, we are a Canadian team, we do have tickets to sell and they do benefit from that fact and they get great value. It's not just the price of the tickets. They get what we think is a great stadium experience and a top quality team to watch game in and game out.

On the jump from last season:

We've been on a path the last couple of years to really improve our fan experience, improve our relationship with our fans and so a credit goes to our team here, our staff, who have been putting in the effort to make those improvements and we've been noticing them over the last two years and, as I said, it's great to see third parties are noticing them as well.

On ticket sales:

We're doing real well on the ticket side. We'll be at the second highest ticket level, certainly the highest we've ever had other than coming off of a Stanley Cup final year and we're really pleased with that. We're a little over 12,000 now on our season tickets and our goal is to get to 13,000 and we're hopeful we'll get there.

On relations with the city:

I think that's just at a standstill, I don't think we're saying a whole lot and the city's not saying a whole lot.

On if this impacts the city view of the franchise:

I don't think so, I think the two are really unrelated. This really is about a hockey team in our case, or a sports franchise's relationship with the fans and that's really the ultimate relationship. They call it their ultimate issue and for us that's really paramount to have that relationship with our fans and, again, we think we have that and it's just good to see that someone else recognizes it and validates it.

Those of you wishing to see his full availability can do so here...

Sens owner Eugene Melnyk also weighed in...

“Our fans are always one of the Senators organization’s most important priorities.This year’s ESPN ranking is a testament to the ongoing commitment of our entire organization to continually focus on providing the best possible experience for our great fans. We are thrilled and extremely proud to be recognized as Canada’s top professional sports team and to achieve an overall top-10 ranking in all of professional sports.”

Here's how ESPN broke down the Sens (rankings are out of 122)...

Last year's rank: 42

Title track: 50

Ownership: 18

Coaching: 18

Players: 30

Fan relations: 16

Affordability: 33

Stadium Experience 55

Bang for the Buck 7

Two years ago, the Senators compiled 92 points in 82 regular-season games (1.12 ppg) and squeaked into the playoffs as the eighth seed. In last season's lockout-shortened 48-game campaign, Ottawa managed only slightly more success (56 points, 1.16 ppg, seventh seed). So why then did the Sens jump 33 slots in our standings? In short, ticket prices. In 2011-12, their average ticket, $55.51, was only 2.8 percent below the league average. Last season, owner Eugene Melnyk slashed prices to $42.09, 31 percent below the NHL average. The interesting thing is that Melnyk had little incentive to do so: The Senators have ranked in the top seven in attendance six of the last nine seasons. This all helps explain why a team that's not quite championship-ready (50th in the title track category) could have the second-highest ranking in bang for the buck in the NHL. The fans keep coming back no matter the quality of the on-ice action. Who are we kidding? Winning helps.

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