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Senators have stars in their eyes

by Rob Brodie / Ottawa Senators
Senators president Cyril Leeder is confident the organization can bring the 2012 NHL All-Star Game to Hockey Country (Ottawa Senators Hockey Club).

Ottawa Senators president Cyril Leeder believes there's an "excellent" chance that one of the National Hockey League's showcase events will soon be coming to the nation's capital.

The Senators, in partnership with the Ottawa Tourism Leadership Group, have confirmed they'll be submitting a bid next week to bring the 2012 NHL All-Star Game to Scotiabank Place. Leeder is confident that the time is finally right for the organization to secure an event it has been chasing since owner Eugene Melnyk purchased the franchise in August 2003.

"We've got a great bid," Leeder said at a media conference earlier today. "We bid on a lot of different things and I just have a good feeling about this one ... We're the only Canadian NHL team that hasn't hosted an all-star game yet, so we think our number and our time has come."

The NHL is currently accepting bids for its 2011, 2012 and 2013 all-star games, with Leeder expecting "at least 25 teams" to express formal interest in at least one of them. The deadline for the bids is Monday, with the Senators expecting to hear an answer by the end of March.   

If the Senators are successful, captain Daniel Alfredsson said fans in Ottawa are in for "a great treat" when the Jan. 26-29 all-star weekend comes to the capital in 2012.

"Having an all-star game in Canada, where the interest for hockey is so big … I think that would be a great fit for everybody," said Alfredsson, who has played in five previous NHL all-star affairs.

Central to the bid is the opening of the new Ottawa Convention Centre, a 200,000-square-foot facility that would fulfil a league requirement for all-star game host cities.

"Part of our thinking was to bid for 2012, because that's the first year that the new convention centre will be open and we would have maybe the best facility in North America available for the bid," said Leeder. "We've talked to the league and they told us a new facility with 200,000 square feet would be ideal for them."

Also on the Senators' side is the fact they've held two NHL entry drafts, in 2005 at the Westin Hotel and three years later at Scotiabank Place. But Leeder said it isn't necessarily true anymore that draft success leads to the granting of an all-star game to a franchise.

"Generally, people thought that you had to host a draft to be in the running for an all-star game," he said. "But we've done two drafts. Eugene made it known the day he bought the team that he wanted an all-star game and Gary (Bettman, the NHL's commissioner) said he'd work with us, and if we met the requirements, our day would come.

"We've got a great bid. We bid on a lot of different things and I just have a good feeling about this one ... We're the only Canadian NHL team that hasn't hosted an all-star game yet, so we think our number and our time has come." - Cyril Leeder
"We're hoping that the time is now."

NHL research indicates the all-star weekend injects $30 million into the host city's economy. The game also receives national television coverage in Canada (on CBC) and the United States (currently on NBC).

"We certainly are looking at this event as a very significant economic generator for the tourism industry in Ottawa," said Noel Buckley, president/CEO of Ottawa Tourism. "It's a 30-million economic impact and it's going to generate over 7,000 (hotel) room nights.

"It's an important event for the city from an economic perspective and it's an important event for the tourism industry."

While all-star weekend is "not a financial benefit" for the Senators — the NHL runs the event and derives all revenues from it — Leeder said "it's a good thing to do for your fans" in Hockey Country.

"I think it energizes a community, it showcases hockey and it puts a spotlight on the (league's) stars," he said. "We're more than happy to participate in that and if it does cost us some money, it's not the end of the world. It's more about promoting the game and having something for your fans to look forward to."

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