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Senators initiative puts fans first

by Rob Brodie / Ottawa Senators
Ottawa Senators owner Eugene Melnyk and COO Cyril Leeder teamed up with Grade 4 students from St. Anne’s Catholic School in Kanata to launch the Fans First campaign on Wednesday morning at the Kanata Recreation Complex.
More than ever, the Ottawa Senators believe in putting their fans first.

With that thought in mind, Senators owner Eugene Melnyk and COO Cyril Leeder unveiled today the first two components of the Sens Fans First program that will be in place for the remainder of this season and carry into the 2009-10 campaign.

Starting with the Feb. 3 home game against the Los Angeles Kings, the Senators will make a total of 10,000 value-priced tickets available for children. Also being introduced is the Esso Gameday Experience, which offers fans a free opportunity to watch Senators game-day practices on their final five Saturday home dates this season.

Melnyk said that, given the current tough economic times, he wanted to do something extra to lend a helping hand to the team's fan base.

"I am a fan first and an owner second," he told a press conference at the Kanata Recreation Complex, where a Grade 4 class from St. Anne Catholic School helped launch the new campaign. "What interests me is what happens for the fans (and) that they're entertained. What can we do for them? And I put myself in their shoes and imagined myself sitting in the stands and I said 'what can we do for them?' What value can we add?"

The two initiatives announced today are aimed at getting more children into Scotiabank Place. Minor hockey players and students are being offered 10,000 tickets spread over 13 remaining home games this season -- about 500 to 1,000 per game -- for $20, with the Future Fans Pak also including a drink and hot dog. Accompanying parents' tickets can be purchased for $29.

"We're viewing it as an opportunity to get more children into the building," said Leeder. "That's what Eugene is saying. Why have seats go empty when we can get kids in there?

"It's good to look after your future fans as well and that's part of what this program does. Most of the kids you see here are already Senators fans but (the question is) how do you get them into the building. That's what these initiatives address."

The Esso Gameday Experience, which launches Feb. 7, includes an open pre-game practice, an appearance by Spartacat and a video chronicling the players' game-day routine. The first 500 children through the doors also receive a free poster.

In the midst of a season that has fallen short of pre-season expectations, Melnyk remains gratified by the unwavering support his team receives from the Sens Army.

"I come into Scotiabank Place and it just overwhelms me to see the support that we have from people," he said. "The one thing that has been great to see is that these fans have been with us through the toughest times, when the team was financially troubled. They've been with us in the great times, when we've gone to the Stanley Cup final, and they're here when we have a bit of a slump.

"They are the greatest fans in the world, they really are."

The rest of the Sens Fans First campaign, including incentives for season ticket holders, will be announced next week.

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