Mendes: Ryan Reynolds wants a piece of the Senators. The NHL needs to make sure it happens

Mendes: Ryan Reynolds wants a piece of the Senators. The NHL needs to make sure it happens

For about five minutes on Tuesday evening, Brady Tkachuk stood near his locker and answered questions about the Ottawa Senators’ 6-4 loss to the Vancouver Canucks.

Tkachuk wore a grim expression on his face for most of the session, a clear indication that the current six-game losing streak does not match the captain. Many of Tkachuk’s answers were filled with passion when he talked about the current state of the team.

Use the word “frustrated” to open and close his first answer.

At one point, he said frankly, “Everyone here hates losing. It’s not fun.”

But at the end of the media talk, Tkachuk’s eyes suddenly lit up with a new line of questioning. His expression changed and the more gentle version of Tkachuk – the one we usually deal with – reappeared.

And the question that changed his tone?

Was Ryan Reynolds’ appearance on Tuesday night a bit of a distraction?

“I think that’s great. He’s interested in the team and I think it would be great for the community,” Tkachuk said. “You can see the fans have enjoyed it too. So to have someone like him who cares about us, it’s great to see.”

There are few things that can distract the passionate and angry hockey market and its leader from a six-game losing streak. But an A-list celebrity suddenly on the radar to buy your own NHL franchise is definitely one of them. We will have plenty of time to indulge in the misery of defensive breakdowns and questionable slate decisions. Heck, I probably wrote this column a dozen times in calendar year 2022.

But in the midst of this nasty losing streak, we need to take a moment and appreciate what’s going on before our very eyes.

Within a week, Reynolds’ interest in Senators have gone from one obscure Twitter emoji to a court press. On Tuesday evening, he drove to the Canadian Tire Center, where he was met with a standing ovation as he was greeted on the competition’s first television time out. On the ice level, the senators were beating their sticks against the boards to join the chorus of applause within the arena.

“I definitely enjoyed some of the movies he was in,” Tkachuk said. “So it was great to see him live.”

This surprise appearance in Ottawa came less than 24 hours after Reynolds appeared on The Tonight Show and publicly expressed his interest in owning part of the team.

“I’m trying to do that,” Reynolds told host Jimmy Fallon. “This is very expensive. So I need a partner who has really deep pockets.”

As we have reported for several months in the field, there are many parties interested in buying and retaining Senators in Ottawa. It makes sense that they would all be reaching out to Reynolds now, as the actor is clearly putting his cards on the table for all to see.

Under normal circumstances, Gary Bettman doesn’t like that kind of spirit emerging from potential owners who are outside the NHL circuit. If we’re following the typical league playbook, it seems as though flashy PR campaigns and media appearances greatly reduce an outsider’s chances of joining the NHL’s inside campus.

But during a Tuesday night briefing in Winnipeg, Bateman appeared to embrace the fact that Reynolds is publicly interested in being part of the senators’ privilege.

“Listen, anything that engages the fan base, that draws a lot of attention to the franchise or the team is a plus,” Bateman said. “He is a very popular and respected person.”

Bettman’s response feels like a stark departure from the usual script, with newcomers being kept at arm’s length until the exhaustive scrutiny is over. But Reynolds doesn’t fit the mold of the typical prospective NHL owner. He’s not a wealthy high-tech entrepreneur trying to become a household name by owning an NHL franchise.

Instead, Reynolds is already a household name and arguably the brightest star in the Hollywood galaxy.

In that case, the Senators would be using Reynolds’ stardom to build up they Brand. Not the opposite.

The NHL field—especially at the company level—is filled with milky characters that generate quite a bit of buzz and excitement. To be sure, Governing Council meetings could use an injection of Reynolds’ stellar power. Over the past week alone, the Senate and NHL memberships have ended up making important mentions in People magazine and The Tonight Show.

Sure, senators have enjoyed short brushes with celebrities before.

There was a time when Rihanna inexplicably wore a Sens shirt as a fashion statement.

Matthew Perry wore a senator’s shirt briefly in the movie All nine yards.

And of course, Carrie Underwood spent some time in Ottawa when he played Mike Fisher in the Senate.

But all of these were fleeting moments.

Meanwhile, Reynolds is looking to own part of the Senate and ostensibly become an important voice for the franchise. As a content producer, Reynolds may dream up innovative ways to market the hockey team to a much broader fan base.

Senators have long struggled with the “little fraternity syndrome” that is geographically stuck between the six most famous concessions in Montreal and Toronto. But bringing Reynolds on board could help change this power dynamic. It won’t erase the decades of history those Ottawa franchises have, but it will dramatically change the perception of Ottawa as the quiet, boring government city that fun has forgotten. Even the most stubborn Canadian or Maple Leafs fan would admit that Reynolds having a piece of Senators would improve Ottawa’s street credit in NHL circles.

Reynolds likely has a vision and a plan for how to get this work done, with his stake in Wrexham football club serving as a good model to embrace the underdog logo.

And the fact that Reynolds wants to buy a piece of the Ottawa Senators because he has a personal connection to the city shouldn’t be missed. He has made it clear on a number of occasions that spending time at Vanier as a teenager had a profound effect on him. And Tuesday’s surprise veil in Ottawa makes it look like Reynolds won’t be an absentee owner in this market.

The senators’ financial picture has always felt like a house of cards, with financial instability and attendance problems putting them only a notch or two above Arizona in the minds of many hockey fans. Just imagine if a celebrity of Reynolds’ stature suddenly wanted to buy a stake in Coyote. It seems unfathomable.

But that’s the gift the senators got this week.

Reynolds does not need senators. Senators need it.

But the most important thing is that Reynolds Wants the elders.

And that should be enough for any potential royal group to make sure Reynolds has a stake – and a vote – in senators going forward.

As his media talk wrapped up on Tuesday, Tkachuk was asked if Reynolds had come to the Ottawa locker room after the match.

“No, we haven’t seen him,” Tkachuk said. “Maybe on the road maybe we can see it.”

If the NHL is smart, they’ll make sure that’s a reality for Tkachuk and his teammates.

(Photo: Richard A. Whittaker/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

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