Longtime Ottawa Senators owner Eugene Melnyk has died at age 62.
Melnyk passed away on Monday after an illness he faced “with determination and courage,” the Senators said in a statement late Monday night. The team said he died peacefully surrounded by his family.
Melnyk bought the Senators out of bankruptcy in 2003, along with the team’s home arena in Kanata. The team played in the 2007 Stanley Cup finals and the Eastern Conference finals in 2017 under his ownership.
“Eugene never wavered in his desire and commitment to bring the Stanley Cup to the nation’s capital,” the team said in the statement. “Eugene was confident the current team of talented players and coaching staff that he and his organization built will challenge for and eventually deliver on that championship promise.”
The team did not specify the illness Melnyk was battling.
Condolences began pouring in Monday night for his two daughters, extended family and the Senators organization.
“The National Hockey League mourns the passing of Ottawa Senators owner Eugene Melnyk,” NHL commissioner Gary Bettman said in a statement. “The words ‘passion’ and ‘commitment’ define the man who has owned the Ottawa Senators since 2003.
“Whether it was in the boardroom with his fellow governors, at the rink with his beloved Senators or in the community with his philanthropy, he cared deeply about the game, about his team and about bettering the lives of those in need.”
Bettman said although Melnyk was successful in business, he was most passionate about hockey and the Senators.
“Eugene was often outspoken but he maintained an unwavering commitment to the game and his roots and he loved nothing more than donning a Senators sweater and cheering on his beloved team.”
Senators captain Brady Tkachuk paid his respects on Twitter.
“Mr. Melnyk provided me, my teammates, and many Sens players who came before us with an opportunity to live out our dream,” he said. “The Ottawa community will miss you greatly. Condolences to your family.”
Many fans tweeted their appreciation that Melnyk stepped in to buy the team in 2003, which kept them in Ottawa amid an uncertain future.
Other NHL teams also sent condolences.
Melnyk was a Toronto native born to parents from Ukraine. He was an avid supporter of the Canadian military and a philanthropist who supported numerous causes. The Senators’ charity invested more than $100 million in organizations that support children and youth across the region.
The resident of Barbados was also a successful horse racing breeder who won many of the sport’s biggest prizes. He made his fortune in the pharmaceutical industry as the founder and CEO of Biovail Corporation.
Melnyk had a liver transplant in 2015 after the team ran a public campaign for a donor. Afterwards, he started an organization dedicated to raising awareness for organ donation.
Local politicians also paid tribute Monday night, with Coun. Diane Deans tweeting she was “very saddened” to hear the news.
“Thank you Eugene for being a difference maker in the City of Ottawa,” she wrote. “Sincere condolences to your daughters and family. You have left us far too soon.”
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