Ottawa Senators break ties with Foundation, seek bids for new charitable arm

Eugene at soiree
Ottawa Senators owner Eugene Melnyk at the Senators Soirée gala held Nov. 23, 2019. File photo by Matt Stewart

After more than two decades as a fixture on the local charity scene, the Ottawa Senators Foundation said Thursday it will no longer be affiliated with Capital Sports & Entertainment, the parent company of the Ottawa Senators.

Founded in 1998, the charitable organization raises money to help children and youth in the Ottawa area play sports, attend summer camps and access education opportunities.

The foundation’s agreement with the Senators that grants it the right to use the team’s trademarks ​– including the Senators name ​– expires on July 31 and won’t be renewed, the organization said in a statement.

“For 22 years, the Foundation has benefited immensely from its relationship with the Ottawa Senators Hockey Club,” the statement said. “We have worked closely with the Club, its players, alumni, staff, corporate partners and fans as well as the community at large, and together we have made a measurable difference in the lives of children and youth throughout the National Capital Region.”

The foundation said it plans to focus on its future direction once the current agreement with the Senators expires.

“In the meantime, we thank the Ottawa Senators for 22 years of partnership and the generosity of people and business throughout the region for supporting the work of the Foundation resulting in thousands of game-changing opportunities for kids,” it said.

New RFP process

In a statement late Thursday afternoon, the NHL club said it plans to launch a bidding process “to explore alternative options to further its philanthropic endeavours.”

The team said it informed the Senators Foundation months ago that it wanted to solicit submissions for public bids to “ensure its charitable arm remains a vital part of the community.” According to the team, the foundation’s leadership group “protested and informed the Ottawa Senators they would not comply with an RFP process.”

The Senators said they have been in “protracted discussions” with the foundation about extending the current agreement for another four months and taking part in the new bidding process. 

“Today, senior executive management and the foundation's board leadership formally declined the extension and the opportunity to participate in an RFP process,” the statement said. It also said the team hopes to broaden the reach of its charitable arm to include areas such as aiding victims of domestic abuse and providing organ transplant educational resources.

The Senators Foundation has built a high profile in the Ottawa region, thanks to glitzy fundraisers such as the annual Sens Soir​ée and its work with endeavours such as Roger Neilson House, a hospice for pediatric palliative care at the Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario. 

In the past five years alone, the foundation raised more than $31 million through direct donations, sponsorships, various events and sales of 50-50 tickets at Sens home games.

The organization has strong ties to the capital’s business community, including through several high-profile board members such as chair Goldy Hyder, president and CEO of the Business Council of Canada, and vice-chair Ian Sherman, a partner in EY’s Ottawa office and the chair of the Ottawa Board of Trade.