Senators Soirée raises $278K for Ottawa youth

Hockey team owner Eugene Melnyk thanks crowd, predicts bright future for team

How do you grab the attention of chatty gala-goers when you need them to head to the ballroom for dinner?

Send in an eight-piece brass band. Its big noises will do the trick.

And, it was entirely appropriate for this year’s Senators Soirée, which showcased a fun and colourful Mardi Gras theme.

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Senators Soirée

The evening, held Sunday at the Hilton Lac Leamy in Gatineau, brought together hundreds of business and community leaders and raised $278,000 in support of children and youth in our community.

The evening involved the participation of the Ottawa Senators hockey players, coaches and management, as well as owner Eugene Melnyk, who doesn’t regularly attend the annual fundraiser.

 On hand were the foundation’s president, Danielle Robinson, and board president, Goldy Hyder, president and CEO of Hill+Knowlton Strategies. Dan Greenberg, owner of Ferguslea Properties, and his wife, Barbara Crook, came dressed for the festive occasion.

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The Senators Soirée is the signature gala of the Ottawa Senators Foundation. It’s the charitable arm of the hockey club. Its goal is to help children and youth reach their full potential by investing in social recreation and education programs that promote both their physical and mental wellness.

Melnyk took to the stage before dinner to deliver a big round of thank yous to the organizers and attendees, lead sponsors Ferguslea Properties and Bell, and to the hockey players, along with their wives and girlfriends, for taking time out of their busy schedules to volunteer their time for the foundation and the worthy causes that it supports.

Senators Soirée

“We’re doing such wonderful things in this city to make sure that it’s a place where people can work, play and really get involved with the youth of the city,” said Melnyk.

He acknowledged that it’s been a “very tough season” for the team. “But, I can say without a doubt the future looks very, very bright for us.

“I really believe in this organization and the city, and that the team itself is going to right this ship and do very, very well for all the fans and the city in the future,” said Melnyk, whose comments elicited applause from the audience.

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The crowd also heard from team captain Erik Karlsson, who is expecting his first child, a boy, this spring with his wife, Melinda. The Swedish-born superstar defenceman stumbled briefly over a couple of words but humorously apologized for what he referred to as his “Swenglish.”

“I think it’s events like this that remind us that life is more than just hockey, and how great of an impact we can have by being part of this community and by doing the things that we’re doing here tonight,” said Karlsson.

“As Melinda and I begin the journey to start a family of our own, I think that this event is a great personal reminder of how important it is for us to give back to help give these children a chance to grow and succeed.”

Senators Soirée

Returning to host the evening was radio personality and Ottawa Senators PA announcer “Stuntman” Stu Schwartz, who is never at a loss for what to wear to these things.

“I know, you’re all looking at me going, ‘Is this guy dressed as a pimp?’” he joked on stage while conspicuously dressed in a mix of golds and purples. 

Senators Soirée

The $500-a-ticket night featured a cocktail reception with players from the Ottawa Senators, followed by a dinner featuring blackened beef tenderloin with grilled prawn and a special New Orleans-themed bread pudding for dessert.

The professional athletes were introduced by Schwartz to the audience while the team’s theme sang played and the audience cheered. The players and their dates then made their way across the stage – giving friendly waves and smiles to the crowd – before heading down the stairs to join one of the tables for dinner. 

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The evening’s live auction items included: an Arctic cruise to Greenland and Baffin Island, courtesy of One Ocean Expeditions; a trip to New Orleans; an opportunity to bring a minor hockey team to the Canadian Tire Centre for a 45-minute on-ice practice led by head coach Guy Boucher; and a group round of golf with general manager Pierre Dorion at the Camelot Golf & Country Club in Cumberland.

Among the raffle prizes was a one-week stay at the Grand Isle Resort and Spa in Exuma, Bahamas, donated by Peter Nicholson of The Foundation (WCPD).

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