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Ottawa Senators owner Melnyk surprised to hear about Lightning sale

The team is one of his favourite organizations in the NHL and he wasn't expecting an ownership change.

"What they've been able to do in Tampa Bay is just incredible as far as marketing in that market," said Melnyk, in Toronto on Wednesday to announce a charitable donation. "It's ingenious because they bring out a very young crowd, they make it an inexpensive ticket for them, they give them all sorts of incentives. But maybe that's what one person saw in Tampa. I think it's a really great organization."

A group led by former NHL coach and GM Doug MacLean has signed a purchase agreement with current Lightning owner Palace Sports and Entertainment to buy the team. The sale is subject to approval by the NHL's board of governors.

And while the team may do a good job marketing itself in Florida, it's still not profitable. Team officials have said the club has lost more than US$70 million under current ownership, and that the only season the club made money was during its championship run in 2004.

The Lightning isn't the only club to make headlines over ownership recently. The Nashville Predators are also in the midst of being sold and the Edmonton Oilers have been approached with offers from local pharmacy tycoon Daryl Katz, though the team's ownership group has turned him down.

Melnyk says he's not sure why some owners are deciding to get out of the hockey business.

"I don't know what's going on," he said. "It's very interesting. I think what's happening is that people have gone through seven, eight, nine, 10 years of ownership. I don't know whether age is a factor or whether they've moved or what personal issues they have and why they're selling. Maybe it's for the money. A lot of these teams were worth half of what they're selling for four years ago. Some people might simply be cashing in."

Cashing in is not something he's interested in doing.

"I know one team that's not for sale," he said with a smile. "It happens to be just east of Toronto - it's called the Ottawa Senators. It's not even worth somebody making a phone call."


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