Senators Chairman Anthony LeBlanc: Dorion’s changes created excitement for ticket sales

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Sign Claude Giroux and they will come.

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And, they did.

Off-season changes to improve the roster by general manager Pierre Dorion and the Ottawa Senators have been good for business and welcomed by fans who have cut support as the club goes through a difficult rebuild.

Anthony LeBlanc, the club’s president of business operations, told Postmedia on Thursday that the phones have been ringing constantly from businesses interested in buying season passes or people wanting to be at the Canadian Tire Center next season.

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“The reaction has been absolutely unprecedented in the marketplace,” LeBlanc said from his office at the Canadian Tire Center. “In the past 24-48 hours we have had over 500 distinct businesses, account opportunities, contacts. New season seats are already up 25% from last weeks activity compared to last year with season seat subscriptions.

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“Everything is going incredibly well.”

There has been a lot of good news surrounding the Senators over the past month.

It all started on June 23 with the announcement by the National Capital Commission that Capital Sports Management and its partners had been awarded preferred bidder status to build a new downtown arena on a parcel of land at LeBreton Flats.

Then, on June 28, former Senators captain Daniel Alfredsson got his just reward by being named to the Hockey Hall of Fame Class of 2022. The induction ceremony will take place in November and fans are invited to watch it on the big screen here after a home game in Ottawa.

The club have also added former defender Wade Redden to their development squad to work with young prospects to take things to the next level.

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Dorion literally stole the show at the NHL Draft in Montreal last Thursday by sending a first-round pick to the Chicago Blackhawks on a deal with double 40-goal scorer Alex DeBrincat. Then, underperforming goaltender Matt Murray was sent by the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Not enough for you? The signing of Giroux, who grew up in Orleans, took the excitement to another level and followed Dorion’s acquisition of veteran goaltender Cam Talbot.

The Senators and their stalwarts are hoping all of these moves will trickle down to the playoffs.

“I’ve been a fan of this team since it joined the NHL (in 1992-93). I’ve had some good years and some bad years,” LeBlanc said. “Look, (Dorion) has taken his balls like all of us over the past few years, so it’s good to see him get some of the recognition he deserves.

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“He has done an incredible job over the past two weeks. The general feeling of the community is incredibly positive. People come back. I get it from a fan’s perspective, it’s tough when your team hasn’t made the playoffs in the number of years we haven’t. We never look to guarantee the playoffs, but I think it’s fair to say we’ve put ourselves in a really good position.

LeBlanc and Dorion report to a three-person board of directors, including Sheldon Plener, Larry Zeifman and John Miszuk. In post-season meetings, one area that was discussed was trying to reinvigorate the Senators brand and get the fans here excited again.

Anna and Olivia Melnyk, daughters of late owner Eugene Melnyk, aren’t involved in day-to-day operations, but they are kept informed of what’s going on and have a say. The owners sat down at the Bell Center table in Montreal and got involved in the marketing.

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The pieces are in place with captain Brady Tkachuk and assistant captain Thomas Chabot as well as Drake Batherson, Tim Stuetzle, Josh Norris, Alex Formenton and Jake Sanderson. The changes Dorion made bought goodwill in the community.

“I think of it as a technology company: you have one side of the house that does all the research and development and you have the other side that sells all the product and research development,” LeBlanc said. “Pierre is the product guy and we are in sales and marketing.

“Our job is to sell the product, sell the excitement and sell the potential. Finally, our fan base that has had a tough few years, there is optimism there and I know that as a long-suffering New York Jets fan. There is certainly optimism about the possibility of playing meaningful games in the spring.

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Giroux’s signing to a three-year, $19.5 million deal has generated a lot of excitement.

“The news came out at 12:05 p.m. I was sitting with Brendan Du Vall, who is our senior ticket sales manager, at league meetings in Washington and he was showing me his phone because he was getting notifications whenever a new track was coming in. It was literally one after another as we sat there,” LeBlanc said.

Giroux brings credibility.

“He’s a local guy, definitely has some play, but he’s a guy who could have gone anywhere and he chose to come to the Senators,” LeBlanc said. “It’s always a very telling circumstance when you have a veteran of that ilk who wants to come to Ottawa.

“He made it clear he wanted to win a Cup, he signed a three-year contract, so he must think we have that potential in the next three years.”

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Twitter: @sungarrioch

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