Disappointed Sens owner says “we should be playing hockey by now”

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Senators owner Eugene Melnyk is worried that fans may abandon the NHL just like he abandoned baseball after the 1994 World Series was canceled due to a work stoppage.

“Back in ’94, I was a rabid baseball fan, I’m talking like a 40-45 game guy when I still lived in Toronto, I saw the World Series and (the Blue Jays) winning it, went to Atlanta; I was a crazy, crazy baseball fan and after the strike I was gone,” Melnyk said Wednesday on Sportsnet radio. “(I’m) extremely disappointed like any fan of where we are, we should be playing hockey by now. Everybody knows it, and we’re not.”

Unlike the NHL, which recovered relatively well after the 2004-05 season was lost due to a lockout, Major League Baseball was hit hard by fan anger after 1994. Average attendance fell from 31,612 to 24,260 and didn’t return to pre-strike levels for years.

“It was tough. There was a lot of anger everywhere, particularly amongst our fans,” MLB commissioner Bud Selig said in 2004. “It was the eighth work stoppage, so it had been building up for a long time. The sport came to a crashing halt.”

The Senators haven’t been afraid to say they’re pushing the NHL for a speedy resolution to the lockout. Two weeks ago, team president Cyril Leeder admitted they were “encouraging the league to try to make a deal as quickly as possible.”

Related: Three big reasons the fans might not come back