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Melnyk family skate a thrill for kids

Saturday, 12.15.2007 / 3:09 PM ET / Features
By Rob Brodie  -
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Melnyk family skate a thrill for kids
Santa Claus wore red and white at Scotiabank Place on Saturday afternoon.

A red and white Ottawa Senators jersey, that is.

Senators owner Eugene Melnyk brought an unforgettable day of joy into the lives of 100 youngsters during his fourth annual Melnyk Family Skate for Kids. From a fun-filled lunch at Local Heroes Hockey Country Lodge, to an hour on the very ice the Senators skate upon almost every day, the youngsters had plenty of reason to smile broadly and feel the warmth of the holiday season.

Senators owner Eugene Melnyk helps a youngster lace up his brand new skates for the fourth annual Melnyk Family Skate For Kids on Saturday afternoon at Scotiabank Place (Andre Ringuette/Freestyle Photography/OSHC).
“Take a look. You see these kids are thrilled,” Melnyk said as he described the joy the day brings him, his wife, Laura, and their two children, Anna and Olivia. 

“For many of them, it’s their first time on the ice. The ones you see that can skate obviously know hockey, and for them to be on the same ice as the Sens is beyond their imagination.”

Oh, but they can imagine, even if for just an hour, being just like their favourite Senator.

Just ask 10-year-old Sardar Mohammed, a big Jason Spezza fan.

“I think I’m a Senator when I’m out here,” he said on the middle of the Scotiabank Ice, which was filled with youngsters clad in red Sens jerseys. “If you play on the same ice as they do, you’re exactly the same.”

Added Melnyk: “You go up to any of these kids and every one of them, in their mind, is a (Sens) player. I ask them, ‘who are you going to be when you go out there?’ And they’ll say ‘I’m going to be Daniel Alfredsson’ or something like that.

Mohammed even decided to see what it felt like to bump into the boards, just like his hockey heroes.

“I tried to see what it was like when the Ottawa Senators (hit the boards)," he said. "I think it causes them a lot of pain.”

Melnyk said he and his family, who reside in Barbados, traditionally spend the holidays back in Canada. It was rather obvious there was no place he’d rather be on this Saturday afternoon, with his Senators due to play the Atlanta Thrashers later that night.

“One of the things I learned very quickly (about) this organization is that it’s very community oriented,” said Melnyk in describing his inspiration for Saturday’s event. “(We have) the players going out to CHEO and doing different things all the time in the community with kids.

“The ice is free. I thought, why don’t we put something together where we can get kids out, give them a pair of skates, a helmet and a jersey and let them come out for a skate? It’s a very simple idea … these kids will never forget this for the rest of their lives.”

In partnership with Children and Youth Friendly Ottawa (CAYFO), 100 children from two of eight selected schools are brought out to the Melnyk Family Skate.

They were treated to lunch at Local Heroes Hockey Country Lodge, then joined the Melnyk family on the ice for an hour of skating. Each child took home a brand new pair of skates, a helmet, a Senators jersey and loot bag, all of it generously donated by the Melnyk family.

It has become a Melnyk family holiday tradition, one that Sens Foundation honorary chairman Max Keeping said shows how committed the Senators owner is to Ottawa and its children.

“Ottawa is learning every year what a gift Eugene Melnyk and his family really are,” said Keeping. “No one appreciates that more than the 100 children each year for whom he is a smiling, benevolent and real Santa.”

Check out our photo gallery of this fun day here.




1 y - MTL 82 50 22 10 214 184 110
2 x - TBL 82 50 24 8 259 206 108
3 x - DET 82 43 25 14 231 211 100
4 x - OTT 82 43 26 13 232 208 99
5 BOS 82 41 27 14 209 201 96
6 FLA 82 38 29 15 198 213 91
7 TOR 82 30 44 8 206 257 68
8 BUF 82 23 51 8 153 269 54


E. Karlsson 82 21 45 7 66
M. Stone 80 26 38 21 64
K. Turris 82 24 40 5 64
B. Ryan 78 18 36 5 54
M. Hoffman 79 27 21 16 48
M. Zibanejad 80 20 26 0 46
C. MacArthur 62 16 20 -6 36
M. Michalek 66 13 21 3 34
D. Legwand 80 9 18 1 27
A. Chiasson 76 11 15 -5 26
C. Anderson 14 13 8 .923 2.49
R. Lehner 9 12 3 .905 3.02