The chief of Kitigan Zibi Anishinābeg says new Ottawa Senators owner Michael Andlauer has left the door open to a partnership with his First Nation — and he’s definitely interested.
Chief Dylan Whiteduck, whose nation is based near Maniwaki, Que., said he personally views taking an ownership stake in the Senators as “a good investment,” though it requires further consultation with his community and a referendum before a final decision.
Asked about the potential value of a Kitigan Zibi investment, he said “a large number” is being discussed.
“At the end of the day, I think it’s a good economic reconciliation story to see a First Nation to be a part of the ownership structure of a professional sports team,” said Whiteduck.
He said a meeting between the First Nation and Andlauer was “very positive.” In Whiteduck’s view, Kitigan Zibi can bring a lot to the table, including access to federal capital funding that has an Indigenous component.
“We hope that one day we could be a part of it,” he said. “He left the door open for us to be a part of it, so we just have to get to work at Kitigan Zibi and get a part ownership of the Senators.”
Whiteduck made those remarks after the unveiling ceremony for a sign on the Kichi Zībī Mīkan, which was renamed from the Sir John A. Macdonald Parkway as a gesture of reconciliation.
But Whiteduck said the next step, after symbolic gestures like renaming, is economic reconciliation. Getting an ownership stake in the Senators would go a long way in that direction.
CBC has previously reported that Kitigan Zibi was approached by another bidder for the Senators, the group led by Los Angeles-based producer Neko Sparks, who was among those who lost out to Andlauer’s successful bid.
Whiteduck said an official announcement on a partnership with Andlauer’s group could come in the spring. He said he sees strong potential in a Senators roster with solid core defence, good goaltending and strong forwards.
“The Senators are in their prime right now,” said Whiteduck. “I think it’s just time. This team is going to take the step to make the playoffs and hopefully get a chance at the cup.
“Let’s have the Senators parade on the Kichi Zībī Mīkan.”