The National Hockey League’s (NHL) Ottawa Senators could soon be heading to sunny Barbados to play exhibition matches.
The club’s owner, Eugene Melnyk, has resided with his family on the Caribbean island for the last 18 years and nothing would please him more than to have his team skate on ice in Barbados.
“Several Senators players and Eugene’s hockey associates have come to Barbados and we thought of the idea of perhaps bringing the hockey team down,” BTA Sports Tourism manager Gregory Armstrong told Share. “We are working with Showcase Marketing out of the United States to make this a reality. Eugene has a close affinity with Barbados and I know he will be thrilled to see his hockey team playing in his adopted homeland.”
Bruce Weinstein, the president of the Buffalo-based Showcase Sports Marketing, confirmed that his group is in discussions with the BTA to make the idea a reality.
“We have been talking about setting up a synthetic ice rink in Barbados by perhaps next spring,” said Weinstein. “Of course, this is an expensive proposition and we have not yet determined if it will remain there on a short-term or permanent basis. “Our talks have also focused on playing a few exhibition contests in Barbados and it makes sense that the Senators should be one of the teams since its owner lives in Barbados.”
The exhibition matches will take place at the 5,000-seat multi-purpose Sir Garfield Sobers Sports Complex that has hosted ice-skating.
Melnyk, who also owns Melnyk Racing Stables and Winding Oaks Farm, names all of his racehorses after Barbadian landmarks and his equines carry the blue and gold national colours. Earlier this month, Melnyk joined Barbadian Bert Inniss for the launch of Bert’s Ottawa – modeled after the popular Bert’s Bar in Barbados – at Scotiabank Place prior to the start of the Senators’ home opener against the New York Islanders.
Armstrong also disclosed that the world’s top ranked female tennis player, Serena Williams, will take part in two exhibition contests in Barbados next month. She will meet ninth-ranked Dane Caroline Wozniacki on November 28 and 29.
“We received confirmation this week that Serena will be able to come to Barbados and we are delighted that she accepted the offer because she’s the best in the world right now in her sport,” said Armstrong, a former Barbados and Glamorgan fast bowler who worked in the BTA office in Toronto in the 1990s. “We also tried to get her sister Venus but she’s unavailable at this time.”
There are several other international sports events in Barbados in the next two months.
A total of 10 English cricket sides will take part in a Masters tournament from November 7-21 prior to the inaugural Cricket Legends of Barbados International Four-Nations Masters Over-35 cricket tournament next month involving the West Indies, Sri Lanka, England and South Africa.
The Twenty/20 event, to be played under floodlights, will be held from November 27 to December 5 at Kensington Oval which was the venue for the 2007 International Cricket Council (ICC) World Cup final between winners Australia and Sri Lanka.
In addition, several English county cricket teams have also expressed an interest in traveling to Barbados for their pre-season preparation.
Armstrong was in Toronto last week to promote Barbados as a destination of choice for Canadian sports teams. The BTA has developed an integrated approach to sports marketing to generate 40,000 sports tourism visitors in 2010.
“Our numbers fell off over the past few years because more Caribbean countries have caught on as to how leisure and adventure sporting activities can be used to enhance their economies,” said Armstrong.
“So we have had to go back to the drawing board and come up with unique concepts to aggressively target teams and clubs throughout the world looking for a welcoming location that has all the top-class facilities and ancillary services to support their sports endeavours…We have a wonderful infrastructure and we want to position ourselves as a premier sports tourism destination.”
Ryerson University and George Brown College basketball and volleyball teams have participated in tournaments on the island while Canada’s synchronized swimming team took part in a two-week training camp on the Caribbean island in preparation for last year’s Beijing Olympics.
“Barbados was so amazing, the nice weather and a great outdoor pool to train in,” recalled Jennifer Song whose team finished fourth in Beijing.