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This isn’t exactly breaking news since Mark Stone made a “controversial” comment all the way back on Thursday, but I didn’t have time to touch on the matter, and I felt obliged to share my thoughts on the whole situation. Stone made a vague comment that could have been taken multiple ways, and there was some outrage:
I saw tons of backlash from Senators fans on Twitter, Facebook, and in comment sections, and I found it baffling. There was a real character assassination from many fans who just last week would have been calling him a God who should have been a career Senator. We have seen this with other stars leaving town like Daniel Alfredsson, Jason Spezza, and Erik Karlsson, and it’s to be expected that at least some portion of the fanbase will be upset. However, I never thought there would be this many people willing to say “good riddance” to the heart and soul of the Senators over the past few seasons.
First of all, Stone realized that his comment was taken out of context and he probably didn’t word it the best, so he clarified what he meant when he spoke to the media on Saturday:
Am I going to defend his specific wording on Thursday? No, he definitely could have chosen his words more carefully, and that’s why he decided to clarify what he meant on Saturday. But what he said was so inconsequential and I could not believe the amount of people that were saying how they have lost respect for him or that he is disrespecting Senators fans. In the original quote, nowhere does he mention anything about Ottawa fans, nor does he mention that the organization is bad. Then again, he would have every right to call out the organization if he wanted to.
Hell, when he was traded to Vegas, he immediately praised their ownership by saying that they are committed to winning:
It was not 100% clear that he was insinuating that Ottawa’s ownership wasn’t
committed to winning, although I wouldn’t be able to blame him if that’s what he meant because he would be right.
Getting back to the quote from Thursday though, I saw way too much extrapolation and assumptions from people who believed that Stone was taking a shot at the city, the organization, and the fans, when in reality, all he was doing was making a simple observation. Stone is an extremely competitive player, and you can see that every time he gets on the ice. He was hesitant to re-sign in Ottawa long-term because of the risk involved with a team owned by Eugene Melnyk, and Ottawa fans should understand that better than anybody. So it’s no surprise that he was happy to get traded to Vegas and sign long-term there because they are set up quite well for right now and the future. All he wants to do is win, and it was far from a guarantee that Ottawa was going to be winning anytime soon.
In the quote he talks about how much fun it is to play in these playoff games and judging by how entertaining the series has been and how well he has played, that’s no surprise to hear him say that. So he was talking about playoff hockey in general, and then he brings up Ottawa by saying that he wouldn’t be having fun if he was still in the city of Ottawa...because they are not in the playoffs. And honestly, that is all there is to the quote, which was pretty clear to me even before
he had to later clarify his comments.
He never said it was not fun to play for Ottawa. He never said the fans are not fun or faithful in Ottawa. He never even said the organization is dreadful, even though I actually would have liked him even more if he said something that truthful. All of these things he did not say, yet I keep seeing people acting as if he disrespected the entire fanbase. The man simply wants to win and be in the playoffs, and Ottawa is not in the playoffs this season. Hence, he would not be having fun by scoring 10 points in 6 games if he had not been traded. This isn’t about him not enjoying himself in the city in the past, he was simply talking about what is happening right now, and there is no professional hockey being played in Ottawa currently.
In fact, as he said in the tweet earlier, he clearly had the time of his life in the 2017 playoff run. But it’s hard to have fun when you finish second last and dead last in back-to-back seasons, and that is essentially what he was getting at. Furthermore, almost all fans are united in wanting Melnyk to sell and that he is the root of all the organization’s problems, and I thought that a former player speaking out against the team would have been welcomed. However, even though he didn’t even speak out against the team at all, Stone has been ridiculed for suggesting that he was not having fun or hypothetically would not be having fun. How dare he say such a thing?
Stone also made a comment that the Golden Knights fans are the best in the league recently, which I have seen as a reason to criticize him:
I just can’t understand how Senators fans would be upset there, either. Firstly, Golden Knights fans have genuinely been phenomenal in their first two seasons, so it’s not like Stone is being completely fake. Secondly, this is his new team now. Are we expecting him to still say that the Senators fans are number one in the league? That would be ridiculous, especially because Stone has talked about passionate fans in Ottawa in the past anyway. We're the ex in this situation, we just have to let him be happy elsewhere.
It was sad to see him leave town, I get that. And it hurts to see another star player not want to tough it out and help the team in the future. But I can’t blame somebody for not wanting to work under Melnyk, and he had the right to not sign in Ottawa. Let’s remember the great performances on and off the ice that Stone gave the Senators because he was truly something special. I assure you, he is just as good of a person as he is a player, and there’s no need to crucify him for what he said. We don’t have to label every player that leaves town a bad person.
In the end, it’s frustrating to see so many fans pile on a player who was destined to be the next Senators Captain just because they decided to take a comment how they wanted to take it. Yes, it was not worded well, but my point stands that the character assassination of Stone is utterly asinine, and frankly, it makes the fanbase look bad.