And, unfortunately, when his Ottawa Senators finally bring the Stanley Cup back home to Canada, he’ll have to take a front row seat in heaven.

Melnyk’s family and the Senators issued a joint statement late Monday that he passed away “after an illness he faced with determination and courage.”

The statement said he died peacefully, surrounded by his family.

“He was a proud Canadian a passionate hockey fan,” the statement said.

Melnyk’s enduring legacy will be that of the man who saved the Senators and kept it from moving when former owner Rod Bryden declared bankruptcy in January 2003.

Though the league had suitors who wanted to put the team on wheels to the United States, NHL commissioner Gary Bettman was bullish on keeping the Senators in Ottawa and that’s when Melnyk reached out to declare his interest with the priority of making sure the club stayed in Canada.

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