Ottawa Citizen says NHL's Senators refused to let reporter on charter

The Ottawa Citizen said Friday that hockey reporter Ken Warren was denied access to the Ottawa Senators’ team charter to Tampa Bay for a weekend game against the Lightning.

The development came two days after the newspaper said it would not take down a secretly recorded video of several Senators players from an Uber vehicle in Arizona despite a legal notice from the NHL team insisting that leaving it online violates provincial privacy laws.

Warren, a Senators’ beat writer, had been given a travel itinerary but was told at the airport that he could not board the flight, Ottawa Citizen editor-in-chief Michelle Richardson said.

“I can confirm it happened this morning,” Richardson said. “For us, it doesn’t really change our fundamentals. We’re still committed to covering the Senators, both the good and the bad. Our coverage is important to our readers and to their fans and that’s not going to change.”

Depending on the market, reporters, broadcasters, photojournalists and other travelling media members sometimes fly on team charters, which can be more timely and convenient than commercial flights. The Citizen, like most outlets, pays employee transportation costs when charters are used.  

In an email, a team spokesman said the Senators were not available for comment. Warren declined comment Friday afternoon, referring questions to Richardson.

“He’s still going to make it for the game,” Richardson said from Ottawa. “Just a little bit of a delay.”

Earlier this week, the newspaper flatly rejected a legal notice from the NHL team, saying a video shot surreptitiously by an Uber driver was circulating on social media when the paper decided to report on it.

In the video, seven players can be seen ridiculing Senators assistant coach Martin Raymond and scornfully discussing the team’s penalty-killing performance. The video was shot without the players’ knowledge by the driver of the Uber vehicle they were riding in while on the road in Phoenix.

The players later apologized for their remarks.

The video shared by the Citizen also appeared on websites of other publications owned by Postmedia Network Inc., the paper’s parent company.

“We’re committed to being fair and accurate,” Richardson said. “We’re committed to giving everybody a chance to respond and to being really impartial in our coverage. Our duty is to report on the facts as we know them and that doesn’t change.”

An Uber spokesperson said the recording was a “clear violation” of the company’s community guidelines, adding that Uber had helped to have the video taken down from YouTube.

NHL commissioner Gary Bettman weighed in on the Senators’ Uber story at the Hockey Hall of Fame in Toronto on Friday after receiving his ring along with the five other members of the 2018 induction class.

“It makes me concerned about what you say in an Uber,” Bettman said with a chuckle before adding: “Uber’s a great company, but when things like this happen, I think it’s unfortunate. My guess is anybody in this room, including (the media), have conversations that were not meant for the light of day.

“It’s unfortunate if your privacy is being violated.”

The Senators nearly reached the Stanley Cup final in 2017 but have dealt with a string of problems on and off the ice since. Ottawa has a 6-7-3 record this season.

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With files from Canadian Press reporters Michelle McQuigge and Joshua Clipperton. Follow @GregoryStrongCP on Twitter.

Gregory Strong, The Canadian Press