How Tom Petty Inspired a Small Group of Young People to BRING BACK THE SENATORS

By Bruce Firestone | Uncategorized

Oct 03

It was with great distress that I learned that Tom Petty, age 66, has passed away at 8:40 pm PT on October 2nd 2017. 

Tom, of course, wrote I Won’t Back Down, the tune that inspired a group of young people (ages 24 to 39) to do exactly that… not back down from the fight to bring NHL hockey to Canada’s Capital city in the period 1987 to 1992.


This was a recessionary period in Canada; a time when the nation was preparing to lose not one but two existing National League franchises (in Quebec and then Winnipeg), and an era in which the federal government was running such an out-of-control deficit that it was widely feared that the IMF would have to step in to rescue a bankrupt Canada much as it would decades later with Greece.

For the 25th anniversary of the Sens, I wrote its history and naturally called the book, Don’t Back Down, the real story of the founding of the NHL’s Ottawa Senators and why big leagues matter,

I would like today to rededicate that work today to Tom, may his soul find everlasting peace, and to that small band of Terrace Investment Limited founders who gave everything they had to make it possible to see NHL hockey live in Ottawa–you know who you are…

Finally, here are the first few paragraphs and last few paragraphs of the book where you will note that Mr Petty’s influence on us is forever recorded:

Chapter 22

This is the end, my only friend, the end

Of our elaborate plans, the end

Of everything that stands, the end

No safety or surprise, the end

-The Doors[1]

The Bring Back the Senators campaign didn’t use pessimistic music or lyrics from the Doors to inspire them as they were creating then icing a National League squad, no not at all, but this was the tune playing in my head as the team, its parent company, all its assets and liabilities headed for bankruptcy in the early 2000s.

It was an impossible combination of circumstances, a perfect storm of heavy weather that the team flew into including:

1.       an incredibly complicated financial structure

2.       a huge and mounting interest bill owing to vulture capitalists who’d funded much of the teams debt[2]

3.       out-of-control player payroll increases

4.       a Canadian dollar that performed horribly

5.       oft-promised, never-delivered humongous national US television deal

6.       drying up of expansion fees

7.       delays in getting additional land surrounding the Palladium zoned and approved for development

8.       no ancillary revenue sources from, for example, casino development next to the arena.

[1] Songwriters: BRUCE W FRANKLIN, ERIC WAGNER, RICK J WARTELL © Universal Music Publishing Group

[2] Practically the first thing Gary Bettman ever said to me when he became commissioner was, “Get rid of your team’s debt”. It’s the same thing my wife’s dad, Ken MacMillan, said. Remember Ken never liked me because I’d built a large company mostly via debt, and I’d run off with his best asset, his daughter, Dawn. But both Gary and Ken were right—cash is king.


The future of professional sports is likely to be a bright one.

How many things today bind democratic nations together? Religion? Probably not. War? Hope not. Rock star politicians like Nelson Mandela, Pierre Trudeau, Ronald Reagan, Maggie Thatcher, Helmut Kohl, Mahatma Gandhi? Nope, they’re all in their graves.

Pro and amateur sports are one of the few institutions left around which people can come together and unambiguously feel like they are part of something bigger than themselves.

That’s why we brought back the Senators. Really.


While Tom Petty wasn’t able to come to opening day, let me conclude this work by singing his song[1] for you. You’ll have to hum along with me and carry the tune…

Well I won’t back down, no I won’t back down

You could stand me up at the gates of hell

But I won’t back down

Gonna stand my ground, won’t be turned around

And I’ll keep this world from draggin’ me down

Gonna stand my ground and I won’t back down

Hey baby, there ain’t no easy way out

Hey I will stand my ground

And I won’t back down…



Bruce M Firestone, B Eng (civil), M Eng-Sci, PhD, Ottawa Senators founder, Real Estate Investment and Business coach, ROYAL LePAGE Performance Realty broker,  1-613-762-8884


postscript: at the unveiling of the Sens new logo and uniforms in the fall of 1992, Sylvain Turgeon and other first year Senators players were supposed to mount the catwalk while I Won’t Back Down was playing. Instead, somehow, this Tom Petty tune was played–

Spread The Word

About the Author

Bruce is an entrepreneur/real estate broker/developer/coach/urban guru/keynote speaker/Sens founder/novelist/columnist/peerless husband/dad.