Sens owner Eugene Melnyk needs liver transplant; public asked for help

— -- The Ottawa Senators are hoping their fans can come up with the biggest save of the year.

The team announced on Thursday that owner Eugene Melnyk is in "urgent need" of a liver transplant and appealed to the public for a donor.

"Mr. Melnyk's family has actively reached out to his close friends and broader family with the hope of identifying someone who could be a 'live liver donor,'" the Senators said in a statement. "This process involves the removal of a portion of the living donor's liver so it can be transplanted into the recipient patient.

"The Melnyk family's efforts have yielded a number of potential donor candidates who have been extensively tested. These efforts continue in earnest but have so far not yielded a suitable donor."

Melnyk, who purchased the Senators in 2003, has been battling significant health complications since mid-January, which was why he was largely absent during Ottawa's incredible run to the playoffs, the team said Thursday. The Senators were 14 points out of a playoff spot on Feb. 10, but they went on an incredible tear just to get into the postseason. They ultimately lost to the Montreal Canadiens in the opening round.

According to the team, the 55-year-old was admitted to the hospital three weeks ago with liver-related complications and it then was determined that he needed a transplant.

The Senators asked the public for help Thursday, saying anyone interested in being a donor can access a health history form on the University Health Network website to see whether he or she is suitable. Interested parties also can go to the Senators' website for more information.

According to Dr. Atul Humar, medical director of the UHN Multi-Organ Transplant Program in Toronto, any healthy adult between the ages of 18 and 55 is a potential live liver donor.

"To date, over 600 live liver donor transplants have been performed at the University Health Network," Humar said. "All donors have returned to normal lives with no restrictions."

Several teams offered support for Melnyk and the Senators after Thursday's news was announced, including Eastern Conference foe Pittsburgh.

Senators assistant coach Mark Reeds died of cancer last month. General manager Bryan Murray, meanwhile, has colon cancer.