Senators Hope Hiring Jim Little As CEO Will Turn Franchise Around
The Senators hired Shaw Communications CMO Jim Little as CEO, saying that he will be "responsible for the overall business strategy of the organization, with a special focus on marketing and strengthening community relations," according to the CP. The Senators are "in need of a public relations boost." Fans have "often had a combative relationship" with Owner Eugene Melnyk, and the team has been a "disappointment both on the ice and in the stands in recent years." Melnyk had been "acting as the Senators' CEO since the team parted ways with Tom Anselmi" in February '18. Before working for Shaw, Little held "several senior executive roles at Royal Bank, Bell Canada and Bombardier." While at RBC, he was named to the Globe & Mail's '12 list of the top 50 people affecting sports in Canada for his "role in the bank's contribution" to Canadian golf; RBC sponsors the PGA Tour Canadian Open (CP, 1/10).
FANS FIRST: In Ottawa, James Bagnall wrote the job facing Little is "quite simple: He has to bring back the fans." Going into Saturday's game against the Canadiens, the Senators had "played 20 home games this season with average attendance of fewer than 11,800," last in the NHL, "despite the fact many of those seats were filled by giving away tickets." Because nearly 6,800 seats are "unfilled each game," Melnyk is "leaving an estimated $500,000 on the table for every home match in the form of foregone ticket revenue." For a team that "barely broke even on operations last year" on total revenues of $165M, that "gap must be addressed" (OTTAWA CITIZEN, 1/11). Also in Ottawa, Rick Gibbons writes this hire "might be the right time for once-loyal fans of the Senators to start cutting the franchise some slack and start filling the seats again." Gibbons: "Like most fans, I'd welcome new ownership. But, by now, it has become evident that Melnyk isn't selling the team anytime soon." There is "no quick miracle to turning the franchise around, although hiring a new CEO is a start" (OTTAWA SUN, 1/13).