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Volume 20 No. 42
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Kroenke comfortable wearing a second hat

Josh Kroenke says his appointment as Colorado Avalanche president should negate the perception that he and his father, Stan — owner of the Avs and NBA Nuggets — favor one Denver-based franchise over the other.

“It was a perception created by a few people here,” said the 33-year-old Kroenke last week, referring to members of the media he declined to name. “I always thought it was wrong. Before the Avalanche went into a rebuilding phase a few years ago, we were a salary cap ceiling team. We employed hundreds of Coloradans during a down economy. We are invested in the community. Still, the perception was there, based on our lack of success lately on the ice. I hope these moves end that perception once and for all.”

Josh Kroenke became president of the Avalanche last week, adding to the role he’s had with the Nuggets since 2010.
The Avalanche last week announced that Kroenke, also the Nuggets’ president, would replace Pierre Lacroix (who is staying on as a consultant) as president of the NHL club. That makes Kroenke part of a select group of U.S. sports executives who have oversight responsibilities with two clubs in the major pro leagues. In addition, former Avalanche captain Joe Sakic was named senior vice president of hockey operations.

For the last three seasons, Kroenke has been the governor of the Avalanche for league business, a title he retains.

“I’ve been working toward this move to the Avalanche for a few years,” Kroenke said. “I feel I’m better prepared for it now. I’m definitely a better executive. Getting through the

Carmelo Anthony trade [dealt by the Nuggets to the New York Knicks in 2011] — dealing a star, communicating with the press and the fans, coming out of it a strong team — has prepared me for anything.”

Within NBA circles, Kroenke is considered an under-the-radar yet well-respected executive. In each of his three seasons as president of the Nuggets, the team has won at least 50 games and qualified for the playoffs. On the business side, Nuggets’ viewership on Altitude Sports was up 25 percent this season compared with last year, and average attendance was up 4.6 percent, to 17,820 per game.

Now charged with running the Avs’ business as well (while Sakic runs hockey operations), Kroenke shared some of his top priorities for the 2013 offseason:

TIME MANAGEMENT: Kroenke points out that the offices of the Avalanche and Nuggets are close to each other in the Pepsi Center, so balancing his roles as president of each club is made easier.

“I expect that my time will be pretty evenly split between the two franchises,” he said. “I have my dad’s DNA: I don’t sleep much and I spend a lot of time thinking about how I can make things better. But I’m also hands-off; we hire the best people and let them do what they do best. I’ll be busy, but finding the time shouldn’t be a challenge.”

IMPROVE TICKET SALES: The Avalanche averaged 15,445 fans over 24 home games in the lockout-abbreviated 2013 season, 26th in the NHL and essentially flat from a year ago. Considering the team finished last in the conference standings, it could have been worse, but Kroenke wants to see improvement.

“There are a few things we need to do better to sell more tickets,” Kroenke said. “We have to win, of course. It’s a results-oriented business, and we finished second-to-last in the league [standings] this season. I know our team will improve. I also want to see us more involved in the community. We’ve always been good with charities and programs like youth hockey, but we’re going to do more. We need to get out and touch the community on a more personal level.”

REPLACE THE AVS' CMO/HIRE A HEAD COACH: Earlier this month, Avalanche and Pepsi Center Chief Marketing Officer Kurt Schwartzkopf left after a five-year tenure to take a similar position with Ticketmaster. “Kurt was a great executive for us,” Kroenke said. “It’s a very important position with so many top young players coming through our system.” Kroenke hopes to have Schwartzkopf’s replacement in a few weeks.

As for a successor to recently fired Avs coach Joe Sacco, Kroenke said Sakic and general manager Greg Sherman will make the recommendation to him, and the deadline for a hire is prior to the NHL draft on June 30 — a draft in which the Avs have the first overall pick. “I’m pretty sure it will be done well in advance of that,” he said.