Ottawa Senators name former Shaw exec Jim Little as CEO

Jim
The Ottawa Senators' new CEO Jim Little. Photo provided

The Ottawa Senators are turning to an established marketing executive to shape their business strategy amid plunging attendance figures.

Club owner Eugene Melnyk announced Friday morning that Jim Little will step into the chief executive position, effective immediately.

Fifty-five-year-old Little most recently served as chief marketing officer at Shaw Communications, departing that role in May 2018. Little began his career in Ottawa, having worked previously with enterprise businesses the likes of Royal Bank of Canada, Bell Canada and Bombardier Aerospace.

The Ottawa Senators have been without a formal chief executive since the company's most recent president and CEO, Tom Anselmi, departed after just one year at the helm of the local hockey club. Anselmi himself replaced longtime Senators chief Cyril Leeder.

Little’s appointment comes as the Senators have struggled to attract audiences to games at the Canadian Tire Centre in Kanata: last season marked a 22-year low in attendance and the Sens are currently ranked last across the entire NHL for attendance in 2019-20, according to hockeyDB.com. The organization has rolled out new initiatives this season to help fans and corporate groups customize ticket packages in a bid to build its attendance figures.

Melnyk said in a statement that the Sens conducted an “extensive search” to find a new CEO before hiring Little.

“Jim's appointment is an important step towards achieving our goals and building on the positive impact the hockey club has on the community. As our planned rebuild of the Senators continues to develop on the ice, Jim's wealth of experience and fresh perspective will strengthen the company's off-ice success, ushering in a new era for our club and fans,” he said.

Elsewhere in the Sens’ C-suite, former COO Nicolas Ruszkowski and CMO Aimee Deziel both left the organization last year after short stints with the team. Mark Bonneau was recently named the Senators’ chief revenue officer while Brian Crombie took on the CFO role.