Senators hire former Arizona Coyotes boss to lead business operations

Anthony LeBlanc
Anthony LeBlanc is the Ottawa Senators' new president of business operations. Photo courtesy Ottawa Senators

Less than two months after firing CEO Jim Little, the Ottawa Senators have turned to a veteran sports executive to fill a vital business role in their front office.

The Senators said Monday that Anthony LeBlanc is joining the organization as its president of business operations. LeBlanc, who spent nearly four years as chief executive of the NHL’s Arizona Coyotes from 2013-17, most recently was CEO of Schooners Sports and Entertainment, a group that’s trying to land a Canadian Football League expansion franchise for the Halifax area.

A previous Ottawa resident, LeBlanc worked at Corel in the late 1990s before moving on to a variety of executive roles in the tech industry, including a stint as vice-president of global sales at Research In Motion, now known as BlackBerry.

In a statement, LeBlanc described himself as a “diehard Senators fan” and said he’s looking forward to his new post.

“I am confident that my experience in the NHL, as well as my sales and marketing background in the technology sector, will be put to good use here in the National Capital Region,” he said.

LeBlanc’s hiring comes just weeks after the Senators parted ways with former CEO Jim Little, who was brought on board in early January to help turn the flagging franchise around. 

The Senators said Little was fired for conduct “inconsistent” with the core values of the team and the NHL, but Little said he believed his release was related to a Feb. 14 phone conversation with Sens owner Eugene Melnyk, during which they had a "personal disagreement" about the direction Little had been pursuing with the team.

Little’s departure was the latest in a series of executive shakeups for the embattled franchise. Since 2017, the Senators have parted ways with CEOs Little and Tom Anselmi, president Cyril Leeder, chief operating officer Nicolas Ruszkowski and chief marketing officer Aimee Deziel.

The turnover in the organization’s executive ranks comes during a stretch when the Senators have struggled on and off the ice.

Ottawa ranked last in the 31-team NHL in attendance this season before play was suspended due to the COVID-19 crisis. The club was averaging just 12,618 fans per game, less than 66 per cent of capacity at the Canadian Tire Centre.

The Sens have asked fans for “patience” as the team rebuilds and said they have been focusing on “customized” experiences to help sell ticket packages to the business crowd and other loyal supporters.

​– With files from the Canadian Press