Zimmerman, 46, brings with him a background in marketing and advertising, plus a personal knowledge of hockey. For the past three years the New York City native was president and CEO of Nike Bauer Hockey Inc. Prior to that, he was general manager of Nike Golf USA.
Zimmerman replaces Stan McCammon, who stepped down as president and CEO last October. McCammon took over the president’s role when Brian Burke was fired in May of 2004.
Zimmerman said his first priority will be to become familiar with the Canucks organization and learn the local business market.
“I need to learn the business,” he said. “I didn’t come with an agenda, except to help make this organization more successful.
“Success for a hockey team is both about what we are able to do on the ice . . . as well as what we do off the ice and how we impact the business side in the community. Step one is learn, get around, keep my eyes wide open and really understand what the opportunities are.”
The Canucks already have a firm hold on the hearts and wallets of fans across the province. The team plays before soldout crowds and dominates the sports market in Vancouver.
Still, Canucks co-owner Francesco Aquilini thinks there is room for improvement, especially after the team missed the playoffs last year.
“We can’t take anything for granted,” Aquilini said. “The building is soldout, which is great and . . . we have tremendous support.
“We want to be able to touch everyone. In the province of B.C. I still think there’s lots of room for non-hockey fans to become hockey fans. I think this is where Chris can help us.”
Aquilini said Dave Nonis will remain as the Canucks senior vice-president and general manager and will oversee the team’s hockey operations.
“Chris and Dave will work together in providing a great product on the ice and building our brand,” he said.
In the past, friction between Burke and McCammon resulted in Burke being released. Nonis doesn’t see the same problem occurring.
“This is more of a traditional model,” Nonis said. “I would expect the first part of my day would be to sit down with Chris and let him know what is going on in the hockey operations world. Hopefully we’ll talk about where we are in the business.
“It’s the way things should be run.”
Zimmerman grew up a New York Rangers fan. He earned a BA in economics and mass communication at the University of Vermont, then an MBA at Babson College.
While in Vermont he spent four seasons playing NCAA Division I hockey. While at Babson, he spent time as an assistant coach with a team that won the Division III national championship in 1982.
Before joining the Nike golf team in 1998, Zimmerman spent 16 years in a variety of senior advertising positions with Nike.
Prior to joining Nike, Zimmerman was a senior vice-president with Saatchi and Saatchi Advertising in New York, where he directed advertising development for brands like Tide, Wendy’s and LifeSavers. He also was involved in the Wendy’s “Where’s the beef?” campaign.