VANCOUVER, B.C. – The decision by Chris Zimmerman to step down as president and chief executive officer of the Vancouver Canucks means general manager Mike Gillis will take on another responsibly with the NHL team.
Gillis was named president of Canucks Sports and Entertainment Tuesday. He will work with Victor de Bonis, the Canucks’ chief operating officer, and be responsible for the overall strategic direction of the franchise, including broadcast, marketing, sponsorship and ticket sales, finance, human resources and arena operations.
“Most of my responsibility will remain with hockey operations,” Gillis said during a telephone conference call. “I see this more as a transitional role between the business side of the company and the hockey operations side, just to make sure everyone is in sync and how we are moving forward.
“I don’t see this distracting from my priority, which is hockey operations.”
Zimmerman, a former Nike executive, said he is leaving the job he’s held for the last three years for family reasons.
“These past three years have been a tremendous personal and professional experience for me and I have loved working and living in the greatest hockey city in the world,” he said in a release.
Zimmerman, 49, was hired in October 2006 to replace former Canuck president Stan McCammon.
Prior to joining the Canucks, the New York native was president and CEO of Nike Bauer Hockey. He also served as general manager of Nike GolfUSA.
Gillis was named the Canucks’ GM in April 2008 after Dave Nonis was fired.
He praised the work done by Zimmerman on the Canucks’ business side.
“I think it is an extremely strong brand,” Gillis said. “The team is in excellent shape and the brand is in excellent shape.
“There are experienced people that have been there for a significant period of time.”
Gillis isn’t sure what changes, if any, he will make in how the team markets itself.
“I don’t see there is monumental work,” he said. “We will look at opportunities and brand management and support what has already happened and try and grow a little bit.”
The Canucks also announced that Tod Leiweke, CEO of the NFL’s Seattle Seahawks, is joining the board of Canucks Sports and Entertainment. Leiweke, who is a former senior executive with the Canucks, will act as an adviser to owner Francesco Aquilini, Gillis and de Bonis.
“I think his input will be invaluable,” said Gillis. “The experience he will bring, and the insight he will bring having been part of the NFL, will be invaluable.”
On other issues, Gillis didn’t want to comment on Canuck forward Alex Burrows being under investigation by Montreal police following an incident during a summer hockey league.
It’s been alleged that Burrows hit a goaltender in the face with his stick during a game.
Gillis said he has not yet spoken to Burrows.
“I’ll reserve any comment I have until we see what happens with the authorities, if anything,” he said.
Gillis has talked to Canuck coach Alain Vigneault about a contract extension.
“I think we’re compatible working together,” he said. “We see things very similarly.”
Vigneault has one year left remaining on his current deal.
Talks are also continuing on a contract extension for Roberto Luongo. The Canucks’ all-star goaltender is entering the final season of a four-year, US$27-million deal and could become an unrestricted free agent next July.
“We’re confident we’ll get something done before the summer is out,” Gillis said.