OTTAWA, Ontario (AP) — The Ottawa Senators fired CEO Jim Little on Wednesday less than two months after he took the job, saying his conduct was “inconsistent” with the core values of the team and the NHL.
The 55-year-old Little said in a statement to media outlets that the reasons for his dismissal were simply the result of a heated disagreement with owner Eugene Melnyk.
“On Valentine’s Day, the owner and I had a personal disagreement over the approach that I had been pursuing,” Little said. “I am a strong-willed person, and the disagreement included me using some strong language with him over the phone, including some swearing, which he did not appreciate and for which I later apologized.
“It was these events, to my knowledge, which led to my dismissal. Any other inference from the statement is wrong.”
Little was most recently executive vice president and chief marketing and culture officer for Shaw Communications. He also has held executive roles at Royal Bank of Canada, Bell Canada and Bombardier Aerospace.
The club says a new CEO will be announced in the next few weeks.
Since 2017, the Senators have parted ways with CEOs Little, Tom Anselmi and Cyril Leeder, COO Nicolas Ruszkowski and chief marketing officer Aimee Deziel.
NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman said the reasons for Little’s dismissal were not related to what the league discussed at a board of governors meeting in December. At that meeting, Bettman told reporters that NHL personnel will be required to attend mandatory counselling regarding racism and anti-bullying following a string of incidents that surfaced earlier in the season.
“It’s not what you think,” Bettman said at the NHL’s general managers meetings in Boca Raton, Florida. “I generally don’t comment on club personnel decisions. … It has to do more with internal operations.”
Ottawa ranks last in the 31-team NHL in attendance, averaging 12,595 fans.