Sean Henry is waiting for a new suit to be delivered.
He thought it would have been here by now.
As long as it arrives by the end of the month, it ought to be fine. After all, that’s when Henry become the Nashville Predators' CEO and someone in that position can’t go around in the same clothes he wore the last five years as president and COO.
Up to this point, Henry has made a name for himself — in part — with a garish LoudMouth suit that presents the franchise’s recognizable colors in a decidedly unsettling pattern.
So naturally the one that is on order is … another LoudMouth suit.
“The problem with ordering the ugly suits online with great colors is they take forever to make,” Henry told the Post on Thursday. “I don’t understand it. Ugly clothes should come faster.
“I like doing it because it’s fun. Whenever you can make someone smile when they walk through the door, you’ve kind of won already. I’ll continue it.”
The truth is that Henry doesn’t plan to change of anything much when current CEO Jeff Cogen steps down at the end of November to take a position with Major League Baseball’s Tampa Bay Rays.
Most of the hard work has been done in the five years since lead owner Tom Cigarran hired both in August 2010 to improve the operation of the front office as it pertained to the NHL franchise and Bridgestone Arena. Ticket sales are at an all-time high. The arena has been recognized repeatedly for the number of events it annually hosts, and the front office has been restructured with an eye toward greater communication and creativity.
“Our styles are fairly similar on a lot of things and couldn’t be further apart on many other things,” Henry said of he and Cogen. “That complemented it pretty well. We were renovating a mindset within our walls and within the community — and I think it took both approaches to do it. … We had a better chance to be successful faster than if I only I was here or only he was here.
“… Five years ago when Jeff and I came here, there were fires everywhere. We had to change everything and work with our employees to take their handcuffs off and encourage trying new things, taking risks, being different.”
Now, instead of being a fireman, he plans to be a train engineer. He just wants to keep the operation on track and headed in the right direction.
He said he does not plan to name anyone to fill his current position. Those responsibilities, he said, can be handled by the existing executive management team of VP of Corporate Development Chris Junghans, VP of Ticket Sales and Youth Hockey Nat Harden, VP of Booking David Kells and Executive VP, General Counsel and CFO Michelle Kennedy.
“It’s a little bit easier when things are tough to improve them,” Henry said. “That being said, when things are going well and the machine is rolling, it’s easier to keep it running and make it more efficient.
“But you don’t have a lot of those ‘a-ha’ moments when things are going pretty well.”
He expects the next one to come next season. That’s when he plans for every one of the Predators’ 41 home games to be sold out for the first time, up from an anticipated 35 or so this season. In future seasons, he will want the sellouts to be assured days or even weeks in advance rather than in the final hours before faceoff.
“What’s nice is the stability that Tom provided by bringing Jeff and me in, and as we build this executive team, that stability will outlast me whether it’s eight years from now or 12 years from now,” Henry said. “Now, there isn’t that pressing need of trying to sell out virtually every game.
“Now it’s, 'How do we further weave ourselves into the fabric of our community?'”
Some funky-looking fabric on the franchise’s top executive never hurts.
With Thursday's news that Predators CEO Jeff Cogen will depart for the Tampa Bay Rays organization and will be succeeded by COO Sean Henry, the next logical question to ask is who will replace Henry.
If the team opts to promote in-house, speculation will fall on CFO and General Counsel Michelle Kennedy, who has been with the team since 2008 and added CFO to her title in 2010. Among her numerous responsibilities, she has served as the liasion to the team's ownership group. Prior to joining the Preds, Kennedy was an associate director of athletics at Vanderbilt University, where she oversaw business operations, event management and ticket operations, among other things.
While professional sports are still by and large a boys' club, things are progressing for women: Kennedy is one of seven women in C-level positions for NHL teams. Three others are CFOs, two are chief marketing officers and another is a chief legal officer. All told, 19 NHL teams have women serving at the vice president level or higher. A total of 48 women hold these positions — although it should be noted that 13 of them work for the New York Rangers, who have far more employees, generally, with a VP title than any other NHL team.
Nearly all of those four dozen work in legal, finance, HR or marketing roles. None hold what would be considered a high-level operational role.
Kennedy, were she to be named as Henry's successor, would break that particular glass ceiling and help the Predators make some history.
Chief Executive Officer Jeff Cogen will leave the Nashville Predators at the end of next month and will take a position with a Major League Baseball franchise.
He will remain involved with the Predators and the local effort to host the 2016 NHL All-Star Game through Feb. 1, at which time he will transition fully to his new position with the Tampa Bay Rays.
Sean Henry, will be elevated from Chief Operating Officer to CEO on Dec. 1.
The Tennessean first reported the move Thursday morning.
Cogen and Henry were hired together in August 2010 and increased the attendance, revenue and marketing efforts. The Predators sold out 30 of their 41 home games and played to more than 98 percent capacity last season.
The Nashville Post named it’s 2015 Nashville CEO of the Year.
“I have never seen a marketing person who is as thorough and organized and as systematic as Jeff,” lead owner Tom Cigarran told The Tennessean. “That is now part of the DNA of the whole sales team. He can tell you every little thing that we sell, how is it trending. I’ve seen a lot of good marketing people … but I’ve never seen anyone as good as Jeff.”
That being said, he does not see Cogen’s departure as a setback for the team, which currently has the NHL’s second-best record (7-1-1).
“The Predators’ success has not been because of any one person, including Jeff Cogen,” Cigarran said, according to the newspaper. “It’s been because of Jeff, Sean and a team of people who have worked wonders with this franchise, our building.”
The Nashville predators hosted their annual Skate of the Union Address Saturday at the Ford Ice Center in Antioch.
As usual, the event served as a regular season primer for fans. Chairman Tom Cigarran, CEO Jeff Cogen, General Manager David Poile, President Sean Henry, and Head coach Peter Laviolette addressed an array of topics including the All-Star weekend, the Predators television schedule, and the new 3-on-3 overtime format.
Some highlights from the forum:
• With Nashville hosting the 2016 NHL All Star Game, fans were curious about securing tickets. The franchise only received 8,000 from the NHL, however, it has asked for more. Cogen echoed the best way to obtain tickets for the All Star game was to become a Nashville Predators season ticket holder.
• For the first time in franchise history, all 82 Nashville Predator games will be on television. Four of those games will be broadcast nationally on NBCSN with the remaining 78 locally on Fox Sports Tennessee.
“Having all the games on broadcast, on television, says to me major league,” Cogen said. “(A few years ago) you really needed a nuclear physicist to guide you through ‘were do I find Predators hockey on TV or radio?’ This says to me a maturation of our team, our market, and our community. I’m proud, it says major league team.”
• Starting with the 2015-16 season, the NHL will implement the new 3-on-3 overtime format. With the reaction around the league being somewhat scattered, General Manager David Poile is a fan of the new overtime format.
“I’m really glad we made the change,” Poile said. “I would love to be a fan watching that (3-on-3). I think it’s going to be fantastic for our players and our fans and it’s one of the most exciting things I’ve ever seen. With the parity in the National Hockey League, we could possibly have a quarter of our games decided in this 3-on-3 situation, so it’s imperative that our players and our coaching staff formulate a game plan to be successful.
“It’s going to be something that we’re all going to have to make an adjustment to, and for sure at the end of the day, you’re going to hear something like, ‘this team made the playoffs because of how good they were in 3-on-3.’”
Laviolette understands that the new 3-on-3 overtime format provides teams with a new challenge and another parallel to game planning.
“We’re figuring out 3-on-3,” Laviolette said. “We watched some video, our video coaches those guys do a lot of work for us. They pulled a lot of video from the American Hockey League of some teams that had some success with 3-on-3 and we watched that and kind of got a game plan from there. We’ve now experienced it a couple of times.”
• The team made its first significant roster cuts over the weekend, which reduced to 28 the number of players still in training camp.
“I think in this final week of preparation I do think we need a game plan,” Laviolette said. “I do think you need a protocol on what you’re trying to do, how long your shifts are, where you’re changing on the bench, and who’s taking the faceoff in the defensive zone. So there are a lot of things that we need to go through and work on a progression and we’ll be ready for that opening night.”
• Everyone on the Predators executive panel understands that each NHL team starts the season trying to accomplish the same goal. They also know that the success of the team last year coupled with the hard work in the offseason have fan expectations at an all time high.
“There are a lot of good teams in this League this year,” Poile said. “The good news is we’re one of those teams. We believe in ourselves, and hopefully the confidence and that experience of what we did last year can take us just a little bit further and get to that promised land.”
After a return to the playoffs last season the Nashville Predators hope they will be something to see in the coming one.
Franchise officials, in fact, are banking on it.
For the first time in team history all of Nashville’s 82 regular-season games will be on television, the team announced Tuesday.
Fox Sports Tennessee will carry 78 of them, including 40 of the 41 home games. The remaining four contests will be carried nationally on NBC Sports Network, half of which will be against the reigning Stanley Cup champions, the Chicago Blackhawks.
FOR ALL TO SEE
The rundown of 2015-16 Nashville Predators games that will be televised nationally by NBC Sports Network:
Oct. 28 at San Jose
Dec. 29 at St. Louis
Jan. 19 vs. Chicago
Feb. 25 at Chicago
“Each year the Nashville Predators relationship with Fox Sports Tennessee strengthens,” chief operating officer Sean Henry said in a release. “With that growing partnership, fans are able to continue enjoying unprecedented access to watch their team both on the ice and behind-the-scenes. … It’s going to be an exciting season in Smashville, and Fox Sports Tennessee is the premier place for fans to follow along with the Nashville Predators.”
Kentucky’s victory over Arkansas in the 2015 SEC Tournament championship set a Bridgestone Arena attendance record of 20,315, the Nashville Sports Council announced Monday.
Kentucky, the No. 1 team in the country, won that contest 78-63 and entered the NCAA Tournament as the No. 1 overall seed.
"The 2015 SEC Men's Basketball Tournament was a success by every measure,” SEC associate commissioner for men’s basketball Mark Whitworth said in a release. “We are off to a great start in our long-term partnership with Nashville and look forward to working with the key stakeholders to make this the best event possible for our student-athletes, coaches and fans.”
In October 2013, the SEC selected Nashville as the ‘primary host’ of the SEC men’s basketball tournament for the next decade. The event will return in 2016, 2017, 2019-2021 and 2023-2025.
This year was the fifth time Bridgestone hosted the event. The total attendance (192,727) was second to 2001, the first time it came to Nashville.
IN THE SEATS
A look at the championship game and total attendance for the five SEC men’s basketball tournaments held at Bridgestone Arena:
2001: Championship (Kentucky vs. Ole Miss) – 18,499; Total attendance – 203,489
2006: Championship (Florida vs. South Carolina) – 11,302; Total attendance – 183,122
2010: Championship (Kentucky vs. Mississippi State) – 20,082; Total attendance – 191,852
2013: Championship (Ole Miss vs. Florida) – 12,138; Total attendance – 168,452
2015: Championship (Kentucky vs. Arkansas) – 20,315; Total attendance – 192,727
“Putting on an event like the SEC Men’s Basketball Tournament takes an entire city and we’re thrilled to be a part of team that includes our great partners at the Nashville Sports Council and the Nashville Mayor’s Office,” Bridgestone Arena President Sean Henry said. “The attendance record set during the Championship Game between Kentucky and Arkansas, in addition to the success and popularity of the entire weekend, continues to both cement Bridgestone Arena as a world-class venue and showcase that there is no better place in the country to host an event than the city of Nashville.”
By Steven Godfrey
After a summer of speculation, the Southeastern Conference officially announced Tuesday that Nashville’s Bridgestone Arena would become the de facto home for its annual men's and women's basketball tournaments over the next 12 years.
SEC Commissioner Mike Slive announced that Bridgestone would host the league’s men's basketball tournament nine times from 2015 to 2025, with breaks in 2018 and ‘22, and the women's tournament three times in 2018, ‘22 and ‘26.
Joined by Nashville Sports Council President and CEO Scott Ramsey, Nashville Mayor Karl Dean, Nashville Predators and Bridgestone Arena President and COO Sean Henry and Nashville Sports Council Board of Directors Chair Deb McDermott, Slive praised the city of Nashville for its past efforts in hosting the mens’ tournament four times, most recently this year, and labeled the city as “proven host that provides a wonderful experience.”
“The idea of going long-term is something we’d been discussing for a few years. The last three or four months, we’ve felt like we’ve had it done… Their decision was whether or not to move the event around the footprint of the SEC and once they sat down in May, we’d just hosted the event successfully. It was a matter of securing this event long-term, as many times as possible, to create a little equity in the brand,” Ramsey said.
Slive said that the move towards a primary location would create the same annual tradition for the SEC fan base that its football and baseball championships provide in Atlanta and Hoover, Ala., respectively, as well as allow the league to improve the in-game experience. According to Slive, feedback indicated that a traditional basketball-scaled arena was preferable to an indoor stadium sized for football.
“Fans love to travel, but if you know where you’re going to stay and how to get there, you know where you’re going to eat and you like the music there, it certainly takes away some unnecessary anxiety about it,” he said.
In addition to a track record of successfully hosting the mens tournament, Ramsey cited the addition of the Music City Center convention space and more hotels to the downtown Nashville area as key factors in securing the agreement.
According to numbers released by the Nashville Sports Council, the total economic impact of the four previous men's tournaments dating back to 2001 is estimated at $56 million, and $35 million for the previous five women's tournaments.
The event marked a public display of affection between two unlikely sports entities — the Southeastern Conference and the NHL. Slive repeatedly praised the Nashville Predators throughout the press event, and Ramsey said that the length of the agreement couldn’t have been created without involvement from Henry and the Predators.
As the primary tenant of Bridgestone Arena, the Predators receive a financial cut of every event in the building. However, the Predators will now lose a week’s worth of potential home games each March in the heart of the NHL’s postseason push.
“It’s the right thing to do for everyone here today, but it’s also the right thing to do for this hockey team. It’s bad in the sense we’re out of the building for eight days during the playoff push. The more home games you have, the better it is for your team,” Henry said.
“But at the same time, it’s about building your fan base, and doing that by bringing the building and the team together as one. The stronger the building is, the stronger the team is. The more people who see this building in this community as a place to be, it will benefit our hockey team.”
Nashville is also conveniently located in relation to the University of Kentucky, the SEC’s Tiffany basketball program and one of the most popular and successful brands in the sport. Slive downplayed the relative ease with which Kentucky’s enormous fan base could travel to the city.
“Guess what, they only get one vote at the table. They’re just one school of 14,” Slive said with a laugh.
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