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Preds add two Stanley Cup winners to front office…

The new CEO has won a Stanley Cup in Dallas. The new COO has won a Stanley Cup in Tampa Bay.

Let’s hope they can each win one in Nashville.

Jeff Cogen and Sean Henry were officially introduced this afternoon as the CEO and President/COO, respectively, of the Nashville Predators.

Cogen comes to Music City via the Dallas Stars organization where he served as the Stars’ President and alternate league governor. As if that wasn’t enough, he was also a Board Member overseeing the operation of American Airlines Center when it was built in the wake of the Stars’ “Stanley Cup win” in 1999 (sorry for the quotation marks but Brett Hull’s foot was in the crease).

In what was probably a calculated move, Cogen was quick to point out to 104.5 The Zone that he “watched from afar” during the sparing of words between Jordin Tootoo and Stars owner Tom Hicks. If you recall, Tootoo absolutely destroyed Stephane Robidas when he was coming to the aid of Mike Modano back on March 17, 2007.

(Modano is now a Red Wing, by the way. I know that has nothing to do with this topic but I just wanted to feed the hatred a little. It’s good for the passion during the off-season.)

But I digress.

While it may appear to some that Cogen was just fleeing the burning ship that is the Stars organization, that’s not necessarily true. Sure the ownership is in trouble. Sure career Stars Modano, Marty Turco and Jere Lehtinen weren’t asked back. But we have to remember that Cogen’s contract was up this past June so it’s not like he snuck out in the middle of the night with ill-will towards the powers that be in Big D. While the financial situation of the Dallas Stars and Texas Rangers probably helped his decision, Cogen left under his own power and is now a proud member of the Nashville Predators.

And he wants to win with the Nashville Predators too. While flashing his Stanley Cup ring to the throng of media inside the Patron Platinum Club he said “Let’s bring one of these to Nashville and I assure you, we’ll plan a great parade.”

Too bad he wasn’t in front of a throng of fans. The roof would’ve blown off.

Senior Vice President Gerry Helper introduces Jeff Cogan and Sean Henry to the media at the Patron Platinum Club.

But this wasn’t just Cogen’s formal introduction. There was a second person being introduced as well. The only thing is, the Predators started off only looking for one guy.

“We decided in the process that we’d go beyond just a CEO because we met Sean Henry,” said Predators Chairman Tom Cigarran. “We decided to try and get two people and make a commitment at a leadership level that would make this organization arguably one of the top hockey organizations in the league.”

Henry comes to the Preds via the Tampa Bay Lightning organization. He’d been with the Bolts since 1999, serving as the team and arena COO. In a non-traditional hockey market like Nashville, Tampa saw dramatic increases in ticket sales, sponsorships and revenue during his stint with the club; three things of which Henry excels at.

“Thank you Tom. Thank you for hiring two people and not just one,” Henry joked. “I couldn’t be more thankful for joining such a great organization. It’s going to be exciting and it’s going to be special.”

Cigarran added, “We made exactly two offers. And we got two acceptances. That says something about the community, the team and the people that are already here.”

So while the obvious threads to both hires were “championships” and “non-traditional hockey markets,” why were they looking for a CEO at all when almost every hockey organization has one of the owners acting as the CEO?

“I don’t know of any (hockey organizations) that work this way,” said Cigarran. “But we’re not going to do it that way. We’re going to have a Chief Executive Officer who reports to the Board. He’ll run the business operations of the team and the Board won’t. The Board will act like a Board of Directors of a normal company and that’s different from hockey. We decided (as an ownership group) that if we didn’t do that, we weren’t giving this franchise the opportunity to be as good as it could be.”

Cigarran said it became pretty obvious that they needed to reach outside the ownership group.

“Jeff and Sean sat down and starting asking ‘Where do we stand with this? Where do we stand with that?’ Within about two minutes, (I realized) I didn’t know what they were talking about. They were talking a different language. I’d have to spend 15 years in the business in order to get there. And the other owners agreed, we didn’t have the experience. We’re good at almost everything we do and we could be egotists and just say ‘ah, we’re smart, we’re just gonna (figure it out)’ but it’s not fair to the team. We’re determined to make this successful so we decided we’re going to do it the right way.”

When asked how big of a factor experience in a non-traditional hockey market was, Cigarran told “We wanted somebody who had made it work in a non-traditional hockey market and, in particular, in one where football was the biggest competitor. You want to compete with the Dallas Cowboys when it comes to marketing? You want to compete with the Florida Gators and Tampa Bay Buccaneers? We’re not hiring people hoping things work, we’re confident they’re going to work.”

These moves, of course, mean that Ed Lang will be moving on. After 13 years with the franchise (including being the first ever hire in the Nashville organization), the Preds suggested that he might not continue his career in sports.

Fun fact: According to their official website, Henry’s last day as a member of the Lightning is slated for August 20.

PHOTO CREDITS: Jeremy K. Gover //