Calgary Flames' Ken King has died

Ken King, the former president and CEO of the Calgary Flames ownership group, has died at the age of 68.

King was an 'amazing friend and mentor,' Flames president and CEO says of his predecessor

Ken King, the former president of the Calgary Flames ownership group, is seen at the Saddledome in Calgary in this photo from September 2017. (Jeff McIntosh/Canadian Press)

Ken King, the former president and CEO of the Calgary Flames ownership group, has died.

He was 68.

The Calgary Sports and Entertainment Corporation announced his death Thursday afternoon, describing King as a leader and a friend who will be deeply missed.

"Ken was the right leader at the right time," CSEC chairman and co-owner Murray Edwards said in a written statement.

"His leadership and passion was exhibited every day in his successful delivery of the new Calgary event centre. He was a trusted confidant to all of the Flames owners, both past and present, and we all learned so much from him. My partners and I will miss our frequent conversations with our dear friend."

The organization extended condolences to King's wife, Marilyn, his daughters, Amanda and Jocelin, and his grandchildren, "whom we know he loved dearly."

Battle with cancer

King joined the Flames as president and CEO in 2001 and most recently served as vice-chair for CSEC.

"Ken was an amazing friend and mentor," the organization's current president and CEO, John Bean, said in the announcement of King's death.

"He taught all of us so much through his words and actions. An organization never replaces a person like Ken; you simply honour him by going forward with the same passion and energy that he brought to work each and every day."

King had been engaged in a "lengthy battle with cancer that he insisted would not define him the last handful of years he battled," Sportsnet columnist Eric Francis reported.

'A pillar of the Calgary community'

"A proud son of Saskatchewan, Ken King has been a pillar of the Calgary community for five decades,"  NHL commissioner Gary Bettman said in a statement.

"And his staunch advocacy for the arena project that will guarantee the Flames' long-term viability in Calgary will serve as a legacy of his devotion to the city. Ken was a friend and I will miss him greatly. My sincere condolences go out to his family."

Prior to joining the Flames, King had worked in the newspaper business, serving in senior roles with both the Calgary Herald and Calgary Sun.

Flames general manager Brad Treliving described King as "a man of great presence" and the kind of guy "you'd want to be in a foxhole with."

Calgary Flames general manager Brad Treliving speaks to reporters on Thursday about the death of former Flames president Ken King. (Hala Ghonaim/CBC)

"What I always found with Ken, too, was there was great wisdom," Treliving said.

"One of the things I always admired about him is he was a wonderful, wonderful public speaker. I called him a few times on some of the words that he used and said, 'That's not even a word.' And he'd go and pull it up, and show me that it was a word."

Arena deal

In recent years, King had been a staunch advocate of a new arena for the Calgary Flames, a process that involved contentious public debate and lengthy negotiations with the City of Calgary.

The ownership group's original proposal for a combination arena-stadium dubbed "CalgaryNext" that would have also been home to its CFL team, the Calgary Stampeders, was shot down by city council in 2017.

Last year, the Flames and the city reached an agreement to build an arena and event centre just north of the existing Saddledome, with CSEC and the city each putting up half of the estimated $550-million construction cost.

The NHL announced Thursday that the 2019-20 season had been suspended in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.