I swore at Melnyk, says fired Sens CEO Jim Little

Jim Little, who was dismissed just two months after being hired, says he was fired by the NHL team after a heated phone call in which he swore at owner Eugene Melnyk.

Team fired Little Wednesday, just 2 months after hiring him

Jim Little, then the Royal Bank of Canada's chief brand and communications officer, speaks to reporters after a news conference in 2011 in Hilton Head Island, S.C. (The Associated Press)

Recently fired Ottawa Senators CEO Jim Little says he was dismissed by the team after a heated phone call in which he swore at owner Eugene Melnyk.

On Wednesday, two months after hiring Little, the Senators fired him for what they called "conduct inconsistent with the core values of the Ottawa Senators and the National Hockey League."

The team didn't offer details on the specific reasons for Little's firing in its news release.

However, Little issued his own statement Wednesday afternoon, saying his dismissal came after a Feb. 14 phone call with Melnyk in which the pair had a "personal disagreement" over Little's approach.

"I am a strong-willed person, and the disagreement included me using some very strong language with him over the phone, including swearing, which he did not appreciate and for which I later apologized," wrote Little.

"It was these events, to my knowledge, which led to my dismissal. Any other inference from the statement is wrong."

Little said his dismissal followed a conversation with Eugene Melnyk in which he used 'very strong language' with the Sens owner. (Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press)

Hired in January

Before his hiring was announced on Jan. 10, Little, 55, worked for Shaw Communications as its chief marketing and cultural officer, as well as occupying an executive vice-president role.

Before that, he was an executive with Bell, Bombardier and the Royal Bank of Canada.

"An extensive search was conducted to find the right leader to guide the organization into the next decade," said Melnyk in January.

NHL commissioner Gary Bettman hinted the reasons for Little's dismissal were unrelated to the what the league discussed at a board of governors meeting in December.

At that meeting, Bettman told reporters 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.

On Wednesday, speaking before Little issued his statement, Bettman was cryptic about the reasons for the dismissal.

"It's not what you think," he said at a general meeting of NHL managers in Boca Raton, Fla. "I generally don't comment on club personnel decisions ... It has to do more with internal operations."

Search for replacement underway

Little had been booked as a guest speaker at Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson's regular business breakfast next week.

The team said it is looking for a new CEO and expects to hire one in the coming weeks.

In recent years, the Senators have also parted ways with executives Nicolas Ruszkowski, Aimee Deziel, Tom Anselmi and Cyril Leeder as plans for a downtown arena at LeBreton Flats fell apart and attendance steadily dropped.

With files from The Canadian Press


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