Cyril Leeder out, Tom Anselmi in, Ottawa Senators announce

The Ottawa Senators have a new president and CEO as Tom Anselmi, former president of Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment, has replaced Cyril Leeder.

Team installing former MLSE chief as president and CEO

Cyril Leeder, who has been with the Senators since its inception in 1992, is no longer with the organization. (CBC News)

The Ottawa Senators are replacing longtime president Cyril Leeder with former Maple Leafs Sports and Entertainment chief Tom Anselmi, who is taking on the role of president and CEO, the team has announced.

Team owner Eugene Melnyk announced the major front office shakeup at a news conference Wednesday.

"After 25 years being with the organization we're announcing that Mr. Cyril Leeder is no longer with the organization," Melnyk said at a news conference at Canadian Tire Centre.

"I'd like to acknowledge and to thank deeply Cyril for all the work he's done. Everyone knows him here, and he's been a great contributor, a founder, and truly an inspiration to all of us in the work that he has done for the last 25 years."

Leeder's departure is effective immediately, according to Melnyk. He said Leeder was informed of the decision on Tuesday.

"For right now, there's no opportunity for [Leeder in the organization] and we both agreed on that. There's no position for him that would be, I guess, challenging at all. He took it very professionally and we still hope to have a cordial relationship."

Melnyk said he knew the team was in need of a change at the top the moment the Senators' plan to build a new arena on LeBreton Flats — part of a larger redevelopment project — was awarded to a consortium led by the organization.

This will never be Montreal. This will never be Toronto. But nobody else can be Ottawa.- Tom Anselmi

"So then you all of a sudden have to click into a whole different gear of what you're going to need, in front of you," said Melnyk. "And you can really only have one master chef in the kitchen...One boss makes the decisions and you stick by him right or wrong." 

Tom Anselmi, seen here in September 2013, is the former president of Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment. He joined the Senators Sports and Entertainment Corp. on Jan. 25, 2017.

Anselmi spent 17 years with Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment between 1996 and 2013, serving in roles including chief operating officer, president and CEO. He managed large stadium construction projects including the SkyDome (now Rogers Centre) and Air Canada Centre in Toronto.

That experience in both big construction projects and professional sports is what brings Anselmi to the Senators, said Melnyk. 

"It's tough for even me to appreciate the magnitude of what has to be done."

Opportunity knocked

For his part, Anselmi said he's looking forward to the challenge of running the Senators after spending 17 years on the other side of the so-called Battle of Ontario with the Toronto Maple Leafs.

"Part of what I believe is knowing who you are and what you're good at. Finding your niche. This will never be Montreal. This will never be Toronto. But nobody else can be Ottawa. And that's the sort of spirit of the brand that's an opportunity I see growth in," said Anselmi.

"My job is to, A, make sure this organization is the absolute best it can be. And to take advantage of this hockey club that we've got right now and this arena that we've got right now, and B, start setting it up for this future that's going to unfold, which is going to change the community, change the organization, change everything. And that's a pretty exciting opportunity," said Anselmi.

The new president and CEO said he plans to commute between Toronto and Ottawa for the near future, before finding a residence in the capital.