This past August, Chris Zimmerman announced his resignation as president and CEO of the Vancouver Canucks, citing family reasons and not much else.

Zimmerman is known as a branding man, the marketer responsible for putting Nike Golf in a position to compete with the likes of 
Callaway Golf Co., and the man who brought together the Nike and Bauer brands (as president and CEO of Nike Bauer Hockey). He’s back on his New Hampshire homestead now, but only just. 

When you arrived in Vancouver in 2005, you said your stay in a Yaletown condo was to be temporary until you sold your New Hampshire house. But you never sold the house.

We weren’t able to sell the house. It was on the market for much of the time. But it had more to do with the challenges facing the U.S. real estate market. As far as Yaletown went, we didn’t necessarily go with the intention to stay there, but we ended up loving condo life and living with such great access to so many of the things that we like to do.

You are a marketer and a branding expert. How does that relate to your stay with the Canucks?

The Canucks were an interesting situation because I joined an already strong entity. The sellout streak had started long before I got there. The team and the business were performing quite well. The challenge for me was to find ways to continue to grow our audience and strengthen the product. A perfect example was recognizing where the fans were seeking their information and how they were showing their allegiance to the team. We realized that one of the major opportunities in terms of fan engagement was to invest in Canucks.com.

How did you get the job with Vancouver?

One day I got a call from an executive recruiter working for the Canucks and what was at the time still Orca Bay. There were two ownership groups involved: John McCaw still owned 50 per cent, and so did the Aquilini family. The position of president had been vacant for some time. The recruiter gave me a background on the organization and the business and asked if I would be interested. It was a call I never really anticipated or sought out. I never really envisioned myself running a national hockey team. 

Was it a hard decision to leave?

It still is difficult. I had an amazing three seasons there. We had a lot of success. The business performed extremely well. We continued our sellout streak. We grew our television base and our sponsorship base. Canucks fans really became more integrated than they ever had been. The ultimate goal is to win the Stanley Cup, and my only regret is that that didn’t happen in my three years. It hasn’t happened yet, but I’m confident it will. And with Mike Gillis at the helm, it won’t be too long.

Gillis took on the title “president” while continuing with his other responsibilities, so in a sense the position is vacant again. Does this signal a change of strategy for the Canucks? 

I don’t think so. Mike has been given the president’s title and he will be a great leader. Running the business now is Victor De Bonis. He’s a Vancouver guy through and through. He has been with the organization since General Motors Place opened. I really feel like Mike has a complete team, specifically with Victor leading the business side of the organization. I feel that the transition will be quite seamless.

What would you consider the best player signing of your tenure?

One of the great decisions that Mike made was picking Cody Hodgson in last year’s draft. He was not necessarily the pick that everyone expected. But Mike really has brought a lot of focus to the type of players the team needs. Other players could have been viewed as more talented, but Mike was looking for character and integrity. I think Hodgson is a brilliant prospect.

I thought you’d say Luongo.

Actually, Roberto was traded to the Canucks on the day of my very first interview. I was in the interview with Francesco Aquilini and John McCaw’s representative Mel Wheaton. I didn’t really know what was going on, but the BlackBerrys were bouncing off the table. After my interview, I went to the Hyatt for a bite to eat. And there was the announcement on TV that Robert Luongo was coming to Vancouver. I view that as happening before my time, but the fact that it happened on that day was a good omen.