Coyotes President and CEO Xavier Gutierrez is proud to be part of the NHL's Executive Inclusion Council.
The council will focus on combating racism and fostering diversity in the sport. The announcement came September 3.
"First and foremost, I'm honored to be a part of this," Gutierrez said. "I'm honored to be a part of the leadership group and to be one of the people at the table sharing my experience, lending my thoughts and my insights about what is possible in terms of utilizing sports and utilizing our voice and our platform to bring people together, to convene, to have dialogue, and to create action.
"This is something personal to me," said Gutierrez, who was born in Guadalajara and moved to the United States at age five.
"I am proud of being the first Latino President and CEO in the NHL, and one of the few Latino senior executives in all of sports. I take that very seriously in all of the opportunities I have to raise awareness and create action."
The Executive Inclusion Council, co-chaired by Buffalo Sabres' Owner Kim Pegula and NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman, has 15 members and comprises owners, former players and club and league executives.
The Council's focus is to candidly assess the current state of the league, identifying opportunities for positive change and developing tangible action and benchmarks to advance its goals.
Also announced with Gutierrez' appointment was the NHL and the NHLPA plan mandatory inclusion and diversity training for all NHL Players starting in 2020-21. League employees also will participate in training.
Some of the council's assignments include a focus on recruiting, hiring and developmental strategies to engage and support diversity in front-office and hockey operations positions and employment opportunities, including internships and fellowship programs.
"I'm proud," Gutierrez said. "I'm proud of the league for really creating a comprehensive strategy and approach that includes these councils. But it's more than that. This is all part of a bigger strategy that is proactive and impactful in seeking to really drive real change. I'm honored and I'm proud. I think this is just the beginning of something that is truly transformative, and I'm glad to be a part of it."
Gutierrez applauds the efforts of Commissioner Bettman, Deputy Commissioner Bill Daley, and Kim Davis, Executive Vice President of Social Impact, Growth Initiatives and Legislative Affairs.
"Everyone is being proactive in attempting to create a comprehensive approach," he said. "It's not piecemeal, it's comprehensive, and it's forward thinking. It was both of us coming together. This is clearly an effort the league is behind, and we came together. Obviously, the manifestation of that was a formal invitation to be a part of this committee. I think this will be the beginning of many other things."
Gutierrez also accepted a role on the Pro Sports Assembly advisory board, which is focused on recruiting, developing and promoting individuals from diverse backgrounds in sports management.
Gutierrez wants diversity and inclusion to extend beyond Coyotes front offices and hockey operations.
"What I want for us is to really create a new approach in our vendor selection, our service provider selection to really expand the economic opportunity that we create as an organization," he stressed. "I'd like us to do something further as far as creating economic opportunity for other businesses and for us as individuals."
Gutierrez wants the Coyotes to set an example in the Arizona community, and be an example for the league.
In fact, the team already is. The Coyotes were at the forefront of suggesting their arena as an official Vote Center for the 2020 General Election. They announced the plan to make Gila River Arena a polling center on August 27.
That plan came to fruition September 4.
The league's announcements included an initiative to encourage fans to be active participants in the upcoming presidential election. The hope is for other teams to open their arenas for voting, also.
"We have instituted a number of things within the club that I think will leverage what the league is doing," Gutierrez said. "I also take it further into this community. I've had plenty of conversations with the league as well about what we're doing. Those are the conversations I'm bringing to the league, 'Here's what we're thinking about doing.'"
Another example: the Coyotes will celebrate National Hispanic Heritage Month (Sept. 15 - Oct. 15).
"I'm proud because the (voting plan) was an idea that really emanated from within the club," Gutierrez said. "This wasn't something with me spearheading it, it really came from a number of individuals on the staff and in the organization that said, 'This would be a great idea for us to take a role as a civic leader.' So, I'm really proud.
"This is a critical step, but it's not the only one. We also need to encourage people to volunteer, to be involved not only in voting but in their community, in non-profit organizations, in other civic organizations."
Gila River Arena will be open October 28 through November 3, with free parking for registered Maricopa County voters.
"This is about embracing our community," Gutierrez said. "And this is a key component -- to vote, to have your voice heard. Engage, register, vote, be active. I really want to thank the city of Glendale and I want to thank the county of Maricopa. I want to thank all of the political and elected officials that were involved in this process. It took a number of individuals and entities to make this happen, and I just want to thank them all for their help."
Gutierrez also recently served as a panelist for the HeroZona Foundation's Bridge Forum on September 8 to discuss social justice issues. He was among many Arizona sports industry leaders, including Cardinals NFL owner Michael J. Bidwell, Diamondbacks MLB President & CEO Derrick Hall, and Arizona State University Athletic Director Ray Anderson.
Lead Photo Credit: Bruce Bennett - Getty Images // Second Photo Credit: Elsa - Getty Images // Third Photo Credit: Elsa - Getty Images // Fourth Photo Credit: Andy Devlin - NHLI via Getty Images // Footer Photo Credit: Dave Sandford - NHLI via Getty Images