For the first time in nearly a quarter century, the Western Hockey League will have a new commissioner as Dan Near has been named as the successor to Ron Robison.
Near will become the 10th commissioner in WHL history, as Robison has held the role since 2000. Near will begin work with the WHL on Jan. 1, 2024, and will assume full responsibilities of the WHL Commissioner’s office from Robison on Feb. 15, 2024.
In his opening remarks during a press conference in Calgary on Thursday, Near says he is excited to start as the WHL’s new commissioner.
“I couldn’t be more proud to be joining in the best development league in the world. When I think that Connor Bedard was playing in the Western League just six months ago, when I think about the fact that nearly 20% of this year’s NHL opening night rosters came from the Western Hockey League, or the fact that the 2024 NHL Central Scouting List has 63 of our players on that list, more than any other development league, it’s fair to say the product on the ice is in a pretty good state.”
Prior to being named as the next Commissioner of the WHL, Near has served as the Global Head of adidas Hockey since 2016 where he managed the global hockey business for the brand. He also previously worked at the head office of the NHL for 10 years specializing in marketing, retail development and consumer product licensing.
“We couldn’t be prouder of Dan on his appointment as the new commissioner of the Western Hockey League (WHL),” said NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly in a press release. “During his time at the NHL, he played an integral role in our marketing success, and he continued those efforts during his leadership position with adidas. In addition to Dan’s passion for the game, he’s inclusive, an effective communicator as well as a key strategist – all important qualities that should serve him and the WHL extremely well as the new commissioner.”
Current WHL Commissioner Ron Robison has been touring various buildings around the league during his final months prior to retirement.
Near says he also plans to visit several markets in the WHL once he steps into the commissioner’s office.
“I think the best way for me to understand the dynamics that exist, the opportunities for us is to understand the diversity in different dimensions of the different markets in which we operate. I plan to be out there meeting folks and not just the owners and the executives and the governors. I want to meet the fans. I want to meet the operators and understand all the things that make this (league) tick.”
Near adds that the current education program the WHL has in place is something he wants to continue to build upon.
“A bunch of things stand out, but unquestionably, the education program. It’s something I think the league has to be tremendously proud of and is unquestionably something that makes this league what it is. You can’t just have good hockey. There has to be other parts of it. And I know it’s something that everyone associated with the league is proud of, but it’s in particular something that really stands out to me.”