Dan Near named incoming WHL Commissioner
The Western Hockey League announced today, on behalf of the WHL Board of Governors, the appointment of Dan Near, adidas Hockey executive and former NHL marketing professional, as the incoming Commissioner of the WHL. The announcement was made today by Ron Toigo, Chairman of the WHL Commissioner Search Committee and Governor of the Vancouver Giants on behalf of the WHL Board of Governors.
Near’s tenure in the WHL Office will begin January 1, 2024, as he transitions into the role of WHL Commissioner. He will officially take over the full responsibilities of the WHL Commissioner’s Office beginning February 15, 2024, at which point current WHL Commissioner Ron Robison will transition into an advisory role, providing support and guidance to Near.
The WHL was assisted in the hiring of Near by global talent firm TurnkeyZRG.
“On behalf of the WHL Board of Governors, it is my pleasure to welcome Dan Near to the Western Hockey League,” said Bruce Hamilton, Chairman of the WHL Board of Governors. “We set out to find an individual with a great business mind, someone forward thinking who has the ability to help grow the Western Hockey League brand and build upon the existing foundation. As we worked through the process, it became clear that Dan stood above the rest. We believe Dan’s experience with adidas Hockey and the National Hockey League makes him the perfect fit to build a strategy which will generate more growth for the WHL while we continue to be the world’s finest development league for junior-age players.”
Near, 43, most recently served as the Global Head of adidas Hockey and was responsible for leading adidas’ entry into hockey, managing their global hockey business since 2016. Near established and deployed adidas’ hockey strategy to build global credibility. This included partnerships with top athletes, including Sidney Crosby, Connor McDavid, Mathew Barzal, Sarah Nurse and Kendall Coyne Schofield, collaborations with relevant brands including EA Sports and Disney, and investment and engagement with key industry stakeholders, the PWHPA and NHLPA. Under Near’s leadership, adidas conceptualized and delivered meaningful brand initiatives through hockey, including brand identity and uniform designs for the Seattle Kraken and Vegas Golden Knights – among the most meaningful brand introductions in North American sport history – as well as the widely popular NHL Reverse Retro jersey initiative in 2020 and 2022. Near’s time with adidas also saw the introduction of the NHL’s first sustainable jersey – a collaboration with Parley for the Oceans at the 2019 NHL All-Star Game.
“It’s a tremendous honour to have been selected as the next Commissioner of the Western Hockey League,” Near said. “I look forward to engaging with our Clubs, players, alumni, business partners and our fans to ensure we’re building an ecosystem that’s best-in-class and gives players and their families the confidence to choose the WHL for their hockey development journey.”
Prior to his time with adidas, Near spent 10 years at the National Hockey League’s head office in New York, specializing in marketing, retail development, and consumer product licensing from 2006 through 2016. During this time, Near played a key role in expanding the League’s consumer relevance and impact through partnership and collaboration with key retail brands including Dick’s Sporting Goods and Sport Chek. Near led NHL’s global retail strategy which included the launch of the NHL Powered by Reebok Store in New York City in 2007 as well as oversight of retail programming at the NHL’s international events, the NHL Winter Classic, All-Star Game, Stadium Series, and Stanley Cup.
“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. “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.”
On two occasions (2021, 2023), Near has been named to The Hockey News’ list of ‘100 People of Power and Influence.’
“I am excited about the opportunity to work with new WHL Commissioner Dan Near to grow the Western Hockey League and the Canadian Hockey League brands going forward,” said CHL President Dan MacKenzie. “Dan’s experience at adidas and the NHL will be invaluable as we focus on both growth opportunities and the player experience for the best hockey development league in the world.”
In 2016, Near was recognized at Canada’s Sports Business Awards as a ‘Five to Watch’ honouree and in 2013 was a recipient of Sporting Goods Business’ 40 Under Forty award.
Near completed his undergraduate studies at the University of Western Ontario, obtaining a Bachelor of Administrative and Commercial Studies – Finance and Administration in 2003. In 2006, he earned his Masters of Business Administration (MBA) from the Richard T. Farmer School of Business at Miami University (Ohio).
Currently residing in Portland, Ore., Near and his family – wife Lori, son Charlie and twin daughters Taylor and Haley – will be relocating to Calgary.
WHL Commissioners / Presidents – History
2000-2024: Ron Robison
1995-2000: Dev Dley
1980-1995: Ed Chynoweth (HHOF)
1979-1980: David Descent
1973-1979: Ed Chynoweth (HHOF)
1972-1973: Del Wilson
1971-1972: Jim Piggott
1968-1971: Ron Butlin
1966-1968: Frank Boucher (HHOF)