Ex-Canuck executive Chris Gear launches Vancouver sports startup Blackfin

Chris Gear most recently worked for the Canucks but he worked for the Vancouver Olympic Organizing Committee as well. He knows the business of sports very well.

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Could Vancouver be an even bigger sports-event town that it already is?

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We’ve hosted the Olympics. We’ve hosted the Grey Cup many times over. FIFA has come here and will be back again. We’ve had our moments with sports like golf and rugby.

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Our various pro sports teams have seen highs and lows.

It’s an environment that remains fertile for big events and the community building they can empower, and that’s what former Canucks and Vanoc executive Chris Gear sees as he starts up his own sports consultancy company.

“Obviously, you look at what’s coming down the pipe, you’ve got Invictus, you’ve got FIFA, you’ve got the Grey Cup,” he said.

“Vancouver has a long history of putting on successful events.”

Gear, who was an assistant general manager with the Canucks before he was fired by ownership in December 2021, has started Blackfin Sports Group, which he describes as “a comprehensive sports and entertainment consulting agency.” The operation also includes a law firm.

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“One thing people always try to do with events is break it down to dollars and cents, but people miss a couple elements: There’s the civic pride element and there’s the human development aspect. We built so many leaders at Vanoc who are out in the community now, doing great things.”

Gear spent the last year writing about hockey for Daily Faceoff, but also did some consulting work for the Canadian Olympic Committee on its effort to launch a bid for 2030 Winter Olympics.

Opportunities in hockey and other sports also presented themselves but Gear, who is raising a family in Richmond, ultimately decided he didn’t want to move anywhere else.

“I didn’t want to be chasing AGM jobs around North America,” he said. “This is home. How do I find a way to stay involved in the work I feel passionate about?”

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And that’s why he started this new consultancy.

“People have known me as the AGM of the Canucks for the last two years but for the 20 years before that, I was just making deals,” he said.

Gear was hired by the Canucks in 2010, after six years with Vanoc. And before, while he was an associate with Blakes, he was general counsel to the Air Canada Championship for four years.

Gear knows the team/event/competition side of sport well. And now he sees a chance to help organizations on the other side of the aisle, say a local non-profit looking to associate itself with a sports brand navigate its way more effectively.

And his clients don’t have to be local, either; Gear has already secured contracts on the international scene, using his long-standing global contacts.

“When you’re doing business with sports teams, I can bring experience, can help you to better work with teams or individual athletes,” he said. “I’m hoping I get involved in a lot of different things.”

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As part of his operation, Gear has secured the support of a number of former colleagues, including former Canucks COO Trent Carroll, former Canucks and Vanoc head of communications Chris Brumwell and Ella Chan, who worked for the Canucks as well but is now COO of Pedalheads, which offers bicycle and swim camps to kids across North America.

There’s also George Duncan, the CEO of the Richmond Olympic Oval; Ali Gardiner, who has led brand and marketing teams for Vanoc, the Canucks and Cactus Restaurants; and Janeil Mackay, who has long experience in sports merchandising and retail.

Gear also has former Canucks captain and president Trevor Linden and Olympic gold medal-winning speedskater Christine Nesbitt involved.

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Brumwell has learned plenty since he was let go by the Canucks. Earlier this year, he started up his own community-building and communications consultancy. He agrees with Gear’s view on the opportunities ahead for Vancouver as a sports town.

“I think Vancouver is positioned to be one of the premier sports cities in the world given the history we have and the expertise that we he have. There’s confidence here based on the success we’ve had in hosting the Olympic and Paralympic Games,” Brumwell said.

“Look at what’s coming, like Invictus. Or the Laver Cup, which is the biggest tennis event we’ve ever had in Western Canada alone, I think,” he added.

“The sports industry has progressed so much in the last 10 years. There are so many more smart talented people working in sport. And there’s opportunity. Each one of these events, they come into town and they have a big positive impact.”

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reference: theprovince.com

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