The Florida Panthers reportedly have a new general manager, and its Columbus Blue Jackets vice president of hockey operations Bill Zito, who won the job over an extensive list of interviewed contenders.
After a long run as a player agent, Zito joined the Blue Jackets as an assistant general manager in 2013. He became the general manager of the club’s AHL affiliate, the Lake Erie Monsters in 2015 before stepping into his current role in 2019.
This will be Zito’s first crack at being a general manager at the NHL level. The 55-year-old former player at Yale University, has been a candidate for several top-level front-office openings in the past few seasons, having interviewed with the Philadelphia Flyers, New Jersey Devils and the brand spanking new Seattle Kraken, among others.
Zito will replace the recently departed Dale Tallon, who had served as Florida’s GM from 2010 to 2016 and then again from 2017 to last month when he mutually parted ways with the organization after yet another disappointing season.
Update: Here is the official announcement from the Panthers
Florida Panthers Owner & Governor Vincent Viola announced today that Bill Zito has been named General Manager of the Panthers. Zito will oversee the club’s hockey operations including all matters relating to player personnel, scouting department and minor league operations.
“We are thrilled to welcome Bill Zito as General Manager of the Florida Panthers,” said Viola. “Bill is an excellent mind in our game today who proved during his time with the Columbus Blue Jackets that he possesses great prowess for evaluating talent and building success. He brings great experience to our club and possesses a strong business acumen.”
Zito, 55, joins the Panthers after seven years with the Columbus Blue Jackets. The native of Pittsburgh, PA, joined the Blue Jackets in August of 2013 as assistant general manager. In his time with the Columbus organization, the Blue Jackets secured playoff berths in five of the last seven seasons and were one of just three teams to qualify for the playoffs in each of the last four seasons.
He served in that role for two years before also taking on the role of General Manager of the American Hockey League’s Cleveland Monsters (then Lake Erie Monsters) in 2015-16. In his first season in that role, he led the Monsters to their first-ever Calder Cup Championship.
In June of 2019, Zito was promoted to the Blue Jackets Senior Vice President of Hockey Operations, Associate General Manager and Alternate Governor.
“After an extensive search, I am proud and excited to bring Bill Zito on board with the Panthers as our General Manager” said President & CEO Matt Caldwell. “Bill is a leader, who possesses the passion, knowledge and work ethic needed to instill a winning culture in all aspects of our business. He has been an integral part of the success and growth of the Columbus Blue Jackets organization from player evaluation and scouting to contract negotiations and cap management. With Bill as our new GM, we are thrilled to begin the next chapter of Panthers hockey in South Florida.”
Prior to his time with the Blue Jackets, Zito used his legal acumen to found ACME World Sports, LLC and develop it into one of the leading hockey agencies known for representing talents such as: Tim Thomas, John Madden, Antii Niemi, Kimmo Timonen, Tuukka Rask and Andy Greene.
“I’m humbled and honored to accept the position of General Manager of the Florida Panthers,” said Zito. “My family and I want to thank Matt Caldwell and the Viola Family for their confidence in me for this opportunity with the Panthers. I believe in this organization and I am incredibly proud to be a part of it. Our team has great potential and I look forward to start working together in building something special in South Florida. I can’t wait to get to work.”
On the international stage, Zito served as General Manager of Team USA for the 2018 IIHF World Championship where the team earned a Bronze Medal with Patrick Kane as team captain. Additionally, Zito served on the management team for Team USA for the 2015 IIHF World Championship team earning a Bronze Medal and served on the International Council for USA Hockey.
Zito graduated from Yale University, where he played varsity hockey from 1984-87. He attended law school at the University of Wisconsin and served as an assistant coach for the Badgers varsity hockey team and a radio color commentator for Badger hockey. He practiced law in New York and Chicago prior to founding ACME World Sports.
Zito and his wife, Julie, are the parents of twin daughters Frankie and Gigi and son Billy.
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Not sure, but at least it’s no longer Tallon