First Latino president, CEO of Arizona Coyotes leads with purpose, impacts Hispanics
Oct 15, 2021, 4:55 AM
(Photo by Greg Doherty/Getty Images for SUPERCHARGED)
PHOENIX — Xavier Gutierrez knows all about the American dream and is dedicating his life to help other Latinos achieve theirs.
The president and chief executive officer of the Arizona Coyotes knows his position as a leader of a major league hockey franchise comes with great responsibility.
He was named to the role on June 8, 2020, and became the first Latino president and CEO in the history of the National Hockey League.
“I’ve been blessed to live the American dream,” Gutierrez said. “I feel an incredible sense of responsibility that was placed into me by my parents to do for others.”
Gutierrez described his parents as the first door openers and the most important influencers in his life. He was born in Guadalajara, Mexico, and moved to the U.S. when he was 5, settling with his family in San Jose, California.
“The ideal that they had of coming to a new country, not speaking the language and having a belief where myself and my siblings would have better academic and professional opportunities,” Gutierrez said. “They were my first door openers.”
Neither of Gutierrez’s parents went to college, but they pushed their kids to pursue higher education. Xavier took the assignment to heart. He received his BA from Harvard University and his Doctor of Jurisprudence from Stanford Law School.
“I thought I really wanted to be in public office and an elected official,” Gutierrez said.
He interned for then Baldwin Park, California Mayor Fidel Vargas, who is now the CEO of the Hispanic Scholarship fund, the nation’s leading provider of scholarships for Latino students.
“He helped me change trajectories to work on Wall Street and understand how capital works and how to bring capital to businesses to communities,” Gutierrez said.
For the next 25 years, Gutierrez conquered the world of business, investments and startups.
Always at the top of his mind was how to put his business acumen to serve the Latino community. When his friend and business partner Alex Meruelo—the first Latino owner in the NHL– bought the Arizona Coyotes in 2019, a new door opened.
“When you look at Arizona and the incredible impact not only demographically but economically—we absolutely need to be engaged with this community,” Gutierrez said.
One of his efforts to reach out and create an impact and connection with Latino businesses is to highlight a Hispanic-owned business each month at an Arizona Coyotes home game throughout the 2021-22 season.
Gutierrez is proud of the efforts to reach Latino youth and introduce them to hockey.
“We started ‘Los Howlitos,’ the first Spanish Language learn-to-skate program to get families on ice,” he added. “To have them have these memorable experiences.”
As part of Hispanic Heritage Month, the Arizona Coyotes will unveil a mural by artist Martin Moreno on Saturday at the Raza Development Fund in Phoenix.
Gutierrez recognizes the influence a team like the Coyotes can have in a community goes beyond sports.
“We implemented a very targeted outreach program to title 1 schools for our STEM education program that is now in 600 schools,” he said.
He is now working to expand the program to neighborhoods with high populations of Latino students.
The successful businessman hopes his rise to leadership can inspire others to embrace opportunities, or as he calls them– door openers– in their lives.
“Everyone you come in contact with is someone that can really make a difference for you and you can make a difference for,” he said.
When he talks with Latino youth he shares this message: you have an incredible voice.
“Own it, embrace it and understand that every interaction you have can have a difference in people’s lives.”