Published: December 14, 2011 1:00 PM
Updated: December 16, 2011 12:32 PM
Getting into Brian Burke’s head would not appear to be an easy task, but West Van author/publisher Jason Farris has done it.
Lots of kudos to Farris… and much credit to Burkie too.
The result is Farris’ latest book, Behind the Moves, which goes inside the minds of the National Hockey League’s most successful general managers – all but one of the 35 living GMs who have taken their team to the Stanley Cup finals – Burke included.
Farris did not know Burke previously. “I got to know him through this project,” Farris explains. “He really liked the concept and he and I really hit it off well. I travelled to Toronto regularly and we covered tons of ground every time we would get together.
“The book provides equal weight to all the GMs but Burke spent a lot of time giving me the ins and outs of the league, how it all works; and reads on the different guys.
“He has been absolutely phenomenal. Everything he said he would do, he’s done in spades. He and I texted back and forth a couple of times a day. He would send me back quick notes on everything.
“I’d say, ‘Look, I’m struggling with this guy.’ He’d call the guy right away. He was just terrific. He could have said, ‘I don’t want to do this book. I’ll wait and do the Brian Burke book on general management.’ He didn’t take that approach at all. He right away wanted to do this with the broad GM group not just the Brian Burke show.
“He believes the GMs are an underappreciated group. He felt nothing had been properly done with the GMs before and this was the time to do it right. It all kind of fell into place.”
Farris started interviewing in January 2010. He travelled across the continent numerous times to have face-to-face, executive-level conversations with all those 35 GMs except Mike Keenan who declined involvement. Material on deceased GMs was incorporated as well.
My favourite quote in the book is from Harry Neale who famously said, “We can’t win at home, we can’t win on the road. My failure [as GM] is that I can’t find anywhere else to play.”
But you could also pick something from Scotty Bowman, Pat Quinn, Harry Sinden, Glen Sather et al. Wow, even going back to Milt Schmidt and Emile Francis.
I really like the photos of the Cup rings and the bios of the 174 men who have held GM positions since the NHL took possession of the Stanley Cup during the 1926-27 season.
Of course, the book isn’t for every hockey fan, 1. due to the cost and 2. because it’s not ice-level stuff. You might say it’s more like baseball’s Moneyball.
Nevertheless, Farris is a brilliant marketer. The basic book is $99.95 but he also has 12 different $139.95 versions with custom dust jackets branded with a specific team and hand-signed and numbered by that team’s GM. There’s also a great little booklet with each GM’s year-by-year statistical record (which has never been done before), a GM timeline and a genealogy poster with arrows showing various connections each GM has had with the others as teammates or in coaching or front-office roles.
Because there are so many versions, the book is only sold online and shipped from the warehouse. The books are large (10”x12” and 252 pages) and weigh a ton so shipping is an additional $18 regular delivery and more for rush. You can check out the details at nhlgms.com.
This is the fourth – and apparently the last – of Farris’ authoring career (at least until the Dallas Stars win the Stanley Cup in, say, 2015) for two reasons.
Firstly, he’s now written the stories that are closest to his heart. Secondly, he has a new job.
As a kid, Farris was mesmerized by the voice of longtime broadcaster Jim Robson who was behind the mike with the Canucks of the Western Hockey League even before Jason was born.
As a goalie himself, Farris was also enthralled by his goaltending hero Cesare Maniago whose long career included 1976-77 and ’77-78 in the NHL with Vancouver during Jason’s impressionable pre-teen years.
Eventually Farris’ admiration focused on Canucks’ general managers Pat Quinn and Brian Burke whose respective 11 and six seasons in Vancouver coincided with Jason’s foray into the world of business management as a young man.
Thus when Farris began self-publishing, he wrote books with Robson (Hockey Play-By-Play: Around the NHL with Jim Robson which came out in 2005, followed in 2010 by Hockey Play-By-Play: Canuck Captains with Jim Robson) and with Maniago (Hail Cesare! published in 2006).
Now he’s done Behind the Moves.
Next up is his recently-announced position as Executive VP, Business Operations and Development, with the Dallas Stars.
Farris and new Stars’ owner Tom Gaglardi graduated together from Vancouver’s Magee Secondary in 1985. So you might think that this is a case of who you know, not what you know.
In Jason’s case it’s a double-barrelled who and what you know since he’s already had management positions in a variety of business ventures. His 18 months of picking the brains of the GMs doesn’t hurt either.
Gaglardi and Farris both played school sports in their junior high grades in addition to informal play like road hockey.
And there was an infamous, intramural-type Grad ’85 floor hockey league at Magee that holds a key connection. Farris was editor of the school annual and by coincidence floor hockey got two pages in the yearbook while inter-school senior sports like basketball, volleyball and field hockey got one.
The pair shared time guarding the nets for the third-place No-Names in the four-team league, bowing out of the playoffs in the sudden-death semi-finals. Farris was awarded “the coveted Golden Sieve Award” with a “staggering” league-worst 7.3 goals-against average. Gaglardi gave up three goals in his one game.
However, obviously they are No-Names no longer.
Lou Nanne, Minneapolis MN – former Minnesota North Stars GM
“I found Behind the Moves very revealing. I love it!”
December 4, 2011, 12:02 pm
Had a lot of fun on the ‘Marek vs Wyshynski’ podcast Friday afternoon with the Brian Burke story of challenging Kevin Lowe to a barn fight (and isn’t there just something delicious about the term ‘barn fight’?) which got me to thinking a couple of things:
1 – Who do you think the toughest GM in the NHL is?
Hmmm, good one.
I think it comes down to two: Philadelphia’s Paul Homlgren and Washington’s George McPhee. McPhee is also, pound for pound, one of the toughest players to ever suit up in my estimation. Garry Howatt would top that list, but I digress.
2 – Has something like this ever happened before where two rival GMs roll up the sleeves and brush up on their Marquees of Queensbury rules?
Well, we’ve seen coaches go at it before or at least try to go at it. Jacques Demers and the late Herb Brooks tried to mix it up during a spirited Detroit-Minnesota game. Also, Pat Burns infamously tried to get at Kings bench boss Barry Melrose during the Los Angeles/Toronto 1993 semi-finals.
But those four gentlemen never actually came to blows.
Washington Capitals GM George McPhee however, was involved in one such altercation. After a preseason game against the Chicago Blackhawks, he stormed into the Hawks room and belted Chicago coach Lorne Molleken in the face. McPhee, ironically was incensed over Molleken’s use of “goon tactics” against the Caps in the game. Molleken dressed seven tough guys for the game forcing the Caps to scratch Peter Bondra and Adam Oates from the contest for fear they would get hurt. Dave Manson cross-checked Steve Konowalchuk in the head and received a one game suspension in a game that featured several fights. Washington forward Trevor Halverson suffered a career-ending concussion after fighting three times in the game. McPhee was suspended for 30 days and fined $20,000.
Another such scuffle occurred in 1957, when Maple Leafs General Manager Howie Meeker punched owner Stafford Smyth “between the eyes” after a heated exchange between the two men.
A little known story involves an owner and a skater, as former Detroit Red Wings owner Bruce Norris confronted Parker MacDonald at a team function. Apparently, Norris tried to strangle the winger before players separated the two. It is believed that Norris may have been over-poured that evening.
Brian Burke, by the way, has seen a couple of GMs almost come to blows over a player. As documented in John Farris’ excellent book “Behind the Moves: NHL general managers tell how winners are built”, Burke tells the story of a Montreal and Minnesota GM came close to slugging it out.
“In my first year with the league, I think it was 1993, we had a GMs meeting at The Ritz on Dana Point in California. I thought Bob Gainey and Serge Savard were going to have a fight. Montreal had signed a contract that Gainey, who was the Minnesota GM at the time, didn’t like. Gainey started giving it to Serge and the next thing you know they were face to face…yelling in French and English. I remember Gary Bettman saying, ‘What are we going to do? It looks like they’re going to fight.’ I said ‘we’re going to watch’. I was actually looking forward to it. (Laughs). People were pushing tables out of the way because it looked like they were going to go. Then, Bob Gainey called a (GM) meeting and kicked everyone (who wasn’t a GM) out of the room except me and Bettman. In that meeting, Gainey went right back at Savard. He felt Savard had overpaid one of his own players and (screwed) up the salary structure. To this day I’m amazed they didn’t fight.”
On a side note, this GMs book by Farris is one of the most fascinating hockey reads I’ve had in a long time. We’ve all read plenty of books about players, coaches, referees but there is very little if anything written about the craft of assembling and running an NHL team from a GM’s point of view. “Behind the Moves” is an enormous undertaking that transcribes just about every aspect of putting a hockey team together, told by the men who’ve done it. We’ll have Farris on the podcast very soon.
Tom U., Marshfield WI
“Behind the Moves arrived last week in beautiful shape, and it will make a great gift. Thanks!”
Andrew C., Vancouver BC
“When I first heard about Behind the Moves, I thought this was going to be some kind of book…….I am absolutely in awe of the end result…..I truly love the stories, gossip, quotes, notes and more from the GM’s…….The author’s first book with Jim Robson was great, his second with Cesare Maniago was great, the Canucks Captains book was great but Behind the Moves is superb, fantastic, incredible etc. etc. etc…….it is a very special addition to my library of hockey books….”
Oh, those wild and wacky pro hockey general managers. Maker of dreams, slayer of dreams. Bigger than life, often crusty, sometimes Ivy League, these are hockey men in suits walking a fine line between owners and players, trying to build the elusive winner, and make huge profits while doing so.
In Jason Farris’ fine book Behind The Moves these men behind the scenes are examined like never before. Up until now, they’ve remained in the shadows while the stars of the game, and others, took front and centre stage. So finally we have a book about general managers, and what a book it is.
Farris sat down with the GM’s from every National Hockey League city, recorded more than 120 hours of material from these fellows, and instead of using his own words to take us behind the scene, simply let the men in power do the talking. The result is so ultimately fascinating, so eye-opening, so in-depth, and so unlike any book I‘ve ever seen in dealing with these movers and shakers.
We’ve read in the past about the shady methods of Jack Adams in Detroit and the genius of Sam Pollock, but never before have I seen a completely up-front view up of not just those from before, but now, the ones behind the wheel in today’s game.
Behind The Moves takes us from owners hiring these fellows (“You have to stick with them, like the Islanders and Red Wings stuck with their people, no matter what the early results are.” Jim Devellano), to the GM community itself, (“It’s a den of thieves. The business is such that you don’t necessarily care about the ethics if it’s going to help your hockey team.” Jay Feaster).
It’s a book that explains how many have no idea in the beginning how to be a GM – “For me becoming a GM was the first time in fucking 20 years that I had a pen in my hand, really, other than signing autographs.” Bobby Clarke.
I couldn’t turn away from this book. We see “off the record” snide and shocking revelations of underhanded methods, of the way some back stab and find fault with peers and how it feels to uproot families by dealing a player away. And how do they deal with agents and salary caps and media? It’s all explained here.
It’s a book of GM lingo and GM history and quotes galore from those in the business past and present. We see how they draft, and pull strings, and live their lives trying to capture the glory of the Stanley Cup, and in doing so, hopefully hold on to their jobs for as long as possible.
Why didn’t someone think of writing a book like this before? Such a subject, such a incredible mix of personalities and brain and ego, with lots of luck thrown in for good measure. (“If we hadn’t got Gretzky out of the WHA when we did, you wouldn’t be wasting your day sitting here bullshitting with me.” – Glen Sather)
As legendary Islanders GM Bill Torrey remarked, “So you’re writing a book on NHL general managers. You’ve picked a fertile topic.”
Dennis Kane, former newspaper columnist on BC’s west coast, with articles published in the New York Times, Calgary Herald, and numerous hockey publications, and also creator and sole writer of http://dennis-kane.com/
John Shannon – Top of the List
The November general managers’ meeting is now done. As usual, nothing was really decided, although some concerns were raised. Some insiders would suggest the Tampa Bay-Philadelphia trap issue and the Milan Lucic-Ryan Miller collision in the past few days made the meetings worthwhile. The agenda was rather thin without those two events.
The managers did voice their opinions concerning Brendan Shanahan’s process and rulings, but as expected when the decibels increased, the commissioner stepped in to defend the new system, and preach patience. Probably the right call, when you consider that we’ve only been playing regular season hockey for 45 days (of a 185 day season).
The only potential rule change that appeared to get any traction was hybrid icing, which appeared to have a bit more support this fall. When you consider the results of the Eric Nystrom-Taylor Fedun collision in pre-season, additional support isn’t surprising. Hockey operations used the USHL hybrid icing video to explain the execution and success of the rule, which appeared to help the managers understand it better. But I’m told while there will be further discussion in March, “It doesn’t have enough traction to go any further.”
The GMs walked out of their meeting Tuesday with a little gift, courtesy of author/researcher Jason Farris. Farris delivered copies of his new book “Behind the Moves” to all of the managers. It is a fascinating account of the role of the manager, the history of the position, how they got their jobs and who influenced them. It is an absolutely fantastic coffee table book.
Rick Buker – PenguinPoop.com
For anyone who’s ever fancied himself as a closet general manager, Behind the Moves: NHL General Managers Tell How Winners Are Built is an absolute must read.
Frankly, I was floored by the depth and sheer volume of information packed into this brilliant, one-of-a-kind work. Nestled within its 252 crisply designed pages are five main parts: The Modern Era GMs who Built Stanley Cup Winners; The Challenges of being a GM; The GM Godfathers; Other GMs who Shaped the Game; and The all-time NHL GM Roster.
Author Jason Farris gets up close and personal with a bevy of NHL GMs past and present, from legendary flesh-peddlers like Cliff Fletcher, Emile “the Cat” Francis, and Harry Sinden to new-breed helmsmen such as Brian Burke, Lou Lamoriello, and Ray Shero. Mr. Farris picks their brains on literally every facet of running a big-league club, providing the reader with an intimate, behind-the-scenes look into the art of scouting and drafting, negotiating free-agent deals, and swinging the big, blockbuster trade.
Behind the Moves also features entertaining and informative biographies on every NHL GM who served from 1926-27 up through the 2010-11 season, as well as scores of archival photos.
Being a stats junkie at heart, I especially enjoyed the Appendix. Mr. Farris ranks the performance of the top 100 GMs in categories such as games, wins, and win percentage, for both regular season and post-season play. In addition, he provides a fascinating demographics analysis, based on place of birth and playing background.
Hats off to Mr. Farris for creating a masterpiece. I give Behind the Moves an enthusiastic two-thumbs up.
NHLGMs is excited to feature Rick Buker as a Featured Guest Blogger – he’s going to let us know what he thinks of Behind the Moves. So why are we excited?
Rick writes for PenguinPoop.com – the ultimate blog for Pittburgh Penguins fans. Boasting a panel of knowledgeable and energetic bloggers who share a deep and abiding passion for the black and gold, PenguinPoop truly is the place where “the poop hits the fans!”
He also writes about his beloved Penguins in his books – his latest titled 100 Things Penguin Fans Should Know & Do Before They Die. We can’t wait to read what he thinks!
‘Behind the Moves’ is local author’s third hockey book
Farris says he feels pretty darned fortunate to have had access to the league’s winning GMs from the last half century.
“I had a good in with Brian Burke, and he and I spent close to ten hours together talking through this concept of really trying to go behind the scenes and let fans understand how the GMs work and how they interact together,” he tells News1130.
Farris says from there, he was able to gather more than 120 hours of recorded interviews with every living general manager who has taken a team to the Stanley Cup Final since expansion.
As far as a blueprint for creating a winner – specifically speaking about the Vancouver Canucks – Farris says it has certainly changed. So have the Canucks been following that plan?
“You see the effective GMs are the ones able to adapt as the structure of the league has changed,” he says. “Canucks GM Mike Gillis has been at it for three years and shares one common thing with the other successful GMs.
“He appears from afar to be a very independent thinker, and while he may be prickly on the outside and people may not like his approach a lot, I do think come hell or high water he’s decided to build it his way, and that tends to be the way winners are built.”
Canucks fans will enjoy the backstory of the signing of obscure goalie Martin Brochu in 2001, and how everyone looked skyward when Brian Burke did it.
Farris says Burke believes Islanders GM Mike Milbury “totally screwed him” in that deal.
“He had a deal all lined for Garth Snow at the time and that got pulled on him and he was left holding the bag and having to take Martin Brochu as back-up goalie,” he says.
Farris says the wording is a lot stronger from Burke and fans will enjoy reading about those kinds of things.
Check out www.nhlgms.com to learn more about the book and see sample pages.
“A new masterpiece … Behind the Moves is the most impressive undertaking in hockey literature I have ever seen.”
Oct 20, 2011
Every hockey fan has two dreams right from childhood.
One is obvious – to be the scoring star who scores the big goal to win the Stanley Cup. Who would not want to be Wayne Gretzky, Mario Lemieux or Sidney Crosby?
The other is to be the team’s general manager. Think about it – to be the man who is responsible for assembling a Stanley Cup champion! It is at the heart of every hockey card trade, hockey pool draft, and water cooler trade rumor debate we have ever engaged in.
But now, thanks to a new masterpiece from author/publisher Jason Farris, we can all get a fascinating look into the lives of hockey’s general managers. Even better, we all get an insider’s look into many of the moves of various general managers past. We get direct insight into trades, signings and decisions that shaped franchises for years. Through an amazing collection of quotes by their peers, we get a look at many of the game’s greatest general managers that is nothing short of fascinating.
Jason Farris spent 18 months and 60,000kms travelling the GM community, engaging GMs in conversations about their jobs. He invested incredible time (over 120 hours of interviews on tape!) building trusting and open relationships the greatest general managers in memory. He sat with Glen Sather at his retreat in the Canadian Rockies. He penetrated Lou Lamoriello’s bunker. He befriended Brian Burke.
The result is Behind The Moves: NHL General Managers Tell How Winners Are Built. It is appropriately hailed as “the most important hockey book in over a decade” as it offers the most amazing view inside the normally secretive life of a hockey general manager. Everything here is completely unedited. Normally guarded and stoic, these managers magically opened up for Farris, and it was totally all on record. Farris shares all the best in this truly one of a kind book.
Buy The Book - NHLGMs.com
At its heart this book is a thick coffee table book. As with all Jason Farris books, the layout and presentation are top notch and rich with imagery and sidebar content. I’ve often felt a major publishing house should hire Farris to be in charge of the visuals inside hockey books. His books are always beautiful to look through, sometimes overshadowing the text itself. The various clips of hockey memorabilia, newspaper headlines and captivating photos catch the eye on every page.
The content packing the 252 pages is almost overwhelming. Statistical registers. Time lines and genealogy posters. Biographies of all 174 men who have been a GM. Former NHL president John Ziegler offers an essay on the NHL general management, while Detroit Red Wings owner Mike Ilitch and LA Kings CEO Tim Leiweke offer a final words on the men they have hired.
There are four main sections with in the book.
Farris first introduces us to the GM community. With the mind of a team owner he looks at how GMs are evaluated and hired. He also offers a dictionary of GM lingo and their unwritten rules.
He moves on to look at the modern GM, specifically looking at how the job has changed over the years in the expansion era. Readers definitely get a better understanding of the business and legal side of their job.
Perhaps the most interesting part of the book is when Farris looks at the challenges of a being a GM. Through countless quotes from hockey’s greatest general managers, we get incredible insight as to what GMs have to deal with. That includes dealing with owners, coaches, players, agents and media; trades, free agents and drafts; managing the salary cap; building team chemistry; and achieving success in the playoffs. There are some lighter moments included here, as GMs show it is not just the players who are capable of a little hijinx and tomfoolery.
In the final section of the book is actually broken into multiple chapters. Farris looks at the best of the best, the so-called “GM Godfathers” and other GMs who were instrumental in hockey history. He also offers biographies of all 174 men who have held the title of a NHL general manager as well as the statistical registers. The bios are mostly comprised of quotes of their peers, which makes for a fascinating read.
All in all, this is an amazing book. The presentation quality is high, and the content is even better. The use of quotes from all his interviews are the heart of text. Though not always presented in conventional chronological order, the author masterfully paints a picture of each topic with the managers’ own words. Every page offers a surprise.
The bottom line: Behind The Moves is the most impressive undertaking in hockey literature I have ever seen. You will learn a lot about your favorite team and why your GM made the moves he did. What fan would not want that?
So is there a down side to this book? Yes, and it may be a significant road block to many hockey book buyers.
Behind The Moves is not available in any store. It is sold directly by the author and his publishing company at the website www.NHLGMS.com. No big deal. But it costs a minimum $99.95 (Canadian or US). For $139.95 you can upgrade and get the professional edition/deluxe GM package which includes the Timeline of NHL GMs wall chart, the NHL GM Genealogy poster, the 40-page Statistical Register of NHL GMs, and an NHL GM League Information Card. You can choose from several limited editions which are autographed by various general managers.
Be it $100 or $140, that’s a lot of coin for a hockey book. That represents the hockey book budget for many readers. You can pick up a half dozen books for the same amount of money.
Is it worth $100 or more? I can tell you that this book may be the most interesting book HockeyBookReviews.com has ever seen in the four years this site has existed. Behind The Moves: NHL General Managers Tell How Winners Built is a luxury item, yes, but this book really is an amazing undertaking and incredible final product. Don’t take my word for it. Ask these guys:
“Nothing like this book has been done before. An invaluable addition to hockey history and hockey lore.”
– Frank Selke Jr., former NHL general manager and son of legendary Montreal Canadiens GM, Frank Selke
“Behind the Moves provides direct access to the greatest living hockey minds. It pulls back the velvet curtain on the GM community and lets readers access insiders’ information about successful NHL general managers.”
– Neil Smith, GM of the 1994 Stanley Cup Champion New York Rangers
Be sure to check out www.NHLgms.com to learn more and see exclusive looks inside the book.
October 19, 2011
Posted in Hockey Now BC Edition, Alberta Edition, Ontario Edition, Product Reviews
Review by Brian Burke, President & General Manager, Toronto Maple Leafs
By now you’ve already heard about a book that I am truly excited about, Behind the Moves: NHL General Managers Tell how Winners are Built. Finally, a book has been compiled about the National Hockey League’s general managers, and by an author for whom I have great respect.
Behind the Moves is part encyclopedia, part history book, part manual for would-be managers. And it’s your ticket to the general manager’s office, where you’ll find out all about the trades, the championships, the negotiations with agents, and the day-to-day dealing with owners and the media. You’ll enjoy it, and you’ll learn a lot, too.
NHL GMs are busy guys, but I and 34 of the top GMs all-time have personally invested significant time, energy, and materials into the making of this book, giving you totally unique insight into pro hockey. Behind the Moves is not an outsiders account, it’s an insider’s view of what’s truly involved in being an NHL GM! For me, it has been a true honor to be associated with so many iconic hockey personalities through the making of Behind the Moves ― friends and colleagues like Glen Sather, Pat Quinn, and George McPhee, but also legends whom I was fortunate enough to overlap with like Bill Torrey, Emile Francis, and Sam Pollock. Like each of them, I am proud of our game’s history and tradition and the men who shaped the teams that have excited fans over the years. And because I was so impressed with the concept of Behind the Moves, I jumped in and wrote the book’s Foreword.
I believe that the NHL’s general managers have been the brains and the conscience of the game since the league opened for business in 1917. Yet, surprisingly, little has been written about them. But is there a more important job on the team than the guy who puts the team together?
Like you, I’ve always been interested in knowing what other managers thought, so I could maybe learn to emulate certain types and avoid the other kinds. Behind the Moves is that playbook for all managers and those aspiring to get into, or move up in, the game. You’ll hear directly from the GMs who all share an undying passion for the game ― past managers, current managers, champions, tenured veterans, innovators, old-schoolers, educated men and men with diplomas marked “Original Six.”
If you’re looking for the plays and strategies to cultivate winners, Behind the Moves is the guidebook, Go buy it now at www.nhlgms.com
LISTEN HERE! Behind the Moves on News1130 – Click Play
Listen to Jason Farris talk about Behind the Moves:NHL General Managers Tell how Winners are Built
Jason speaks about access to the behind the scenes world of NHL GMs, Mike Gillis, and Brian Burke’s worst signing ever.
“The most important hockey book in over a decade”
- publisher of the NHL’s Official Guide and Record Book, Dan Diamond