// October 31st, 2012 // Comments Off // Filed under Press Box
What Makes A Successful NHL General Manager? New Book Takes A Look
BROSSARD, CANADA – MAY 2: Montreal Canadiens General Manager Marc Bergevin and team owner Geoff Molson shake hands after a press conference introducing Bergevin as the new General Manager. (Image credit: Getty Images via @daylife)
Finding a leader for a $445 million hockey team doesn’t happen overnight.
Montreal Canadiens owner and CEO Geoff Molson spent over a month carefully trimming a list of approximately 20 candidates before finally finding the man he hopes can rebuild the historic franchise.
“We were looking for a candidate with very strong leadership capability, great communication skills at all levels, and someone with a clear determination and commitment to winning,” Molson said earlier this month after introducing Marc Bergevin as the 17th General Manager in Canadiens history.
Bergevin moves into the Montreal top job after serving as Assistant General Manager for the Chicago Blackhawks last season. He also brings a wealth of hockey experience to the position with nearly 1,200 games played and job titles dotting his resume such as a scout, assistant coach, and Director of Player Personnel.
But will Bergevin have success in the pressure-cooker hockey market of Montreal?
Few have taken the time to study hockey management like Jason Farris, author of Behind the Moves: NHL General Managers Tell How Winners Are Built. Farris spent 18 months traveling across North America to speak at length with every living GM who had taken a team to the Stanley Cup Final. His 252-page book is the byproduct of those discussions and gives unprecedented insight into what makes these iconic GM’s tick.
Farris is a jack-of-all-trades. He’s currently an Executive Vice President with the Dallas Stars, but has also served as CEO of Citizens Bank of Canada, Vice President of software company Fincentric, and earned degrees in political science, physics, and an MBA from MIT’s Sloan School of Management. He’s seen leadership in action (and destruction) across a number of industries and his interest in hockey motivated him to study what really makes a successful General Manager.
Network and Information-Gathering
The key to any successful hockey executive is his network. Unlike CEO’s of companies on the Forbes Global 2000 list, NHL GM’s aren’t poached from other industries with the lure of excessive pay. Like Bergevin, most GM’s have spent decades playing, scouting, coaching, and managing their way up the hockey food chain. Along the way they’ve stared across the ice or the bargaining table at many of their peers who now lead other organizations.
“I think hockey is a unique industry in the sense that the interconnectedness between GM’s does not exist between leaders in other industries,” says Farris. “These guys are competing so hard against one another, but the reality is it’s a closed industry. There are 30 teams and they all have to cooperate to succeed. If you’re the leader of Wells Fargo, you don’t necessarily have to cooperate with your top two of three competitors.”
The lifetime these men spend building their networks and interacting with peers in various roles also gives them access to insight that helps guide their decision-making.
“At the core, the GM’s are in the information business,” Farris says. “If they can access information from all over the world ahead of other teams, they can gain an advantage. If they’re bringing a player in, they want to have a good read on the situation that the player is coming from and how he might impact the locker room, in addition to his on-ice abilities.”
Decision-Making and Structure
Filtering and calibrating that information effectively is also critical to management success. Farris’ book documents the evolution of the front office from a time when it was contained just a General Manager, head scout and secretary, to the extensive modern-day hockey operations department.
“You don’t really have the all-singing, all-dancing GM anymore,” Farris explains. “Most GM’s come off a certain experience track so who they surround themselves with is very important. I think the ability to complement their skills with people who can challenge the decision-making and brings new ideas to the table is really critical.”
Farris says that Chicago Blackhawks GM Stan Bowman, son of legendary coach Scotty Bowman, is a perfect example of the administrator/delegator that effectively manages a network of talented associates. It shouldn’t be a coincidence that the NHL’s last two GM hires were spawned from the Bowman front office. Both Bergevin and current Winnipeg Jets GM Kevin Chevaldayoff played prominent roles in the Blackhawks 2010 Stanley Cup run.
One of Bergevin’s most important tasks in Montreal this summer will be deciding how to structure his organization.
“I’m just a piece to the puzzle,” he said, giving the sense he plans to adopt Bowman’s cohesive strategy. “We’re all going to do this together. It’s about teamwork. I’m not scared of things I don’t know because I’m going to make sure I surround myself with the people who can help me make the right decisions. I’ll take all the responsibility for my decisions, but it’s a team effort and we’ll work together.”
Controlling the flow of information and using it to drive internal decision-making is critical to success, but no optimal method exists that automatically translates to Stanley Cups.
New Jersey’s Lou Lamoriello, currently the NHL’s longest-tenured GM, takes a very different approach than Bowman. Instead of encouraging cooperation and teamwork amongst his staff, he creates information silos to eliminate the groupthink mentality.
“Lou purposely keeps certain people away from each other on the scouting and hockey operations staff,” Farris says. “He’ll say ‘look, the most important thing for you to do is X, go do it’ and he won’t tell anyone else what that guy might be doing because he wants to protect the integrity of the information.”
Lamoriello not only has complete control over the information flow within his organization, but he’s also known for his surly and reclusive PR presence. Farris explains that while the secretive approach may not appeal to fans or journalists who crave up-to-the-minute information, it’s a strategy that works. The Devils have made the playoffs 14 of the past 15 seasons.
“By doing what he does, Lou is reinforcing his stamp on the team that ‘it’s us against the world and everybody else is trying to gain an advantage on us’. That can be extremely influential and I think that’s what the successful GM’s do. They put a unique stamp or identity on their team.”
On the other end of the PR spectrum from Lamoriello is Toronto’s Brian Burke, who can be just as surly at times but seems to bask in the media spotlight. Burke insists on being the face of the franchise and has clearly defined what he expects from his team on the ice. Mention the adjectives ‘truculence’ and ‘sandpaper’ to any Toronto hockey fan and he or she will know you’re describing a “Burke type of player”.
Toronto has also built their organization around the power of ‘Big Blue’. As a GM in a constrained salary capped system, it’s important to create capacity for yourself. Maple Leafs ownership has given Burke the green light to outspend almost every team in the NHL when it comes to off-ice luxuries.
“Toronto has the best practice facility, a dedicated goalie coach, a player development staff, a scouting staff of 35 when most teams might have 20,” Farris says. “You’re limited in what you can spend in player salaries, but they’re outspending everyone off the ice to try and create a competitive advantage.”
In Pittsburgh, the home of high-priced superstars Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin, GM Ray Shero creates capacity for himself by also striving to provide players and their families with the best possible experience.
“Ray lobbied ownership on his way into the job [in 2006] to have money in the budget to provide team services that would create an environment that’s healthy and attractive for players to come to,” Farris says.
The healthy environment has allowed Shero to retain many of his star players at discounted salaries and also attract quality free agents who hear glowing reviews from their peers.
It can take years for a GM to build and solidify an organizational identity, but Bergevin has already made it a point to reconnect with the unique French Canadian fanbase in Montreal.
“The Quebec Major Junior Hockey League is here in our backyard,” Bergevin said at his introductory press conference. “My vision is to put people in place to make sure we don’t miss guys from Quebec. The goal is to win, but there are good Quebec players all around the league and we’ll do the best we can not to miss them.”
Identity can even be defined through innovation. Burke’s charisma and personality compels others in the organization to follow his lead — perhaps a softer side of innovation — but others like Mike Gillis in Vancouver are more surgical in their approach.
Farris even wonders whether the interconnectedness of the NHL GM’s discourages independent thinking and hinders front office progress. Billy Beane and his ‘Moneyball’ approach forever changed the way baseball is managed, but what if his Athletics hadn’t won 20 straight games and the AL West Division title? Would Beane have gone down as just another GM with a goofy idea that didn’t work?
The biggest challenge for any GM like Bergevin in a hockey-crazy market is managing the expectations of the fanbase. Canadiens owner Geoff Molson said Bergevin plans to “build his team for long-term success through player procurement and development,” but Farris says the pressures of losing can force even the best leaders to question their methods.
“Once you lose your way and you’re very quickly in the back end of a five-year contract, you start taking quick hits to try to make up and things can unravel quickly,” he says.
“Maybe an unsuccessful GM will be swayed by the need to sell tickets and keep a long-time player, or hire a friend of his in the front office that may not be the best fit. Nobody will ever identify these little things as the seeds to destruction. We don’t document that. They just go down as the guys that didn’t win.”
// October 31st, 2012 // Comments Off // Filed under Press Box
The ‘book’ on NHL general managers
By Iain MacIntyre, columnist
May 29, 2012
also printed in Vancouver Sun on May 28, 2012
VANCOUVER — The Stanley Cup final is going to be a mismatch. The Los Angeles Kings have size, talent, scoring depth, rest, coaching and a general manager who has never won the Cup. The New Jersey Devils have Lou Lamoriello. Devils in four?
“I enjoy the hockey . . . but my heartstrings are pulled towards the general managers,” author Jason Farris explained. “About what parts they’ve played in this and about the things they’d be proud of and the things they’d be pissed off about. I wear the wins and losses through the eyes of the GMs because of my appreciation for what they’re trying to do to build into the fabric of their organizations.”
Lamoriello’s knitting was established two decades ago. Los Angeles manager Dean Lombardi did a lot of sewing in the last year.
We’re not actually picking the Devils to win, of course, because the Kings are the most dominant playoff team in years and will win in five games unless Los Angeles goalie Jonathan Quick suddenly gets stage fright playing against Marty Brodeur.
But the final, like all hockey games, are a product of their managers when the game is viewed through Farris’ lens.
The Vancouver author, who also put his MIT business degree to work as a bank president before he became the Dallas Stars’ vice-president of business operations last fall, is writing my column today. But I don’t feel too guilty because National Hockey League general managers wrote his book.
Farris, a 43-year-old who has produced scrapbook-style books on broadcasting legend Jim Robson, Cesare Maniago and Vancouver Canucks captains, set out to interview every NHL manager who has taken a team to the Stanley Cup final. The deceased were difficult to interview, so in many cases Farris cobbled together chapters through research and interviews with current GMs. Farris also chose other intriguing managerial and coaching figures of his generation.
After 18 months, 50,000 kilometres and a pile of his own money — Farris self-publishes in order to maintain absolute control of his projects — his crowning achievement is Behind The Moves: NHL General Managers Tell How Winners Are Built.
Farris will admit he didn’t so much write the book as compile it. Rather than distill information gleaned from interviews into his own conclusions, he selected quotes from an unprecedented bank of transcripts and essentially allowed the managers to tell the story — about their business, themselves and each other.
Sounds like a good idea.
“My first year in the league . . . we had a GM meeting (and) I thought Bob Gainey and Serge Savard were going to have a fight. I remember Gary Bettman saying: ‘It looks like they’re going to fight. What are we going to do?’ I said: ‘We’re going to watch.’” — Toronto Maple Leafs GM Brian Burke on “the club.”
“You don’t have to tell him all the facts, but you need to tell him enough of the truth.” — New York Rangers GM Glen Sather on dealing with reporters
“Sather, I think he’s more cagey than most guys. It’s not that you can not trust him . . . you have to approach (veterans GMs) differently because I don’t know if you can take everything at face value.” — Chicago Blackhawks GM Stan Bowman
“Scotty is always snooping. He’s always curious. That whole Detroit organization — they’re a bunch of snoopers.” — Buffalo Sabres GM Darcy Regier on Scotty Bowman
“Most of these guys buy the team so they can be in the paper. You can have $100 million and nobody knows who you are. But when you buy a sports team, you’re in the paper and everyone in the world knows who you are.” — Philadelphia Flyers GM Paul Holmgren on owners
“(The union) wants stats. They want facts presented. Not that (the player) is a wimp and he doesn’t try and he didn’t dress for four games in a row because he played 14 without a point.” — Ottawa Senators GM Bryan Murray on arbitration
“My responsibility … is to lead this company the same way you lead when you own a convenience store. If you don’t check the fridge, the cream will get sour.” — Former Colorado GM Pierre Lacroix on communication
Farris said he wanted to do a book that combined his passions of hockey and organization-building.
Burke wrote the forward for the book and initially made some calls to others GMs on Farris’ behalf.
“In some cases that helped open doors and in some cases it actually set me back,” Farris smiled. “But word got around that I was doing this and I was serious about it and trying to do it the right way. I would meet them in their office and in some cases their homes. I spent eight hours with Glen Sather on his porch in Banff.”
He said he never worried whether present and past managers and coaches would cooperate.
The only subject who dodged Farris entirely was Mike Keenan, although maybe the former coach heard what Red Wing vice-president Jim Devellano said about Iron Mike: “It’s plain and simple: he’s a bad man, he downgrades people, he treats people like sh– and that’s why he has coached eight teams and managed four.”
Farris said it was one of only two quotes in the book that he sent back to its originator for reflection. Devellano told Farris he was fine with it. It occupies most of page 74.
The book sells for $99, a little more for any of the various special editions available on Farris’ website (www.NHLgms.com). As long as I could expense it, I’d have paid that much just for the remarkable GM registry that Farris includes as a supplement, listing records for all 175 men who have managed in the NHL over the last 85 years.
“The fact is, there is no one way to win,” Farris said. “Stan Bowman, who deserves every bit as much respect for winning as anyone else, did it a different way than Lou Lamoriello. Their care and personality, that’s what they’re investing.”
Farris said he printed only about 5,200 copies of the book, which has been out for several months and will soon sell out. He claims he won’t print more because he didn’t undertake the project to make money and is ready to move on to other things, like running the business side of the Stars.
He and Dallas owner Tom Gaglardi are friends from their school and “road hockey” days in Vancouver. Dallas general manager Joe Nieuwendyk is not in the book and hasn’t complained about it.
“I’d say: ‘Geez, Joe, what finals have you made?’” Farris said. “When we make a final in Dallas, I’ll happily do an updated version that includes Joe Nieuwendyk.”
// October 31st, 2012 // Comments Off // Filed under Press Box
By: Steven Bennett
Wednesday, June 6, 2012
As I write, the Los Angeles Kings are about three hours from taking the ice with the chance to win the Stanley Cup with a record of 16-2 and to become one of the best playoff teams in the history of the NHL.
Way back in October I picked the Kings to represent the Western Conference in the Stanley Cup playoffs and face off against the Buffalo Sabres. The Sabres failed to make the playoffs and the Kings sputtered through most of the regular season.
The Sabres made some changes at the deadline on the ice, but GM Darcy Regier and coach Lindy Ruff kept their jobs. They Sabres looked destined to make the playoffs when they chased Capitals goalie Branden Holtby and defeated the Capitals in Washington late in the regular season. In the end, it wasn’t enough and the Sabres fell just short of what would have been a historic late season march to the playoffs.
Kings general manager Dean Lombardi also made several changes during the season that helped the King qualify for the playoffs and overcome the dead-stick-syndrome that plagued them for much of the regular season.
• Just before Christmas the Kings fired head coach Terry Murray and replaced him with Darryl Sutter
• At the trade deadline the Kings traded Jack Johnson and their first round pick in 2012 or 2013 to the Columbus Blue Jackets for Jeff Carter. Since that trade, the Kings are 27-7-3
• In February, the Kings called up Jordan Nolan and Dwight King from Manchester (AHL). Nolan and King have played key roles for the Kings in the post season solidifying their fourth line and providing the depth needed for Sutter to roll four lines and keep the team fresh
If the Kings can win one of the next four games, Jonathan Quick will likely be named the winner of the Conn Smythe trophy and Dustin Brown will go get the Cup from Garry Bettman. Anze Kopitar will be remembered for his breathtaking overtime goal in game one and Mike Richards and Carter will be discussed as the guys who were banished from Philadelphia before being reunited in L.A. and leading the Kings to the Cup. Murray is sure to be given a ton of credit for waking up the Kings sticks and leading a historic run through the NHL playoffs.
Dean Lombardi won’t mind, but he probably won’t get the credit that he deserves for making the in-season adjustments needed to lead the Kings where they have never been before. Lombardi is not a finalist for the NHL General Manager of the Year award.
One spot where Lombardi is sure to receive the proper recognition is at http://www.nhlgms.com. The website is dedicated to selling a great new book called, “Behind the Moves: NHL General Managers Tell How Winners are Built.”
The book is a gorgeous hard cover book that arrived at Sports-Caster’s headquarters numbered and autographed by former Rangers GM, Neil Smith. The book was put together by Jason Ferris and the forward is written by Maple Leafs GM, Brian Burke.
The book is full of information about many of the 175 men who have served as general managers of an NHL team. The book is loaded with anecdotes, stats, charts, pictures, and quotes from the men behind the moves.
The book was put together with an incredible attention to detail. Pictures of Stanley Cup rings grace its pages, and the stories are not only told with words but with pictures, stats and charts. Turn to the section dedicated to Vancouver Canucks GM Mike Gillis and find a detailed chart on how Gillis built last season’s Stanley Cup finalists.
I was shocked to learn how few have actually served as NHL general managers. The Buffalo Sabres have only had six general managers in their existence that dates back to 1970. The Carolina Hurricanes have only had one general manager in their brief history. Maybe the most shocking: The Boston Bruins, an original six NHL franchise, have had only EIGHT general managers.
The book would serve as a beautiful conversation piece on any coffee table and almost seems too precious to touch. Every time I flip through the pages of the book, I wash my hands and handle it with the care of a new born baby.
There is a section of the book that is dedicated to explaining the lingo used by an NHL GM. “UP” is used to describe a player who’s contract is set to expire and “a dog” is a player that is of ordinary ability.
The book explains the unwritten rules that govern the league’s general managers. For example, general managers are expected to return the phone calls of other general managers immediately.
The history of the National Hockey League has been told through the eyes of players, and coaches, and officials in countless pieces of literature released in the last seventy-five years. “Behind the Moves” gives us the unique opportunity to learn about the league through the eyes of the the GM.
The book is beautiful and put together with class in a way that is synonymous with the class and dignity that NHL GM’s have always conducted their business with.
If you want a copy of the book or are looking for more information, please visit http://www.nhlgms.com.
// October 31st, 2012 // Comments Off // Filed under Press Box
By Elliotte Friedman
Posted: Wednesday, July 18, 2012 | 09:13 AM
During the Stanley Cup playoffs, I had time to read Behind the Moves, which is basically a 252-page oral history of hockey’s general managers. It’s written by Jason Farris, who is now a Dallas Stars executive vice-president.
The book is outstanding. Over the next few weeks, I’m going to re-read it, this time putting together a structured notes package on its subjects.
One of the best things about working at HNIC is the access it allows. However, Farris, who has more of a business background than a sportswriting one, got these guys to reveal quite a bit about their philosophies and thought processes. That includes guys who tend to be quite secretive, like Lou Lamoriello and Pierre Lacroix. The group was also very honest about each other.
It is available solely through a website called nhlgms.com. There will be a little bit of sticker shock, but I’d absolutely recommend it. Even if you’re not a total hockey puck, the insight into how GMs think probably applies to other sports.
Quite honestly, I’m jealous I’m not the one who got to write it.
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.
Each month during the 2011-2012 season, Hockey Now will feature a spread from the new book, Behind the Moves.
You can find December’s spread on page 4 & 5 of the pdf file you can find at http://hockeynow.ca/magazines/16?region=bc
This month, we go Behind the Moves with an iconic Canadian – former GM of the Vancouver Canucks and the Toronto Maple Leafs plus bench boss of Canada’s 2002 Olympic gold medal winning men’s hockey team – Pat Quinn. Quinn is one of the 34 Cup finalist GMs who participated in the making of Behind the Moves, a 252-page coffee-table book rich with hockey imagery, stories of wheeling and dealing, and the raw experiences of NHL GMs who built winners. The book is not available in stores and can only be purchased at www.nhlgms.com
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….”
November 23, 2011 05:00 ET
New Hockey Book on NHL GMs is Earning Accolades On and Off the Ice
VANCOUVER, BRITISH COLUMBIA–(Marketwire – Nov. 23, 2011) - The recent release of Behind the Moves: NHL General Managers Tell how Winners are Built marks the first time an author has been given exclusive access to the backroom operations of the NHL’s GMs. This insider’s look at the world of GMs is generating a lot of excitement within the hockey community. The book is already being hailed as the “most important hockey book in over a decade.”
Three-time author Jason Farris recorded over 120 hours of in-person interviews with every living GM who has taken a team to the Stanley Cup final. The interviews were condensed into a 252-page coffee-table book that features those 34 GMs in their own unrated words. The result is part encyclopedia, part history book, and part manual for would-be managers, both on and off the ice.
“I was struck by how much of the decision making that goes into being a GM resonated with my own work as a business executive,” says Jason Farris, who most recently was President and CEO of Citizens Bank of Canada. “The blueprint for getting a team to the Stanley Cup is a continually moving target and those GMs who have adapted have done the best. Those that don’t adapt don’t survive.”
It was precisely these kinds of insights into the game that attracted Toronto Maple Leafs GM Brian Burke to the project. Burke wrote the book’s foreword and collaborated with Farris on the concept, helping him to secure interviews with other GMs.
“I believe GMs are the brains and the conscience of the game. Yet, surprisingly, little has been written about them. I’ve always been interested in knowing what other managers thought, so I could learn to emulate certain types and avoid others. Behind the Moves is that playbook for all managers and those aspiring to get into, or move up in, the game,” says Burke.
Having access to the real life trades, negotiations, and day-to-day dealings of real life GMs will also be a boon to the burgeoning virtual GM community. Fantasy sports have become a $3-billion a year industry in North America and that industry is hungry for information. Getting behind the scenes of hockey’s highest chair may be just the ticket.
Behind the Moves will not be sold in stores, but is available at the companion website www.nhlgms.com.
Highlights from Behind the Moves include:
- An essay by Gary Bettman’s predecessor, John Ziegler, about the evolution of the GM’s role
- Stories of espionage, conspiracy and tomfoolery
- An explanation of the unwritten rules of the GM community
- The meanings behind GM lingo
- Advice to owners when hiring a GM
- The story behind what it’s really like to have to make a deal with Glen Sather
- An insider’s look at competing against Lou Lamoriello
- Details on Brian Burke’s worst trade
Jason Farris is a national best-selling author and publisher. He is a former Business in Vancouver “40 under 40″ winner, who most recently was president and CEO of Citizens Bank of Canada. He earned an MBA from the MIT Sloan School of Management in Cambridge, Massachusetts. He also holds a B.A. in Political Science from the University of Toronto and a B.Sc. in Physics from the University of British Columbia.
Farris is currently Vice President, marketing with the Dallas Stars.
Married, with two children, Jason and his family make their home in West Vancouver, British Columbia where he plays men’s hockey twice a week and can often be found refereeing bantam and midget hockey games.
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.
Each month during the 2011-2012 season, Hockey Now will feature a spread from the new book, Behind the Moves.
You can find November’s spread on page 4 & 5 of the pdf file you can find at http://hockeynow.ca/magazines/15?region=ontario
This month, many of the top NHL GMs of all time weigh in with their opinions and experiences when dealing with their most precious assets … the players. Plus the GMs also share their thoughts about the when and where not to go into the dressing room and address the players as a team Whether you are a player, parent, or coach coming up the ranks, this sampling of NHL GM anecdotes and insights give you a rare glimpse into the psyche and styles of the men at the top of the hockey world which can help you prepare for situations you might face within your own team or hockey career. The book is not available in stores and can only be purchased at www.nhlgms.com
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!
Each month during the 2011-2012 season, Hockey Now will feature a spread from the new book, Behind the Moves.
You can find October’s spread on page 14 & 15 at http://hockeynow.ca/system/magazines/ontario_editions/11/original/ONHN-102911.pdf
What better way to start than with a spread featuring the longest serving general manager in the NHL and a five-time Cup champion GM with the Oilers, Glen Sather. Sather is one of the 34 Cup finalist GMs who participated in the making of Behind the Moves, a 252-page coffee-table book rich with hockey imagery, and the raw experiences of NHL GMs who built winners. The book honors these legendary GMs, provides a complete statistical ranking of their achievements, chronicles the evolution of their profession, and charts the inter-relationships between them – whether they emerged from the older Sam Pollock or Bill Torrey schools of franchise management, or patterned themselves after the more recent examples of NHL executive development modeled by the likes of Glen Sather or Pat Quinn. The book features a foreword by Toronto Maple Leafs GM Brian Burke and thereafter provides equal weight to the recollections, philosophies, and insights of the other GMs who have taken their team to the Stanley Cup Finals since the NHL assumed control of the Stanley Cup in 1926. The book is not available in stores and can only be purchased at www.nhlgms.com
‘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
8-Oct-2011, page I9
SHORT HOPS: Brian Burke has written a lengthy memo to the hockey masses promoting the latest Jason Farris book Behind the Moves: NHL General Managers Tell How Winners Are Built. Farris, a Vancouver-born software and financial executive, as well as a self-confessed hockey nut, interviewed 34 past and current NHL general managers in person as part of a two-year research mission. An enthusiastic Burke has penned the foreward, suggesting that “GMs have been the brains and conscience of the game since the league opened for business in 1917”…
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