Three prominent hockey men, all once sought to help rescue the Maple Leafs, took new NHL jobs yesterday:
- Scotty Bowman, pegged as a senior advisor to then-general manager John Ferguson last year, still has the bug and came out of semi-retirement at 74 as the new senior advisor of hockey operations for the Chicago Blackhawks.
- Steve Tambellini, recommended by Pat Quinn to replace himself as GM in 2003 (the job went to Ferguson), left the Vancouver Canucks to become GM of the Edmonton Oilers, with Kevin Lowe promoted to president, but still involved in on-ice matters.
- Marc Crawford, who got his coaching start with the St. John's Leafs in the early 1990s and has been considered for the headmaster's job here, has landed a job as a Hockey Night In Canada analyst.
First to Bowman, who in overseeing one of the best young rosters in the game with Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews, could be in line for his 11th Stanley Cup ring in the next few years after coaching, managing and advising the Canadiens, Penguins and Red Wings to titles. Bowman and GM Dale Tallon's family are close and Bowman's 33-year-old son Stan is assistant GM.
Bowman was sounded out about a senior executive position here last summer by Larry Tanenbaum, the chairman of Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment Ltd.
That touched off an internal battle with club president Richard Peddie, who hired Ferguson and though open to Bowman in strictly an advisor's role, did not want the latter to have autonomy to hire and fire people such as Ferguson and coach Paul Maurice.
MLSEL took three cracks in all at hiring Bowman under various job descriptions, before eventually sticking with Ferguson, then finally replacing him with Cliff Fletcher in January.
"It would have been nice if it worked out," Tanenbaum said of Bowman on the day Ferguson was canned.
Tambellini had ties to Quinn in Vancouver when the latter was president in the 1990s and held front office posts such as public relations director. He moved to management when Quinn went to the Leafs in 1998.
When GM/coach Quinn was compelled to give up his executive title with Toronto and became part of a three-man GM search committee, with Peddie and Ken Dryden, two of the finalists were Tambellini and Ferguson.
Peddie won out with Ferguson, who eventually had to fire Quinn.
Given a promotion by new Oilers owner Daryl Katz, Lowe immediately looked to Tambellini, his long-time Team Canada associate.
"In my estimation, and many people feel the same way, Steve's the strongest candidate in hockey at the executive level who wasn't a GM," Lowe said yesterday. "It was a real easy choice."
Crawford was let go very late in the off-season by the Los Angeles Kings, the second team he had failed to turn into a contender after early Cup success in 1996 with the Colorado Avalanche.
In the summer of 1996, after Fletcher (in his first tour as GM) fired Pat Burns, he tried to pry Crawford out of his Colorado contract, but the price was a first-round or second-round draft pick and cash. Mike Murphy eventually got the job.