Author corners NHL's top GMs
LANCE HORNBY, QMI Agency
|Jason Farris' new book "Behind the Moves" explores the genius of the NHL's top general managers.
TORONTO - With insight he gleaned from the 35 living general managers who took teams to a Stanley Cup final and the financing he’d be able to arrange as former CEO of a bank, Jason Farris could buy a club, run it and likely win his own championship.
But that’s not why Farris took two years out of his life to criss-cross the continent, racking up 60,000 miles, to interview the NHL’s power brokers. He wanted to discover what made this exclusive 30-man club tick, how the best from the ‘craft of general management’ made it to June each year and to “document the human dimension” of the job.
The result is Behind The Moves, a most revealing take on the men who chase silver 24/7. They talked to Farris about their strengths, weaknesses and day-to-day challenges.
“It’s a 360-degree look at the job,” said Farris, who most recently ran Citizens Bank of Canada from his hometown of Vancouver. “I wanted a book that people could enjoy on different levels.”
Farris has GMs rapping on themselves, their methods, their colleagues (the fleecers and fleecees), favourite players, memorable deals and the ones that got away. ‘Bow Tie’ Bill Torrey of the Islanders reminded Farris that while every GM has a mandate to win the Cup, it has to be more than a sound byte.
“You can’t just say it,” Torrey told him. “You have to back it up with the steps that convince your owner, your fans, the media, that yeah, they’re headed in the right direction.”
Perhaps the most impressive part of this 243-page limited edition is that Farris was able to get some of the most reticent executives in the league to speak at all.
“Getting Glen Sather was a six-month dance,” Farris recalled of the man who built the Oilers and now runs the Rangers. “It turned out he wasn’t being difficult, he was just testing me, like he tests all GMs. He wanted to know if what I was offering him was something of substance. When he finally called me, I had to be at his house in Banff within 24 hours, but I wound up staying a long time and he bought 75 copies of the book.”
“Some of the GMs looked at me differently when I first approached them. I began with absolutely no sources, no contacts. But word of mouth got around about me (his day job certainly opened some doors) and I was able to speak to them in their own environments, their offices, their homes and their cottages.”
Farris branched off to talk to many “stakeholders” in the game such as former NHL president John Ziegler, player agent Don Meehan and TSN commentator Bob McKenzie. He also approached GMs who had not been to the final, but were walking history books, such as Toronto’s Jim Gregory. Farris researched the roles of those GMs who had passed away, such as Leo Dandurand, who put Howie Morenz and Aurel Joliat in Habs’ sweaters, as well as Jack Adams, Lester Patrick and Art Ross.
Brian Burke of the Leafs wrote the foreword for Farris, believing his peers to be “the brains and conscience of the game since 1917” and never properly recognized.
A reader will also realize the role has drastically been altered. Minnesota’s Lou Nanne told Farris how shocked he and Montreal’s Serge Savard were to see a recent GMs meeting break up.
“All come running out, all going in divergent directions, consumed with cell phones and business. Serge says to me ‘Louie, it’s changed. Can you imagine us in the day, this would never happen.’ We said ‘boy oh boy, we’re glad we came along when we did.’”
Farris includes biographies of the 174 GMs to date and 40 pages of stats, including charts of where each man started, how their teams were built and their won-loss record. There’s even a page where Farris stored a few off-the record comments.
“He was an arrogant asshole,” one GM said of another. “He tried to belittle me more than once with stupid trades. He got away with one by going around my back to my owner and it wound up costing me a good player. I am bitter to this day about it.”
The book can be purchased on-line from circaNow.com.