Winnipeg names new GM

Kevin Cheveldayoff speaks with the media after being introduced as the general manager of...

Kevin Cheveldayoff speaks with the media after being introduced as the general manager of Winnipeg's NHL franchise in Winnipeg, June 8, 2011. (REUTERS/Fred Greenslade)

KEN WIEBE, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 4:15 AM ET

Kevin Cheveldayoff can remember the exact moment the process of becoming a general manager in the NHL began.

After dealing with a serious knee injury that derailed his playing career, he got a call from Butch Goring in the summer of 1994 to become an assistant coach/assistant general manager with the Denver Grizzlies of the International Hockey League back.

The subsequent discussion with his agent was over before it began.

“Without the words coming out of my mouth he said ‘take it,’” said Cheveldayoff. “I knew exactly where I stood on the signing side of things. I went back and talked to my wife (Janet) and said, ‘I'm not going to make it as a NHL player, I know that. But I’m going to be a NHL GM some day. And this is the first step.’ We did it, and we’ve never turned back.”

After close calls with the Phoenix Coyotes and New York Islanders, the Blaine Lake, Sask., product reached his goal on Wednesday and was officially announced as the executive vice president and general manager of Winnipeg’s new and still-to-be named NHL franchise.

“Growing up in small-town Sask, watching the NHL on TV, being able to be part of bringing the NHL back to the prairies, back to Winnipeg, it’s an exciting opportunity. It’s a great responsibility,” said Cheveldayoff, 41. “This is a story across the hockey nation. It’s an exciting time for everybody here. You’re witnessing history.”

Being armed with a five-year contract won’t affect the building process and make no mistake, the goal is to bring a Stanley Cup to Winnipeg.

“You make a decision because you want to make a decision, not because you feel threatened or because you don’t have security,” said Cheveldayoff. “My expectation is to methodically try and build this franchise. There’s no quick fix. If you try to look for shortcuts, you’re only fooling yourself. You have to make a decision with conviction... after a lot of discussion internally. We’re going to do things the right way.”

Doing things the right way allowed Cheveldayoff to lead the Chicago Wolves to four championships (two Turner Cups, two Calder Cups) in 12 seasons. His two seasons with the Chicago Blackhawks as director of player personnel and assistant general manager included a Stanley Cup in 2010.

True North chairman Mark Chipman shrugged off any concerns about a lack of NHL experience in the GM chair.

“Couldn’t feel more secure in the decision we made. It was a very easy one to make,” said Chipman. “To bring that (winning) quality into our organization is huge. I don’t know if people understand how difficult it is to win. When you really think about, if it was fair, you’d win every 30 years. Chevy has had a way of putting together teams and finding players that have allowed him to just beat the odds at every level. We’re confident he’s bringing that exact same skill-set to us.

“Obviously, he doesn’t have a long track record in the NHL but he’s been very successful in the short period of time he’s been at it. I take the years leading up to that as what we were investing in today.”

Cheveldayoff will work closely with Craig Heisinger, who will hold the title of senior vice president and director of player personnel/assistant GM.

“I’m going to need a folding business card for that title there,” said Heisinger.

All kidding aside, Heisinger showed his emotion when he stepped to the podium during the announcement.

His metoeric rise from equipment manager to a top-level NHL executive is an amazing story and there’s little doubt he’s going to take his new job as seriously as he took his first job in hockey.

“I did speak with Mark about taking the top job,” said Heisinger. “Absolutely I did, I just feel 100%, at the end of the day I’ve always been a Kevin Cheveldayoff fan, for a long period of time and I think this structure, the way it’s laid out now, gives us the best opportunity for success.”

Heisinger is a lot more comfortable with his ascent than he was back in 2002 when he replaced Randy Carlyle as Moose general manager.

“In ‘02, I was really concerned about perception,” said Heisinger. “I was only three years removed from being an equipment guy and for as much respect as I have for that position, I wasn’t 100% sure that everybody else did. I’ve always been of the attitude that I’ve had to work to earn people’s respect, I never ever tried to demand it.”


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