June 9, 2011
Chipman expands NHL family
By TED WYMAN, QMI Agency
WINNIPEG - Mark Chipman is clearly a man who believes in family and the kind of loyalty associated with that institution.
The co-owner of Winnipeg’s NHL franchise had his entire family front and centre when he made the announcement about his purchase of the Atlanta Thrashers last week.
Wednesday, the families of Kevin Cheveldayoff and Craig Heisinger filled the front row at a press conference introducing the two longtime hockey men as the general manager and assistant general manager of the not-yet-named Winnipeg franchise.
Chipman’s organization has shown tremendous loyalty to fans who supported the Manitoba Moose over the years and richly rewarded them with a pre-sale on season tickets for NHL hockey.
And he’s shown the same kind of loyalty to his staff with the Moose, bringing many of them along for the NHL ride, including one-time equipment manager Heisinger, who was also named senior vice-president and director of hockey operations Wednesday.
Claude Noel, who coached the Moose last season, is the front-runner to be named head coach of the NHL team.
Do we see a trend here?
“The type of culture you try to build is one where people feel like they’re part of a family and they will willingly do the extraordinary,” Chipman said in a one-on-one interview after Wednesday’s press conference. “That’s honestly why we are here. We’ve had that culture embedded in our organization for a long time. Everybody in our organization had a part of getting us the success we had in the American Hockey League, which got us a building, which got us to this day.”
It was with those values in mind that Chipman appointed longtime friend and confidant Heisinger to such a key role with the NHL team and also played a huge part in the decision to bring Heisinger’s longtime friend and confidant, Cheveldayoff, on board.
“I don’t know how else to say it, we have become great friends over 15 years,” Chipman said of his relationship with Heisinger. “I don’t think you can be in this business and go through the ups and downs of it without forming deep friendships.
“One of the things that has been so gratifying about being in the business is being able to share that with Zinger and now to bring Kevin in, who has had a similar, even longer friendship than I’ve had with Zinger, just gives us a great deal of comfort and confidence that it’s going to work.”
It was easy to see that Chipman’s two hires share the owner’s mindset.
Heisinger, 48, got emotional when he talked about both his own family (wife Vickie and four sons) and his Manitoba Moose family, with which he shares the credit for making the return of the NHL to Winnipeg possible.
“Thank you to the fans of the Moose, who let the players, coaches and myself cut their teeth in front of them,” a choked-up Heisinger said at the podium. “A lot of good people have been through here the last 15 years to cut their teeth. People were very patient, not just with myself, but with the players and the coaches, and that can’t be understated.
“At the end of the day, the No. 1 reason we had the press conference last Tuesday and again this Wednesday, is because of the organization that was built here and the fan support that they’ve shown over the last 15 years. That has provided this opportunity and given the NHL a reason to have a second look at Winnipeg.”
From the sound of it, Cheveldayoff, 41, will fit right in. He first met Heisinger when he was a 15-year-old player for the Brandon Wheat Kings and Heisinger was the team’s equipment manager, and the two have been close ever since.
“Zinger and I have a great relationship that goes back to our junior days,” Cheveldayoff said. “It comes from the fact we both have the same values, the same beliefs. As an organization, I believed in a lot of what they believed in prior to coming here. That makes it a natural fit.”
Heisinger said the beauty of his friendship with Cheveldayoff is in the fact that it endured many years of rivalry, with the latter’s Wolves always besting the former’s Moose in the post-season.
“It doesn’t really matter what organization you go to, there are certain people who remain in your support group when you need opinions on players or different situations,” Heisinger said.
“Kevin was always one of those guys for me, and I was the same for him.”
Just what you expect from family.
Sage advice from old friend
As a player with the Brandon Wheat Kings way back when, Kevin Cheveldayoff once skated off the ice frothing at the mouth about getting back at an opposing player for a perceived offence.
Craig Heisinger, the Wheat Kings equipment manager at the time said: “Chevy, relax.”
Cheveldayoff got a chance to return the favour this week when he and Heisinger were talking about all the things they have to do to get Winnipeg’s NHL franchise ready for the upcoming draft, the opening of free agency and the 2011-2012 season.
Cheveldayoff said: “Zing, I’m going to tell you something a very wise person told me when I was 15 years old: ‘Relax.’”
“To be able to have that kind of exchange with him right off the hop, we’re settling in nicely together.”