Did They Play the Game? Your Ultimate NHL GM Guide

Mike Stobe/Getty Images

So we’re a few days away from the trade deadline and you say you don’t think your favorite team’s GM is up to the task. What, you think you can do better? You could be an NHL GM? Well, let me ask you this, smart guy: Did you ever play the game?

No, really, did you? Because according to this handy infographic from friend of Grantland Dan Gustafson of 16 Wins, it’s pretty much a prerequisite for the job.


There’s a lot going on here, not the least of which is finding out what all these guys look like without faces. Let’s dig out some of the more interesting facts about the origin stories of the 30 men who are busy working the phones right now:

• Eighteen of the league’s 30 current GMs played in the NHL at some point. Five more made the pros elsewhere. Only seven never played at a high level.

• Four GMs played in the NHL for 20 years or more. You could probably come up with three of those pretty quickly, since they were recent first-ballot Hall-of-Famers: Steve Yzerman, Joe Sakic, and Ron Francis. The other is a little tougher: It’s journeyman defenseman and current Habs boss Marc Bergevin.

• It apparently pays to have some familiarity with the transaction pages, as six current GMs played for at least five different NHL teams. The leader is Bergevin with eight, possibly because he occasionally did stuff like this.

• On the other hand, three GMs played for only one team: Sakic (Quebec/Colorado), Yzerman (Detroit), and Bob Murray (Chicago). But only Sakic works for that team now.

• Ten GMs once played for the team they’re currently running. Two of those, Sakic and Craig MacTavish, won Cups for those teams.

• Glen Sather is the fourth-longest-tenured GM with his current team, at 14-plus years with the Rangers. He’s also won the most Cups among active GMs, with five (four as a coach and one as a GM) … but none in New York.

• The current GM who had the shortest NHL career has also had the second-longest tenure at his current job. That would be Ken Holland, who lasted just four games in the NHL but 18 years running the Red Wings.

• It’s long been said that hockey goalies tend to be, well, “different.” But that didn’t stop four from becoming GMs. All four of those played for the team they now run, including one who managed to go straight from the crease to the front office. Nine current GMs were NHL forwards, and five were defensemen.

• Among GMs who played the game but never cracked the big leagues, three stalled out at the AHL, while two more played professionally in Europe.

• Boston’s general manager, Peter Chiarelli, played in Europe. The league’s only European general manager, Jarmo Kekalainen, played in Boston. That means something. I have no idea what.

• If you didn’t play the game, it helps to be the relative of a well-known hockey name. In the nonplayer category, two GMs are the sons of Hall of Famers, one is the son of a Hall of Fame linesman, and another is the nephew of the GM of a divisional rival.

• Playing both sides: Of those who didn’t play in the NHL, three GMs come from the ranks of player agents.

• Finally, there’s only one GM in the league who came into the position without any significant playing experience or NHL connections at all. But he’s the longest-serving boss of the group: Devils GM Lou Lamoriello, who came straight from the NCAA way back in 1987.

Filed Under: NHL, Anaheim Ducks, Arizona Coyotes, Boston Bruins, Buffalo Sabres, Calgary Flames, Carolina Hurricanes, Chicago Blackhawks, Colorado Avalanche, Columbus Blue Jackets, Dallas Stars, Detroit Red Wings, Edmonton Oilers, Florida Panthers, Los Angeles Kings, Minnesota Wild, Montreal Canadiens, Nashville Predators, New Jersey Devils, New York Islanders, New York Rangers, Philadelphia Flyers, Pittsburgh Penguins, Ottawa Senators, San Jose Sharks, St. Louis Blues, Tampa Bay Lightning, Toronto Maple Leafs, Vancouver Canucks, Washington Capitals, Winnipeg Jets

Sean McIndoe ’s work can be found at Down Goes Brown. When he's not writing, he makes hockey jokes on Twitter at @downgoesbrown.

Archive @ DownGoesBrown