I stumbled upon the website for a new hockey book a few months ago, and I wanted to share more information with the DobberHockey community about it. The book, titled Behind the Moves: NHL General Managers Tell How Winners Are Built, piqued my interest right away. I was familiar with the author (Jason Farris) from a few of his previous books, but it was the subject and description of this book that interested me the most.
Jason spent a lot of time talking with and learning from countless past and present NHL general managers about the complexities of their jobs. Since fantasy hockey is primarly a way for us as fans to play the role of a general manager, I figured this book would interest a lot of you, as well.
A description of the book from Jason:
Former NHL president John Ziegler warned me that compiling a book of this depth on NHL general managers would be “a daunting responsibility.” He chose his words wisely. The process of preparing a book of this size and scope on what Stan Bowman describes as “the craft of general management” has been challenging, draining, but ultimately rewarding — fittingly, the same adjectives GMs often use to describe their own team-building process. The general managers (GMs) who moulded this sport from pastime to prime time are all profiled here, in their own words and through the words of their contemporary colleagues and rivals…
There is enormous fan and media interest in the building and rebuilding of NHL teams, and in the general managers who have been entrusted by the owners to build a winner. Yet, other than a few biographies of some of the earlier GMs, there has been no comprehensive publication detailing the collective process and methods of the builders who’ve been hired into these roles. It is my goal to celebrate these men, honor their achievements, expose their thinking and give depth to their vision.
I gain no monetary reward from referring people to this book. I know that many of you will love it, as fantasy hockey is essentially a way for us to express ourselves as “pretend” general managers in the hockey world. This book has 250+ pages of quotes, biographies, and funny stories that have never been told before.
There are countless great interviews, quotes, and profiles. One particular page caught my attention – Lou Lamoriello talking about his year-end self evaluation questionnaire (which is displayed in the book):
“These questions are not in any particular order. They’re just questions that are constantly there — 24 hours a day, for 365 days of the year. I just put them on paper because, when I want to speak to, say, coaches, I can say, ‘This is a checklist for you.’ I can add 10 more questions to those that I go through — questions like ‘How long did I wait?’ I’m sure I’m like all GM s; I found these questions somewhere and then put them in a structured form and added a few things. I have my philosophy of coaching, and it is like my bible. You get things from here and there, and you put your bible together. These questions apply to coaches and to the GM level, because what we’re basically talking about is the team. This sheet doesn’t deal with drafting; this is just the performance of, and what happened with, the National Hockey League team.”
Some funny tidbits from the book are stories like this from TSN hockey analyst, Bob McKenzie:
“After the fiasco of Eric Lindros being traded twice by Quebec [to Philadelphia and the New York Rangers], at a GM meeting at the Don CeSar in Florida, [NHL president] Gil Stein basically said, ‘Okay, we can’t have uncertainty over whether a trade was done or not and have to have arbitrators come in to figure it out.’ He created a new hotline … [so] if two GMs made a trade, they would each call the 1-800 number separately and list off all the elements of the deal they had made.… If the information in both of the calls matched up, then for the purposes of the NHL, that was a completed trade.… [After the meeting,] all the general managers were drinking in the lobby bar of the hotel, and [they] started picking up phones and calling the hotline. Ron Caron was the GM of the St. Louis Blues, and he had a very identifiable voice. So guys were calling up saying, ‘Hey, dis is Ron Caron. I am trading Bretta Hull for a bag of da pucks.’ The GMs were all hammered and having a great time calling the number.”
Turns out Cliff Fletcher shares my thoughts on trading in the world of hockey:
"Montreal Canadiens’ philosophy on trades, going way back, is if you’re getting the best player in the deal, don’t worry about the sum of the bit parts thrown in. So the key is to get the best player.”
Brian Burke sums up the two sides of the coin to the job as a general manager:
“The biggest mistakes in our business are made because you get excited. We all think that one player will make a big difference when it seldom does. There are usually four, six or eight teams that have legitimate shots at getting to the conference finals or the finals. So we all overpay at the deadline because we think we’re close. The deadline is where we make the most mistakes of all. So if you’re going to step up and pay a high price at the deadline, you’d better be goddamn sure that you’re going to be playing after that first round. Otherwise, you’ve probably made a horrible mistake. Yet if you’re not aggressive, you’re not going to succeed, either. That’s the balance. That’s the tight rope.”
Behind the Moves is a 252 page coffee-table book rich with hockey imagery, stories of wheeling and dealing, and the raw experiences of NHL GMs who built winners.
I know one of the main reasons why I got into and continue to love fantasy hockey so much is that I get to put on my pretend general manager cap when I evaluate trades and players. I’m always interested when we are offered glimpses into the real world of hockey general maangers, although these glimpses are usually very brief. This book changes that.