Kukla's Korner

Above the Glass

The fan’s guide to being a hockey GM

Over the weekend, all the way out here on the far end of the Oregon Trail, in the dungeons of Portland’s Rose Garden, yours truly had a small but momentous brush with NHL greatness. Brian Burke was in the house and right there in the hallway outside the Winterhawks’ dressing room, he walked right by me, nodded and said hello while I was waiting to talk with Ty Rattie. I could die tomorrow and my life would be complete. Say what you will about the Toronto Maple Leafs’ General Manager, but I can tell you from my one brief and shining encounter that he was totally polite, respectful and professional. Everything that players and the front office of any NHL organization should be. General Managers have one of the hardest jobs in the league. Or should I say the hardest job that’s really like three or four jobs in one: they have to be an HR manager, lawyer, accountant, scout and PR director all in one. I’m sure we’ve all thought we could do a better job when we see some of the things our favorite teams do with their rosters and what not. But what if we were put to the test, could we really do better? I’m not sure I could do better, but I definitely know I’d operate under a slightly less collective bargaining agreement-friendly set of rules.

I’ll show you mine if you show me yours. Show me the talent, graciousness, appreciation and work ethic it takes to make it in the NHL and I’ll show you the multimillion dollar, multiyear contract. I was raised by very strict, frugal parents who gave me five dollars for a trip to the mall and told me to bring back change. When I declared I wanted my own phone line in my room, I was told I had to pay for it.  So I’d have issues signing a piece of paper giving a player—no matter how good—more money than God. I’d do it, but they’d have to earn it and keep earning it.

Playing favorites. Obviously, I would pick all my favorite players for the roster, and they would be in the starting lineup whenever possible. This is why I’d never be any good at fantasy hockey; my choices would be based on what I wanted, not what a team needed.

Use ‘em or lose’ em. There would be no squandering of top choice, grade A talent like Ryan Johansen or Nino Niederreiter. Quality ice time equals quality goals.  For rookie players, if they are not ready for the big time and/or you’re not going to maximize their potential, send them back to junior. I can personally guarantee the junior leagues will find one or two things to do with them. Like, say, Memorial Cups and World Junior medals.

‘Bite me. All potential players must prove at the combine interviews that they are capable of handling the media. This includes social media skills, ability to use hockey cliches correctly in one 30 second, post game interview and proper use of PC soundbites at all times.

Lose the attitude. It is a privilege to play hockey at any level. For any player who does not know and appreciate this and behaves accordingly, onto waivers for the purpose of terminating your contract you will go.

No hotels with a number in the name. Hockey scouts have one of the lowest paying, hardest working jobs in the industry, and it comes complete with an insane travel schedule, bad food, worse hotels and not a lot of recognition for what they do. Scouts are the heart and soul of their team’s future; they should be rewarded accordingly with a decent hotel and some tasty nibbles. In my world, they would be.

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About Above the Glass

Welcome to Above the Glass, a definitive anti-expert’s guide to hockey. I started blogging in 2009 as part of an effort to learn all 87 rules in the NHL Rulebook in 107 days before the 2010 Olympics, 30 years after I discovered the sport. You can peruse the archival results here. Growing up in Arizona, I didn’t even know hockey existed until February 22, 1980, when the USA played Russia in the Olympics. And just like that, the game of the century changed my life. I still don’t quite understand the icing rule or which faceoff circle goes with what offense, but I do know that every aspect of hockey has something to teach us about life. That’s what you’ll find here, along with my unadulterated passion for the game.

I live in Portland, Oregon, home of the WHL’s Portland Winterhawks. I invite anyone who wants to know more about hockey in the Rose City to visit here, where I blog exclusively about the Winterhawks. I’ll post an occasional musing about the Hawks, the WHL and junior hockey here as well.

Follow me on Twitter: @AbovetheGlass

Email: samantha@kuklaskorner.com