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Bowmans show hockey is a family affair

Tuesday, 07.14.2009 / 4:02 PM / Columns

By John Kreiser - NHL.com Columnist

"The people I've met, the places I've gone -- it was a great childhood and it really fed the love of hockey I have now. Because of my background, that's where I am today."
-- Minnesota Wild GM Chuck Fletcher

When new Chicago Blackhawks General Manager Stan Bowman needs some guidance, he can do what a lot of us do when we need some advice: Call dad.

Of course, it's a lot easier for an NHL GM to get good counsel when your father is a Hockey Hall of Famer like Scotty Bowman. Stan Bowman won't have to go far to find out what his father thinks -- Scotty came aboard last summer as a senior advisor of hockey operations.

"Even when I was a little kid I liked to go to the games -- and most importantly, to absorb things, when he would talk to other coaches and players, other GMs," Stan Bowman said during an interview at last month's Entry Draft. "I was just exposed to that at a young age and I took a liking to it. As I got older … I wanted to be part of something that I love doing. I look at hockey that way; it's not really a job for me, it's something I enjoy. The exposure from a young age really helped me."

Stan Bowman joins the ranks of second-generation hockey executives who have followed their fathers into the general manager's office.

However, he isn't the first next-generation GM to get a job this offseason. On May 21, Chuck Fletcher -- son of Hall of Famer Cliff Fletcher, a GM with Atlanta/Calgary, Toronto and Phoenix -- was named general manger of the Minnesota Wild. He joined the Wild after serving as an assistant to Pittsburgh's Ray Shero, another second-generation GM and son of a hockey legend -- Fred Shero coached the Philadelphia Flyers to back-to-back Stanley Cups in 1974 and '75 and later served as coach/GM of the New York Rangers.

In all, there have been seven father-son GM tandems in NHL history. Here's a look at them:

The Patricks
Lester (New York Rangers, 1926-46)
Muzz Patrick (New York Rangers, 1955-64)
Lynn (Boston, 1954-65; St. Louis 1967-68 and 1971-72)
Craig (New York Rangers, 1980-86; Pittsburgh 1989-2006)


Lester Patrick is the patriarch of the Rangers, the man who established hockey as a big-time sport in New York and built the franchise from the ground up. He served as general manager and coach until 1939, winning a pair of Stanley Cups, before stepping down to concentrate on his job as GM. Patrick's Rangers won a third Cup in 1940, but struggled after the start of World War II, and Lester was replaced as GM after the 1945-46 season.

His sons, Muzz and Lynn, both played for (and won a Cup under) their father in New York and went on to become hockey executives. Muzz succeeded Frank Boucher (who was named GM when Lester was let go) in 1955 and was GM for nine seasons before turning over the reins to Emile Francis. Lynn spent a decade as general manager of the Bruins, then served as the first general manager of the St. Louis Blues when they entered the NHL in 1967. Patrick also began the season as coach before hiring a young unknown named Scotty Bowman, who led the Blues to the Stanley Cup Final in each of their first three seasons. Bowman also served as GM for two seasons before Patrick returned for one season in 1971-72.

By then, Lynn's son Craig was an NHL player. Craig didn't have the success of his father in his eight seasons on the ice, but wound up having a lot more off it. After serving as an assistant coach under Herb Brooks with the 1980 "Miracle on Ice" U.S. Olympic team, Craig followed his father and uncle by becoming GM of the Rangers (hiring and firing Brooks as coach in the process and also serving two stints behind the bench himself). He enjoyed his greatest success after being named GM of the Pittsburgh Penguins in December 1989. Patrick brought in Bob Johnson (and later Scotty Bowman) as coach and engineered the trade that brought Ron Francis and Ulf Samuelsson to Pittsburgh, bringing in the final pieces that helped the Penguins win back-to-back Stanley Cups in 1991 and '92. Craig was let go as GM in April 2006 -- nine months after the Penguins selected Sidney Crosby with the first pick in the 2005 Entry Draft.

The Sheros
Fred (New York Rangers, 1978-80)
Ray (Pittsburgh, 2006-present)


Fred Shero became famous as the coach of the "Broad Street Bullies" -- the mid-1970s Philadelphia Flyer teams that used a combination of mayhem and talent to win consecutive Stanley Cups in 1974 and '75. But after three non-Cup seasons following the two championship years, a disappointed Shero stepped down and returned to his roots -- he had grown up in the Rangers organization, played in New York and went back there in the summer of 1978 as coach and general manager.

The move initially was a success -- the Rangers upset the regular-season champion Islanders in the semifinals and won Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final at Montreal before losing the next four. But after a disappointing 1979-80 season and a slow start by the Rangers in 1980-81, Shero stepped down from both jobs and was replaced by Craig Patrick.

Unlike his father, an introverted, enigmatic personality whose nickname was "The Fog," Ray Shero is much more outgoing. And like his father, Ray also owns a Stanley Cup.

The younger Shero played college hockey at St. Lawrence, was a late-round pick by the Kings in 1982 but never played, and spent eight years as a player agent. Shortly after his father died in 1990, he got into management, serving six years as an assistant general manager with the Ottawa Senators and eight more as an assistant GM under David Poile with the Nashville Predators.

He was named to the GM post in Pittsburgh on May 25, 2006, a month after Craig Patrick was fired, and has enjoyed quick success with the Penguins, adding the final pieces to a Stanley Cup finalist in 2008 and making a midseason coaching change that paid off in a Cup victory this spring.

The Fletchers
Cliff (Atlanta/Calgary Flames, 1972-91; Toronto, 1991-97 and 2008; Phoenix 2001)
Chuck (Minnesota, 2009-present)


Cliff Fletcher was the assistant general manager of the St. Louis Blues when the NHL added the Atlanta Flames and New York Islanders for the 1972-73 season. He was named the Flames' first GM and helped the NHL's first foray into the U.S. South get off to a fast start -- the franchise made the playoffs six times in eight seasons in Atlanta. Fletcher stayed with the Flames when the franchise moved to Calgary in 1980, and he built the team that won two division titles, two regular-season championships, a pair of conference titles and the Flames' only Stanley Cup, in 1989.

The Maple Leafs lured him to Toronto, and Fletcher turned the Leafs into a success on the ice, making the conference finals in 1993 and '94. After leaving Toronto in 1997, he worked for the Tampa Bay Lightning as a senior advisor for two years, and then served as Executive VP and GM for the Phoenix Coyotes in 2001 before being named Senior Executive Vice President of Hockey Operations.

He was elected to the Hockey Hall of Fame in 2004, but returned to the Leafs after John Ferguson Jr. was let go as GM in January 2008. He served as general manager until Brian Burke took over as president and general manager Nov. 22, 2008.

If Cliff Fletcher's career is winding down, his son's is just getting started. Chuck Fletcher was named as the second GM in the history of the Minnesota Wild on May 21, 2009, replacing Doug Risebrough. The younger Fletcher spent nine years working as assistant GM and interim GM for the Florida Panthers, four more as director of hockey operations, assistant GM and vice president of amateur scouting and player development for the Anaheim Ducks, and the last three as assistant general manager of the Pittsburgh Penguins, working closely with GM Ray Shero on scouting, prospect development and contract negotiations.

"I was 5 years old when he was named a general manager, so my entire life I've been the son of a general manager or working in hockey," Chuck Fletcher said at his introduction as Wild GM when asked about his father's influence. "I had terrific opportunities, just from getting used equipment and sticks, skating on the ice with the players to traveling with the team and sitting next to my father at every game and pretending I was a hockey official in the organization.
"I was 5 years old when he was named a general manager, so my entire life I've been the son of a general manager or working in hockey." -- Chuck Fletcher
"The people I've met, the places I've gone -- it was a great childhood and it really fed the love of hockey I have now. Because of my background, that's where I am today."

The Buttons
Jack (Pittsburgh, 1974-75)
Craig (Calgary, 2000-03)

Jack Button took over as general manager of the Pittsburgh Penguins midway through the 1973-74 season. He replaced Jack Riley, who had been the team's first GM and came back again in 1971-72. Under Button, the Penguins improved from 65 points in '73-74 to 89 points and a playoff berth in 1974-75. It appeared as if the Pens were on their way to their first trip to the Stanley Cup semifinals when they won their preliminary-round series and took the first three games of their quarterfinal against the New York Islanders -- only to see the Isles become only the second team to rally from a 3-0 deficit to win a playoff series.

The Penguins hit financial rocks that summer, with the NHL briefly taking ownership before the team was sold. Button was tapped by NHL President Clarence Campbell to become the head of the new NHL Central Scouting Bureau. He joined the Washington Capitals in 1979 and enjoyed great success as a scout; he's credited with discovering players such as Peter Bondra, Sergei Gonchar and Brendan Witt.

Both of Jack's sons, Craig and Tod, followed their father into hockey. Craig joined the Minnesota North Stars in 1988 and followed the franchise to Dallas five years later. He became director of scouting and then director of player personnel for the Stars' 1999 Stanley Cup championship team. In 2000, he was hired by the Calgary Flames to be their general manager, but was let go after three non-playoff seasons -- though he was responsible for assembling much of the talent that got the Flames to Game 7 of the 2004 Stanley Cup Final. He currently serves as an analyst on the NHL Network and writes occasionally for NHL.com.

The Poiles
Bud (Philadelphia, 1967-69; Vancouver 1970-73)
David (Washington 1982-97; Nashville 1998-present)


There must be something about the Poile family that enjoys a challenge. Both Bud and his son David have spent most of their careers as NHL executives trying to build franchises from the ground up.

Bud Poile played for five NHL teams and won a Stanley Cup with Toronto in 1947, then spent 13 years as a coach before becoming the first general manager of the Philadelphia Flyers in 1967. Three years later, he again helped start a team from scratch when he was named GM of the expansion Vancouver Canucks. He lasted just three years in that post, but his career in hockey was far from over. Poile took over as commissioner of the Central Hockey League in 1976, became commissioner of the International Hockey League in 1983-84 and held that post until he retired in 1989. He was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1990.

By that time, David Poile had turned the Washington Capitals from a ragamuffin franchise into a consistent winner -- taking a team that had never made the playoffs previously and leading it to 14 trips to the postseason in 15 years. The younger Poile, who had spent 10 years in the front office of the Atlanta and Calgary Flames, largely built the 1998 team that went to the Stanley Cup Final.

He came to Nashville in 1998 and helped get the franchise off the ground. The Predators were an instant hit in Nashville and have been competitive since Day 1. David received the Lester Patrick Trophy for service to hockey in the U.S. in 2001, making him and his father one of only six father-son pairs to receive the award.

The Fergusons
John (New York Rangers, 1976-78; Winnipeg 1979-88)
John Jr. (Toronto 2003-08)


The hiring of John Ferguson by the New York Rangers in 1976 marked a first -- the former Montreal Canadien was the first non-Ranger to become a coach or GM in the Big Apple (he filled both posts). Ferguson, who was a key member of five Cup-winning teams in Montreal in the 1960s, changed the Rangers' uniforms but didn't have any success changing their fortunes -- they were a team in decline. Ferguson stepped down as coach in 1977; the team made the playoffs in 1978 but was eliminated in the preliminary round by Buffalo. That summer, ownership brought in Fred Shero as coach and GM.

Ferguson quickly resurfaced as GM of the WHA's Winnipeg Jets and was back in the NHL in 1979 when the Jets were one of four teams that were absorbed by the League. He lasted until December 1988, when he was let go and Mike Smith took over. After that, he worked for the Ottawa Senators before becoming a special adviser for the San Jose Sharks. He died of cancer in July 2007 at the age of 68.

"I strive to emulate my father's traits," John Ferguson Jr. said at his father's funeral -- and by then the younger Ferguson had done just that by becoming an NHL general manager. After a playing career that saw him reach the AHL but never make it to the NHL, he worked as a scout for the Senators before moving to St. Louis, where he rose to VP and director of hockey operations. In August 2003, the 36-year-old was named GM of the Toronto Maple Leafs, replacing Pat Quinn.

The Leafs made the playoffs in his first season as GM, but failed to do so in 2005-06 and 2006-07. With the team struggling again in 2007-08, Ferguson was let go midway through the season and replaced by Cliff Fletcher.

The Bowmans
Scotty (Buffalo, 1979-87)
Stan (Chicago, 2009-present)


"Stan started pretty young; he wanted to get a job in hockey and I said, 'You're better off to do it with another team and do it on your own. He wrote letters to teams, and that's how he got started."
-- Scotty Bowman, discussing son Stan

Though he's had the title of general manager just once in his long hockey career, few people in any sport have enjoyed the kind of success Scotty Bowman has.

After four years (and three trips to the Stanley Cup Final) as coach of the St. Louis Blues, Bowman came to Montreal in 1971 and led the Canadiens to five Stanley Cups, including four in a row from 1976-79. He had hoped to be named general manager of the Canadiens when Sam Pollock stepped down, but when it didn't happen, he left to take over as coach and GM of the Buffalo Sabres. However, he never enjoyed the kind of success he had in Montreal, and he left in 1987 to work as an analyst for Hockey Night in Canada.

By 1990, he was back in the NHL as player personnel director in Pittsburgh. When health reasons forced Bob Johnson to step down after coaching the Pens to the 1991 Cup, Bowman took over and led Pittsburgh to a repeat in 1992 and the Presidents' Trophy in 1993.

Then it was on to Detroit, where he won three more Cups before stepping down following a championship in 2002 as the winningest coach in NHL history. He spent the next six seasons as a special adviser to the Wings before joining his son Stan in Chicago last summer.

Little could he have known that Stan, an assistant GM under Dale Tallon, would become the boss a year later. On July 14, the Hawks reassigned Tallon and promoted Stan Bowman to GM.

Both Bowmans say the biggest difference between them is that Stan never wanted to follow his father behind the bench.

"We're different in that I did do some managing with different teams, but coaching was really what I started when I couldn't play any more," Scotty Bowman said in an interview at the Entry Draft last month. "I got into it at a young age, and I think that in the coaching or managing field, if you get into it when you're younger, by the time you've reached the top of the heap, you've had a lot of experience.

"Stan started pretty young; he wanted to get a job in hockey and I said, 'You're better off to do it with another team and do it on your own. He wrote letters to teams, and that's how he got started."

Added Stan Bowman: "I knew early on that coaching wasn't my thing. I think I'm more suited toward the management side. That's what I always took an interest in."

The Bowmans now have a chance to work together to see if they can end the Blackhawks' 48-year Stanley Cup drought.
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