For both Jeff Greenberg and Norm Maciver, it's still a little surreal to be working for the Chicago Blackhawks.
Greenberg, who played hockey from a young age all the way through college, was connected to the sport only as an avid fan until last week, serving as the assistant general manager for the Chicago Cubs, where he climbed the ranks since starting in 2012. Maciver, a longtime member of the hockey operations staff in Chicago, moved on from the team in January 2021, taking a role with the expansion-side Seattle Kraken's front office.
On Monday afternoon, both were introduced in their roles as associate general managers, alongside General Manager Kyle Davidson, to a group of fans and media at a luncheon at the United Center.
"I was fortunate enough to work in baseball for the last 16 years, but hockey was really my first true love... that passion, that connection to hockey never really left," Greenberg said. "To be here with this group right now, an Original Six franchise and the Chicago fanbase, it's a dream come true."
"I certainly was not expecting this," Maciver told reporters of coming back. "When I left, obviously I was looking for a new challenge and I was excited to go to Seattle, but not in my wildest dreams did I think that I'd be back here... it was a no-brainer (to return)."
Video: Discussion with Blackhawks' hockey leadership team
The duo will be the right-hand men for Davidson as the organization embarks on a rebuild of the hockey product, both on and off the ice. With a lengthy playing career and even longer tenure in building and managing teams, Maciver's role is pivotal in finding the right pieces that will one day wear the Blackhawks sweater in the road back to being a consistent contender. Greenberg will spearhead the way the team uses, organizes and disseminates its information throughout the hockey operations staff to make decisions, bringing a first-hand experience from the world of baseball that has largely pioneered the process over the last decade.
Just a week into the leadership group being in place -- Greenberg joining the organization officially on May 9 -- the three are finding a common early bond in simply learning from each other.
"Kyle and I are huge baseball fans," Maciver said, "so just to walk through different scenarios (with Jeff), whether it's hockey or baseball, and the thought process and what went into certain decisions and how it can translate to hockey. I think just his experiences and us being baseball fans and knowing a lot of the situations and then getting his take on it kind of makes you think, and hopefully we're all learning from each other to hopefully make the best decisions (together) moving forward."
"(I'm) trying to learn, absorb as much as I can," Greenberg said of the early days. "More than anything, after one week, it's really good to see how many great people are here and that passion they have for this franchise, I couldn't be more excited."
It's early, but Davidson is excited to see his vision start to take shape.
"It's just nice to have the full team in the office now," he said. "It felt like for most of the year being interim (general manager) that you weren't able to build your team the way you wanted to. To really get that senior leadership in place, it feels great -- one, just to have them in the office to start bouncing things around, and just getting to work."
That work is coming fast and quick as the executive leadership team prepares for the NHL Draft in early July. Chicago is without a first-round pick this year, but with five picks over the second and third rounds combined, there's a lot of promising talent that could make a difference on the future of the franchise. Their long-term approach going forward of course won't be in place in a two-month span -- much of the scouting for this year's draft is already done as amateur seasons wrap up around the globe -- but the group is hoping that small tweaks to the evaluation process and bringing different throughts to the table in the interim can serve valuable.
"They've done a lot of work under the previous system that they were working under, for lack of a better term. You don't want to mess with that too much," Davidson explained. "I think it's up to Norm, Jeff and myself to ask the right questions, to extract the information that we need out of our scouts to help build a board that's more in line with what we're going to develop moving forward. It's been really good. The scouts have been absolutely fantastic in making some adjustments to how they talk about players and that kind of thing that we'll need moving forward."
"More just challenging them in different ways," added Maciver, who leads the overall scouting operation. "I think we have a really good scouting staff. We've got a lot of really talented scouts.... We were trying to challenge them from a management perspective, maybe focusing more on different things than had been focused on in the past. We know what was the way we did things in the past, we just wanted to give it a different angle."
Down the road, though, the vision all three share is to rethink the way the organization, and the sport of hockey, does business -- in scouting, development, strategy and more.
"In baseball, most if not all teams have put in place pretty modern, sophisticated systems to process that information and leverage it to actually drive their decision-making, whether that's in player acquisition, player development, in-game strategy," Greenberg said. "I think that's something that hockey's probably behind right now. I'm here in part because we want to fill that gap."
"We want to get to a point where all of our information, whether it be player development, scouting, any analytical information we might create and then any other evaluation information or data or tools, are housed in one system," Davidson said of what he explained will be the heartbeat of the operation. "Hopefully our decision-making process is really streamlined where all the information is in one spot rather than pulling from a bunch of different areas to make a decision. It's just much more efficient."
"That's nothing that's going to happen in the next few weeks or probably year or so," he continued. "It's a huge undertaking that we need to build. There will be things along the way that we can use, tools that we'll create, but this is more of a long-term view and building things out."
What's common among the three, who all have taken unique paths to where they are today, is their indivudual drive to be a champion again. Davidson and Maciver experienced it over the last decade-plus with the Blackhawks, while Greenberg played a key role in building the Cubs' 2016 title team. That intoxicating feeling of being at the top of your sport, Maciver explained, only makes the drive to get back there that much stronger.
"We realize it's a huge challenge," he said, "but we're all excited to work together and we really look forward to what we can do in the future."
"I think we have the opportunity to build something really special here," Greenberg added. "The vision for what we want that to look like is in place. I think the plan to how to get there is in place. The organizational commitment is in place. So to be here, in a franchise like the Blackhawks, with Kyle and Norm and this entire group, it's incredibly exciting."