MONTREAL– It is with deep regret that the Montreal Canadiens organization and the Gillett family learned of the passing of Mr. Sam Pollock, who died on Wednesday, August 15, at the age of 81. Sam Pollock had been a member of the Canadiens for 32 years, including 14 seasons as the team’s general manager from 1964 to 1978.
“Sam Pollock was a source of inspiration for everyone around him and especially players. His leadership was contagious and he proved to be a model for all the players who played under him in the 60s and during the years I was a part of his team,” said Canadiens’ General Manager Bob Gainey. “That unique environment which we were part of during those winning years in the 70s played a significant role in preparing many of us to embark on a front office career in the NHL” added Gainey referring to over a dozen of former teammates from the Pollock era who would later become general managers and coaches in the National Hockey League.
Born in Montreal on December 15, 1925, Sam Pollock was a sports enthusiast with exceptional organizational skills. He grew up playing hockey and baseball. As a teenager he spent summers managing a softball team and in the winter he would be coach of a midget hockey team that was a talent pool for the Montreal Junior Canadiens. Not yet 20 years old, he officially joined the Canadiens organization in 1945-46 as assistant coach with the Junior Canadiens. Within three years Frank Selke appointed him general manager and head coach of the team Pollock would lead to the Memorial Cup in 1950, a feat Pollock would repeat in 1958 with the Ottawa-Hull Junior Canadiens. Between 1950 and 1964, the hard working Pollock also combined the roles of head scout and director of player personnel overlooking the Canadiens network of minor league affiliates.
Pollock, whose name was engraved on the Stanley Cup in 1960 following the Canadiens fifth straight win, was called upon to take over Frank Selke as the Canadiens general manager in 1964. In his first season at the helm of the Canadiens he wins the first of nine Stanley Cups in a 14-season span. The architect of the Canadiens dynasties of the 60s and 70s, Pollock was known for being an astute judge of talent and an exceptional negotiator. With his eye on a spectacular prospect named Guy Lafleur, Pollock stole the 1971 first overall pick away from the Oakland Seals in return for a few obscure players. He also acquired Cornell University netminder Ken Dryden from the Bruins for a pair of players who would never play an NHL game.
In 1978, after yet another Cup, Sam Pollock bows out of hockey to embark on a new career with Carena Bancorp Holdings, part of the financial empire of Peter and Edward Bronfman. Pollock would return to sports, this time in baseball as Chairman of the Toronto Blue Jays, a position he would hold from 1995 to 2000. He was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1978 and that same year he was made “Grand Montréalais” by the city. Sam Pollock was also invested as an officer of the Order of Canada in 1985 and was made Knight of the Order of Québec in 2002.