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Tamby's Time

by Jeff Paterson / Vancouver Canucks
In the weeks and months after he played a significant management role in Canada's gold medal glory at the 2002 Salt Lake City Olympics, Steve Tambellini's name immediately surfaced any time an opening came available to be a general manager in the National Hockey League. Those rumblings only got stronger after his role as general manager of the Canadian entry that struck gold at the 2003 World Hockey Championship. And when Tambellini was a key contributor with Hockey Canada and helped select the players that led this country to victory in the 2004 World Cup, once again, it only furthered his already impeccable reputation in the hockey world and ramped up the expectations that one day he'd have an NHL team of his own to run. It took a little longer than perhaps even he believed it would, but the guy known throughout the hockey world as Tamby is finally getting his opportunity.

Surely with mixed emotions, Tambellini has left his long-time position as vice-president and assistant general manager of the Canucks to assume the general manager's duties with the arch-rival Edmonton Oilers. The position became available when Kevin Lowe was promoted to club president and quickly named Tambellini ? with whom he had worked closely with Team Canada -- as his replacement.

"We've had some great experiences working together for Team Canada," he said upon his introduction in Edmonton on Thursday morning. "With those intense pressure-type situations over and over and over, you get to know people pretty well."

The move ends an association over more than two decades between the 50-year-old Trail, B.C. native and the Canucks hockey team he played for (1985-88) and then worked for in various capacities from Media Relations to Business Operations to Player Development before ultimately ascending the management ladder to role of Assistant General Manager ? a position he'd held since June 2004.

"I have worked with some outstanding people (in Vancouver)," he said. "I knew that there was one day that I would have to leave. I promised myself, though, that I wasn't going to leave just to be a general manager in the NHL. I was going to leave to go to the right general manager's position."
One of the good guys who has always managed to go about his daily business with a smile on his face ? which isn't always easy in the high-stakes world of professional hockey -- Tambellini has been responsible for virtually every area of Canucks business in recent years. He had a hand in contract negotiations, oversaw the scouting department and kept close contact with the development of Canuck prospects in both Winnipeg and Victoria. Now he takes those many and varied skills with him to the Alberta capital.

In many ways, it seems fitting that Tambellini is able to continue his career development in Western Canada given the fact he'd worked so long for the Canucks, played for the Calgary Flames and represented Canada at the 1988 Olympics in Calgary and given his strong ties to the Kootenays where he strong family roots, still has family ties and spends parts of each summer.
In 2004, Tambellini was inducted into the BC Hockey Hall of Fame and 2 years later was honoured for his considerable charity work when he was named the Hall's Humanitarian of the Year.

His years of management experience in Vancouver should prepare Tambellini well for the many demands of a hockey market like Edmonton where the Oilers occupy the hearts of sports fans but demand success in the same way Canuck fans do here on the West Coast.

It's a terrific opportunity for Steve Tambellini, his wife Denise and their three children including Jeff who plays for the New York Islanders. It's not every day people fulfil their dreams and it's a significant accomplishment to earn one of the only 30 jobs available for aspiring National Hockey League general managers.

There's no doubt Tambellini is ready for the challenge and will do well in his new position. But after supporting him for so long and having him on their side, Canucks fans now have to hope he doesn't do too well.


Jeff Paterson is a Team 1040 broadcaster and a regular contributor to the Georgia Straight. E-mail him at  

2004 – Year that Team Canada won gold with Tambellini as a member of the management team.

15 – Position that Tambellini was chosen in the 1978 NHL Amateur Draft by the New York Islanders.

2006 – Year that Tambellini was awarded Humanitarian of the Year by the BC Hockey Hall of Fame.

533 – Number of career NHL games for Tambellini with five NHL teams between 1978-79 and 1987-88.

310 – Career points for Tambellini in the NHL (160 goals, 150 assists).

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