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The Path, Philosophy, and Present of John Chayka

The Coyotes' GM spoke of organization goals, his journey, business practices, and the age of information

by Alex Kinkopf @AEKinkopf / Arizona Coyotes

Coyotes President of Hockey Operations & General Manager John Chayka reiterated Friday the main franchise goals he shares with Owner, Chairman & Governor Alex Meruelo and President and CEO Ahron Cohen:

"We have two main goals: win a lot of hockey games and make a positive impact in our community."

"Obviously, we can't take care of [the former] right now," he said. "Hopefully, in the near future we can get back to doing that. But [right now] having a positive impact in our community is a big part of what we're trying to accomplish."

Chayka made the comments during a league-organized video conference of four NHL general managers. The other three were: Julien BriseBois (Tampa Bay Lightning), Kyle Dubas (Toronto Maple Leafs), and Bill Guerin (Minnesota Wild). 

As for community impact, Chayka and Cohen have volunteered at the St. Mary's Food Bank and have donated 20 percent of their salaries to the Arizona Coronavirus Relief Fund.

The conference call was free-wheeling and included some reflection by the GMs on their careers.

"Everyone's got such a unique path and everyone's an individual," Chayka said. "There's just so many ways to go about things." he said, when discussing his road to the GM office.

Prior to the NHL, Chayka skated in the Golden Horseshoe Junior Hockey League, the Maritime Junior Hockey League, the Ontario Junior Hockey League, and the British Columbia Hockey League. A back injury ended his playing career.

Regarding his ice time, the conference moderator put the Maple Leafs' Dubas on the spot for passing over Chayka, the player, in the 2005 OHL Priority Selection. Dubas was a scout for the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds at the time.

"He's the one that got away," Dubas said with a grin. "But he did alright for himself, so it's all good."

Chayka's next chapter included business start-ups and consulting.

"I just had an opportunity early on to work with some quality individuals," he said. "The mentorship piece is critical. I got to rub elbows with a lot of top executives in different sports and really use that experience to create some opportunities for myself to get to where I am today. I'm fortunate and lucky to have all those things come together at the right time."

He likened his off-ice hockey career to a business start-up.

"It's almost been like (that) in a lot of ways," he said. "In terms of our consulting crew, scouting staff, development staff, building up the front office staff and the infrastructure around it."

In terms of his Coyotes experience, he noted the acquisition of the organization's AHL Tucson Roadrunners in 2016.

"[That was] a huge, huge addition and windfall for our organization, but again, you have to start up that entire organization -- the facilities, the people, hiring the staff, hiring the coaches, first-time training camp, selling tickets, all that kind of stuff," he said. "So there was a lot of legwork on that side of things. Some of those tasks -- there were a lot of good days and bad days, but some fun work.

"At the end of the day, some of the hardest days and biggest challenges lead to the most rewarding part of the job," he said. "It's a difficult job, there's no doubt about it. The idea of that we're just on the phone all day calling each other non-stop trying to make trades - maybe some guys do that. It's a portion of the job. It's an important part of the job. But it doesn't take up the bulk of my time, by any stretch."

Video: NHL General Managers on Pause: John Chayka

Transactions, though, are still part of the gig, especially for the fans. Chayka was asked to recount his first one, as a general manager.

"I was ready to go," he said. "My first trade -- I think, I should remember this more -- but I think it was trading for the rights to Alex Goligoski for a fifth-round pick. Either that or we traded a prospect who we figured wouldn't sign with us, [Maxim] Letunov, to San Jose for a couple of picks. Either way, they were both kind of lower-risk moves. We couldn't really lose the trades. It wasn't too nerve-wracking. Every trade is nerve-wracking, if we're being honest, but not too bad."

Chayka, who has been known as a fan of analytics, answered a question about the latter by saying, "We don't make any decisions solely based on numbers, we don't make any decisions solely based on someone's opinion, we try to look at it from all avenues."

Next season, the NHL will add player and puck tracking to its scouting arsenal and its fan involvement.

"The player and puck tracking -- it's just another added tool," he said. "[It's] something that will give us more context to go along with the [personal scouting] information. It's the information age. Everyone's craving information."

Of course, some of the discussion focused on the current situation with COVID-19 and the league hiatus.

Chayka said: "The best part about sports I think is that community aspect, people coming together and socializing. We're social beings, so being isolated is difficult on everyone, it's difficult on coaches, players, and everyone in the greater society, so I think now we've got to rely on each other now more than ever and come together ... we will come out of this bigger, better, and stronger than ever."

As for his personal situation Chayka noted the "silver lining" of being able to enjoy valuable family time with his wife, Kathryn, and their toddler daughter, Capri.

"[Our daughter] is still too young to really comprehend everything going on," he said. But more so for her, quarantine is a fun time. It's been some good family time. I try to take the best out of everything."

Lead Photo Credit: Norm Hall - Arizona Coyotes // Second Photo Credit: Norm Hall - Arizona Coyotes // Footer Photo Credit: @ArizonaCoyotes - Twitter

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