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Moneyball Meets Hockey In Key Vegas Hire

Tom "General Fanager" Poraszka transformed himself from an internet sensation into an NHL executive

by Dan Marrazza @GoldenKnights / VegasGoldenKnights.com

It's something that every hockey fan with an opinion that's every sidled up to a keyboard has probably asked themselves.

Does anybody really notice what I type? Does anybody care what I have to say?

If so, who?

For every blogger who's ever thought they can outperform a mainstream media member, and every armchair general manager who thinks they'd make better moves than actual GMs, Golden Knights hockey operations analyst Tom Poraszka is a hero.

Two years ago, Poraszka was little more than a 27-year-old marketing executive with a side hobby of combing through hockey statistics.

In fewer than 24 months, Poraszka transformed the personal website - GeneralFanager.com - that he launched out of his tiny Toronto apartment into such an indispensable part of the hockey community that it earned him employment with a big-league squad.

In his role with the Golden Knights, Poraszka utilizes the same skills he used to make his website a household name to provide the team insight when evaluating players.

Poraszka's primary areas of expertise are in the sectors of salary cap number-crunching, and using advanced analytics to identify aspects of player performance that wouldn't otherwise be noticeable to the naked human eye.

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"I was aware of Tom's work well before I came to Vegas," Golden Knights director of hockey operations Misha Donskov said. "I was with Hockey Canada prior to coming to Vegas. Prior to that, I was coaching in the Ontario Hockey League.

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"I think once Tom launched his site (in early 2015) and it started to gain traction, not only did his site become a valuable asset to hockey fans, but it became a valuable asset to hockey professionals working in the industry. This goes back to when he originally launched the site and it started to gain traction. Almost a couple of days, a week later, people noticed."

What allowed Poraszka's website to quickly gain steam was the demise of a similar predecessor, Capgeek, which was taken offline after its founder, Matthew Wuest, tragically passed away after a long fight with cancer.

Wuest, similar to Poraszka, built and self-managed his website from scratch. Capgeek received a lion's share of its attention by establishing itself in the early half of this decade, shortly after advanced analytics in sports became stylish after the movie Moneyball was released in 2011.

What made Wuest, and later Poraszka, popular was that they were some of the only qualified hockey analytics voices in the public space. Especially after many of his would-be rivals were hired by NHL teams and taken offline, Poraszka was increasingly able to establish himself in the eyes of both fans and league executives.

 

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"To be honest, I didn't expect a whole lot of attention or traffic," Poraszka said.

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"The day I launched the site, I took the day off from my full-time job to make sure it went smoothly to launch the site. I think I got about 12 Twitter followers that day, and I was pretty excited about that. I figured that would probably be the extent to which the site found success.

"But then the second day, when I returned to work, I was in a meeting. I got back to my desk and my phone had died. I checked my email and had 9,000 new notifications from Twitter, because I had that many new followers.

"That moment of kind of seeing that was kind of a pause of what I had just done, and what was going to change in my life from there.

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"Within the first week of my site being out, there were a number of player agents, as well as team personnel that reached out and said they were really happy I had taken on the work that Matthew (Wuest) had previously taken on. And if I ever needed any help with anything, that they were willing to help. That was kind of the start.

 

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"I then kind of proceeded to cold call pretty much anybody and everybody in the industry to try to form those relationships. From there it kind of became kind of easy to come up with information that I shouldn't have had access to.

"People were willing to share because they appreciated the site, and wanted the information on the site to be as accurate as possible. What I kind of found was that the people in hockey are incredibly kind, helpful and willing to spare their own time to kind of help you out.

"That was kind of one of my early learning experiences of what the industry is like. It's kind of been the same case with everyone I've met and gotten to know."

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Perhaps the most remarkable part of Poraszka launching GeneralFanager.com at age 27 and within two years earning himself a job with an NHL team was that he barely earned a cent in the process

As the site gained momentum and increasing national attention, he was able to monetize portions of the site to earn a small income.

 

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But for the most part, he continued to work in his full-time marketing job by day, putting in 40, 60, even 80 extra hours of work a week on General Fanager out of a small bedroom he convinced his wife to allow him to turn into an office.

With little in the way of inherent big-league connections, that this 20-something was so quickly able to garner national attention and earn a job with an NHL team with almost no resources is a testament to the strength of his vision, and his ability to realize this vision.

Donskov said identifying individuals with this sort creativity and innovative spirit is a key part of how the Golden Knights will seek to gain a competitive advantage on the competition.

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"It's all a testament to Tom," Donskov said. "It's a testament to his level of intellect, and his vision for what he created. And ultimately, this became a resource not only to hockey fans, but to people inside hockey operations departments across the National Hockey League that found his information valuable. Again, that's a testament to what he built, that's a testament to his intellect.

"He's exceptionally bright. And he's a tireless worker. We're really fortunate to have him as part of our group. He's been a tremendous asset, and addition to our hockey operations staff."

Of course, the $1 million question is how Poraszka became such a hockey analytics whiz.

Although to be fair, even Poraszka, doesn't have much of an answer for this one.

This has always been who he is. It just required the internet, timing and the attention of the Golden Knights to turn him into an NHL executive.

"You're telling me these things in 2017 and I still don't entirely believe them," Poraszka said. "In 2011, I wouldn't have believed you whatsoever.

"For the most part, a lot of this is all still hard to believe."

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