The President and General Manager at that time was Frank Mathers, who eventually retired after years of holding his position. The door had opened for Feaster to step in as the new General Manager, and after a season of guidance under Mathers he found himself holding the reins of the team. The experience with the Bears had a variety of twists and turns that helped Feaster learn how to not only manage a team, but to appreciate how a larger organization such as the Lightning works.
When Feaster began with Hershey the roster was filled by the Philadelphia Flyers, the Bears' NHL affiliate. This left Feaster with general operating duties that many people may not expect a general manager in hockey to be responsible for.
"Because of my legal background I was the one drafting the affiliation agreements," Feaster said. "I was able to handle the CBA issues with the PHPA (Professional Hockey Players Association), which is the AHL minor league union, and everything from contracting for medical services with the Hershey Medical Center to contracting with the radio station to broadcast our games. Approving season ticket cover books to selecting which picture we were going to use on the books [and] the programs, all those things."
"Setting ticket prices, putting together the creative that was going to support it, working with the person we had hired to do our advertising - we had hired an outside agency - I mean, you're doing all those things... you're literally involved in every aspect of the business."
Being involved in all of those aspects was one of the many things that helped prepare Feaster for his management position at the NHL level. But what really made the difference was when the Flyers and General Manager Russ Farwell decided they no longer wanted to supply Hershey with all of their players.
In preparation for the 1993-94 season, Feaster not only had to take on his usual management duties, but he had to start scouting and signing players to fill out his roster. With the help of those he worked with, he learned how to build a team.
"I would sit there in that press box watching games with Frank Mathers, with Doug Yingst, who was my assistant GM and is now the GM of the team, and also with Bill Barber, who was the pro scout at the time for the Flyers," Feaster said. "I learned the game sort of through Bill's eyes as far as what the pro scouts were looking at and how they saw a player different than maybe we did at the minor league level."
As time rolled on and the team progressed, Feaster's Bears would eventually go on to win the Calder Cup Championship and Feaster would be named the AHL's Executive of the Year in 1997. By then Hershey had changed affiliates and was working with the Colorado Avalanche and a new coach had been brought in.
"Certainly the most exciting thing was when Bob Hartley came in there as our head coach," Feaster said. "We did the affiliation agreement with Colorado in '96-97 and Bob came in and it was just unbelievable... we trailed in two of the four series that year, we faced elimination... So you know, winning two Game Sevens, surviving elimination four times and then ultimately winning it, that was the ultimate thrill. It never gets old."
Years later when Feaster would go through the Stanley Cup Playoffs as the General Manager of the Lightning, he would find himself in an oddly familiar situation. With his team coming back to win the Finals and holding off opponents on the way to the Stanley Cup, the preparation of having been through a similar situation is something he couldn't have foreseen. It is just that unexpected background that has helped Feaster mold his character into that of the general manager that he is today.
Having done a lot of the operational work himself, Feaster appreciates what goes on within the framework of the organization. He not only uses his legal training to his advantage to understand the inner workings of things such as the CBA, but also to think through situations by applying the thought processes that come with practicing law. Most importantly, Feaster turned his passion for the sport into a full-time job that he has been remarkably successful in.
So while Feaster may not have a traditional hockey background, his regularly playoff-bound teams and two championship rings seem to prove that his unconventional road to the NHL has served him quite well.BACK