A year ago at this time, the Chicago Blackhawks arrived in Toronto for the NHL Scouting Combine with a pair of highly-regarded talent scouts who were major parts of the Blackhawks' championship hopes.
When their scouting staff arrived at the Combine this year, those two front-office assets -- Kevin Cheveldayoff and Marc Bergevin -- were working for the opposition.
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Not long after the 2011 Scouting Combine ended, Cheveldayoff was hired as the general manager of the Winnipeg Jets. And just this past month, Bergevin -- who succeeded Cheveldayoff as the top lieutenant to Blackhawks GM -- was hired as GM of the Montreal Canadiens.
"It's a great situation in Chicago there, where it's a very open management group," Cheveldayoff told NHL.com. "Lots of communication. The president there, John McDonough, is a guy that has a tremendous amount of experience and leads the organization, encourages lots of open dialogue, lots of conversations throughout all facets of the organization. It helps an executive grow."
It certainly helped Cheveldayoff and Bergevin grow -- and in fairly short order -- despite taking different paths to reach their current jobs.
Cheveldayoff spent 12 years as GM of the Chicago Wolves of the American Hockey League before joining the Blackhawks' staff in 2009. Bergevin finished his 20-season NHL career in 2004, and held a variety of jobs with the Hawks when he started there in 2005, from serving as an assistant coach to scouting.
They had their greatest moment together in 2010, as each had big roles in the Hawks winning the Stanley Cup.
"Chevy [Cheveldayoff] is a team guy, we worked well as a team," Bergevin told NHL.com. "We ended up winning a Cup, and it's not an easy thing to do, but the timing was perfect."
"He's a great guy," Cheveldayoff said of Bergevin. "He's a fun guy to work with. He worked extremely hard at the different jobs that he has done throughout his post-playing career. … Knowing him for a long time, he's just obviously a great guy."
That's a common theme when Bergevin's name comes up. Florida Panthers GM Dale Tallon, who hired Bergevin when he held the same post in Chicago, said it didn't take him long to realize he had a rising young executive on his hands.
"To me it was evident right away that he had the willingness and he had the passion and he had the knowledge," Tallon told NHL.com. "And he had the connections. And he had the people skills and the communication skills. It was evident to me when I hired him he had a bright future in the business. Whether he was going to be a general manager this quickly you never know. He had the qualifications and he just got better as we went on.
"I love everything about [Bergevin]. He's honest, hard-working, he's passionate, he's a great communicator. He's a lot of fun to be around, upbeat and positive, and he's very good at what he does. He has a very good eye."
Working in the same town, Tallon said he also knew how smart Cheveldayoff was and would have loved to have added him to his Blackhawks staff, but at the time there just was no room.
"I would have hired him in a New York minute," Tallon said. "They [Winnipeg] did a really good job in hiring him. We had Duds [Rick Dudley] and Bergy [Bergevin] and we had Mark Kelley [director of amateur scouting]. We had a good staff there. My dealings with Kevin and running into him a lot, I have nothing but respect for him."
"It's a great situation in Chicago there, where it's a very open management group. Lots of communication. The president there, John McDonough, is a guy that has a tremendous amount of experience and leads the organization, encourages lots of open dialogue, lots of conversations throughout all facets of the organization. It helps an executive grow."
-- Kevin Cheveldayoff
Cheveldayoff said he was happy with the Blackhawks, but wasn't about to pass up what the Jets were offering him.
"When opportunity greets you, you certainly embrace it," he said. "You never know when that's going to happen."
Bergevin said running his own team always was a goal, and like Cheveldayoff he was willing to be patient. But when the opportunity with the Canadiens came up, he wasn't going to pass on it.
"You always have goals in life," he said. "The process would take time and I wasn't rushing. Eventually you want to keep climbing. It happened and it's my hometown, so it's even better."
When Bergevin was going through the interview process, he didn't hesitate to talk to Cheveldayoff to get his advice on things.
"I talked to him on the phone a few times," Bergevin said. "Through the process I did talk to Chevy [and he] said be yourself. A lot of people, like Joel Quenneville, told me the same thing, 'Bergy don't change who you are. It got you this far, just be yourself.' Obviously it worked."
"We had a couple different conversations," Cheveldayoff said. "It was very clear that he felt the best way for him to approach things, and I agreed with him, was to be himself. Ultimately when the pressures of the job do start weighing on you, it's who you are and what you are that you have to draw from. Overly preparing for the job or overly preparing for the interview wasn't necessarily what was the best thing. It's really just kind of being open and honest -- those are the easiest things to talk about when it comes to talking about your beliefs."
Now, rather than sit in the same room for Chicago's organizational meetings, they sit in the same room for GM meetings, like last week's meeting in New York.
"We sat directly across from each other," Cheveldayoff said. "It was interesting catching a couple of glances. It's great to see people that you have relationships in the industry with getting ahead. To see the kind of opportunity that's there for him, it's very exciting. He's worked hard for it and he's earned it."
Tallon said it's also fun for him to go to those meetings and see a few faces with which he is familiar.
"I really respect [Bergevin] and I really like him a lot, like a brother. He's going to do a great job," Tallon said. "And I knew that [Cheveldayoff] would be a strong candidate for a general manger. He's going to do a great job as well."
Contact Adam Kimelman at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter: @NHLAdamK