Chuck Fletcher has been building to this hire since he was 22 years old, when he was known as Cliff Fletcher's son instead of an up-and-coming executive in the National Hockey League.
"This has been my dream since I realized I was a really bad hockey player at about the age of 8. This was my way to the NHL. I said to somebody (Thursday), 'I don't know how far I'll hit the ball, but I guarantee the bat won't stay on my shoulder.' I'll take a good swing. I feel I'm ready for it. I think we can do great things here." -- Chuck Fletcher
Fletcher was introduced Friday as the new general manager of the Minnesota Wild
by owner Craig Leipold. The Wild had been led by Doug Risebrough from their inception until April 16, when Leipold relieved the longtime GM of his duties.
Fletcher, who grew up watching his father run the Calgary Flames
and Toronto Maple Leafs
, is leaving his position the Pittsburgh Penguins
' assistant GM for his new job. He had been with the Penguins since 2006.
"This has been my dream since I realized I was a really bad hockey player at about the age of 8," Fletcher said. "This was my way to the NHL. I said to somebody (Thursday), 'I don't know how far I'll hit the ball, but I guarantee the bat won't stay on my shoulder.' I'll take a good swing. I feel I'm ready for it. I think we can do great things here."
The 42-year-old Fletcher comes from the new school of NHL executives. He's savvy, business-smart, well-versed in the collective bargaining agreement and handling the salary cap, and known for his strong people skills.
"Chuck has the qualities I was looking for in a general manager," Leipold said. "Chuck is organized, well-spoken, has a strong scouting background, has worked toward the development of young prospects and has negotiated many NHL contracts. Along with his past experience, Chuck has excellent leadership qualities and management skills that will certainly help him move quickly into this position."
Fletcher got his start as a player representative -- just as his former boss in Pittsburgh, Ray Shero
, did. So did Boston's Peter Chiarelli and two former NHL players, Vancouver's Mike Gillis and Tampa Bay's Brian Lawton
. They all followed Toronto's Brian Burke
and Los Angeles' Dean Lombardi, who were the first two former player agents turned GMs.
Ironically, Fletcher also worked as Burke's assistant in Anaheim during the 2005-06 season before joining Shero in Pittsburgh. While an undergrad at Harvard in 1989, he interned for the Vancouver Canucks
when Burke was the team's assistant GM.
"I think he's done every job that you need to do to prepare to be a GM so he's got the tool box," Burke, now the GM of the Toronto Maple Leafs
, told NHL.com. "A lot of guys have only done one part of it and they learn on the job and he's really got the tool box filled.
"You can get guys to handle the cap for you," Burke added. "It's the talent evaluation, running a farm team, handling amateur scouting experience and pro scouting. He's done all of that."
Fletcher graduated from Harvard in 1990 and spent one year as the Sales and Merchandising Coordinator for Hockey Canada before serving two years as a player representative for Newport Sports Management. He jumped right into the front office business in 1993 with the expansion Florida Panthers
after being hired by Bob Clarke and helped select a lot of the players who led the Panthers to the Stanley Cup Final in 1996.
Fletcher spent seven seasons in Florida as the assistant GM to Bryan Murray before taking over as interim GM on Dec. 3, 2001. He served in that position until the end of the regular season, when he moved across the continent to work in Anaheim's front office.
After his one season with Burke, in which he helped put a lot of the core players in place to lead the Ducks to the Stanley Cup title in 2007, he joined Shero's staff in 2006.
Under Fletcher's guidance, the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins reached the American Hockey League's Calder Cup Finals last season. The Pittsburgh Penguins
also went to the Stanley Cup Final.
"The best managers will tell you that they don't know everything," Fletcher said. "They might not even know a lot sometimes. They hire good people, delegate and listen. They involve the group in decisions and are willing to admit mistakes. It's humility. It's working within a team. It's delegating."
Contact Dan Rosen at email@example.com