For the Dallas Stars, that was a big reason that Bob Gainey was recently added to the management team as Senior Advisor to the Hockey Department, a role in which he will utilize his vast cache of experience at all levels of the NHL to primarily assist Stars General Manager Joe Nieuwendyk, as well as club President Jim Lites and Owner Tom Gaglardi.
WATCH: Bob Gainey Re-joins the Stars
Gainey returns to the franchise he constructed into an NHL success story as the squad’s original General Manager when it moved from Minnesota back in 1993. He built the Stars into a Stanley Cup champion by 1999, and after resigning as Dallas GM in 2002 and following a year in a consulting role, Gainey moved on to Montreal, where he served as that club’s GM from 2003-10.
After another two seasons in an advisory position with the Canadiens, Gainey’s services became available and both sides jumped at the opportunity to bring him on board in Dallas.
“It comes at a particularly good time in my career,” said Gainey, who helped Montreal win five Stanley Cups as a player during a Hall of Fame playing career from 1973-89. “I’ve had many experiences over a long period of time in pro hockey, in the NHL, and my goal would be to be able to use some of those experiences, some of those valuable lessons learned, to assist Tom Gaglardi in his ownership position, to assist Jim Lites in his position as President and CEO and to assist Joe Nieuwendyk in his operation of the hockey department, in any way possible.”
His vast base of knowledge and wisdom, accumulated over the last 39 years as a player, coach, GM and advisor, will be a valuable resource as the Stars attempt to regain their previous place of prominence in the Metroplex sports scene after missing the playoffs four years in a row.
PHOTO GALLERY: A look back at Bob Gainey's career
“I would say it’s a good time for me, because I have followed the trail of the changes in the progress of the NHL from an administrative point of view over the last 20 years,” said Gainey, who was originally hired by the Minnesota North Stars as their head coach in 1990, before adding the GM title in 1992 and stepping down as coach in 1996 when he hired Ken Hitchcock. “We’ve had a number of different (Collective Bargaining Agreements), there’s been expansion, there’s been big changes a few years ago in how the game is played on the ice with rule changes, and I’ve been able to live and adapt through all of those and take certain parts out of each of them that can apply today. I think my background in most of the different positions - it’s only a couple of years ago that I was behind the bench for a short period of time in Montreal - so I have that on-the-ground, in-the-locker-room experience not too far in the past, administration capabilities, and my memory is a lot more fuzzy from when I was playing on the ice, but some of it flashes back to me occasionally, and I can use that.”
Gainey will concentrate on consulting Nieuwendyk on personnel decisions, while also helping the Stars with player development by spending some time with their AHL affiliate, the Texas Stars, based in the Austin suburb of Cedar Park. He’ll also advise Lites and Gaglardi on matters within the community, such as the continued growth of youth hockey in the area and the charitable work of the Dallas Stars Foundation.
But there’s no question it is Nieuwendyk, who just completed his third season as Stars’ GM, that stands to benefit the most from having his former boss around to consult on a regular basis.
“I have a tremendous amount of respect for Bob Gainey,” said Nieuwendyk, who was acquired by Gainey in a trade with Calgary in Dec. 1995 before claiming the Conn Smythe Trophy as playoff MVP as the Stars won the 1999 Stanley Cup. “He’s a man that has dedicated his life to the game of hockey, not only as a player and as a coach, but also as a General Manager and as a builder of the game. So when the opportunity came about that we could bring Bob on board, we looked at that as a huge positive step. Using Bob as a resource, there’s so much history, so much experience, wisdom, and insight that I will be able to benefit a lot from a lot of those things. From my perspective, it’s a tremendous opportunity (and) I really look forward to the opportunity to communicate with Bob on a number of levels with team-related issues. I’m excited about it.”
President and CEO Jim Lites is also thrilled to have Gainey back in the fold, and while he acknowledges one cannot recreate the past by hiring back all his old pals, the chance to land Gainey was ‘a no-brainer.’
“It’s easy to go to people that you know, so I’ve tried my best to balance my personal bias on making personnel decisions inside our business, and try not to be overcome with the desire to do everything all over again like you did in the past,” noted Lites, who in his first stint as President, partnered with Gainey as the franchise came to Dallas in 1993. “When I first became aware that Bob might be willing to at least talk to us about a possible role in the future, for me, because it was Bob Gainey, it was a completely different issue than it would be with almost anyone else. I told Tom and Joe when we first discussed the issue, ‘Bob Gainey’s a winner.’ There are lots of people with stature, but Bob Gainey’s a Dallas Star and I believe that without Bob’s influence on this franchise, we wouldn’t have captured the Stanley Cup in 1999 and built the base of this franchise that made it one of the best franchises over a 20-year period.
“And I will say this - for all the people that I’ve known in my now-almost-30 years in the business, no one’s influenced me in a more positive way than Bob Gainey has and I’m thrilled that he’s here. I think it’s great for all of us.”
To get a better perspective on just how extensive Gainey’s scope of experience extends, consider the fact that current Dallas coach Glen Gulutzan idolized Gainey the player while growing up in Saskatchewan.
“I haven’t told him this yet, but I had number 23 on my Montreal Canadiens jersey when I was a kid, because I was a big Habs fan,” revealed Gulutzan, 40, who just concluded his first year as Stars coach. “I’m tremendously excited. Just to have a guy with that much experience, at all levels and facets of the game, if there’s some gem you could pick up, I’m sure it’s from a guy of his stature. So for me, as a young guy, it’s invaluable to have a guy like that around, so you got to make sure you take advantage of it. What a wonderful opportunity for our coaching staff.”
Bringing Gainey back to Dallas represents a new beginning for the Stars, while also serving as a bridge to the organization’s illustrious past.
“I think his experience in this marketplace is really important, because Bob is the architect of how we built this franchise, both on the ice and off the ice,” Lites said.
“The first turn I had here was a great experience for me,” Gainey declared. “And I look forward to having this one be just as rewarding and just as successful as we were during those first 10 years.”