Behind the Doors of the NHL General Managers’ Meetings

by Neil Smith

Many people ask me “what goes on at the GM Meetings?”, and “is there plenty of trade talk?”.  The truth about the real drama of the NHL GM Meetings is this.

Most of the meetings are chaired by Colin Campbell and a ton of house keeping issues are brought forth.  There is an agenda which is circulated to all who attend.  Quite often the league will need to get the GMs and their Ass’t GMs up to speed on issues from the CBA, by-laws, rules, media issues, suspensions, NHLPA issues, contract issues, etc.  And of course they’ll be asking for the GM’s input on decisions that have to be made by the league on how certain issues will be handled.

GM’s have the opportunity at some of the longer meetings to put forth items on the agenda which they feel would help some part of the game, whether that be playing rules or business rules etc.  Some of the same GM’s think through the issues and try to bring forth new concepts while many of the GM’s never come up with anything new and are just along to listen and vote.  Probably alot like the Senate or Congress.  Usually the meeting starts around 9 am and breaks for a buffet lunch and then continues on till early afternoon, so that the managers and league personnel can catch a flight back to their home city.  It is at the lunch break that any trade talk is initiated by the GMs.  It may be only fact finding or planting seeds by teams.  The deeper discussion will happen on the phone over the next couple of days if the seeds that are planted are germinated.

Many times, however, you leave a GM meeting not being able to describe what went on of any substance at the meeting because either you literally can’t recall anything dramatic, or something dramatic was talked about but you can’t talk about it.  As you are all aware of, when general house keeping is the mainstay of a meeting it all glosses over after a while.

General Manager’s Meetings are good for a number of reasons.  They bring the managers together all at one place at one time to foster face to face dialogue and conversation on how to improve the league and the game.  They bring the NHL league personnel face to face with the GMs and foster better interpersonal relationships.  And lastly, they are exciting for the teams and the fans who hope that perhaps this meeting will lead to their team getting a chance to improve and take a step towards their ultimate goal of winning the Stanley Cup.

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