When George called me in July, I had never talked to him, I had never met him before. -McCrimmon
Both on their way to the Ivan Hlinka prospects tournament in Slovakia, the two met for the first time and eventually formed a partnership that would take the NHL by storm.
It’s the best working relationship I’ve had in this business. -George McPhee
On that day McPhee began the process of courting then owner, general manager, and head coach of the WHL’s Brandon Wheat Kings, Kelly McCrimmon, to become his “assistant.”
I told Kelly when I was trying to hire him that he was going to be involved in every single thing we do here. -McPhee
McCrimmon took the job, officially titled “Assistant General Manager” and the two immediately got to work.
However, it was never really a situation with a first and second in command. Instead, McPhee quickly turned over half of his responsibilities, making the relationship much more of an equal partnership. It literally happened days after McCrimmon took the job.
I divvied up the teams, I said you take these 15 NHL teams, I’ll take these 15 NHL teams. You deal with them all year, I’ll deal with these and we shared everything, basically co-managed for three years and that will continue. -McPhee
Quite frankly, since the moment he started, Kelly was the general manager of the Golden Knights in relation to those 15 teams, but in reality, it was much more than just half the league.
The thing that’s special about our organization and our relationship is just the collaboration. -McCrimmon
That has continued ever since.
Literally however insignificant a move we’ve made, it has never ever been someone overruling the other. -McCrimmon
We haven’t disagreed on anything. For two guys who didn’t know each other, to get together and see things the way we see them, it’s just been a real treat to work together and I think we’ve been good and we’re going to keep doing it the same way. -McPhee
That’s why, when McCrimmon’s name started popping up as a prime candidate for open GM positions in Edmonton and Seattle, McPhee knew he couldn’t let his “co-manager” leave. So, he had to come up with a solution.
There’s no doubt in my mind that if interviewed Kelly would have been a manager someplace else. So why not do it here? He deserves this and he’s ready for it. I think we made a really good decision three years ago to hire Kelly McCrimmon and I think we made another good decision to promote him to general manager today. -McPhee
The only thing missing was the official title, one the Golden Knights bestowed on him, plus a nice new contract, today.
It was important to me, if we could figure how to do it, to make sure this group is together. This was George’s idea to evolve our team and our group in the way that it’s evolved. -The Creator
I’ve thought about this change for the last three or four weeks, how we could keep things together here. I spoke to Kelly for the first time about it on Friday. I met with Bill early Saturday morning.
What was important for me was that there were no disruptions to our staff. We worked so hard three years ago for an entire year to put this great staff together. Now, we are only two years old and we’ve got organizations that are 25, 50, 75, 100 years old that are coming and wanting to talk to our employees. We’d rather keep the band together. -McPhee
The decision wasn’t terribly difficult on McCrimmon either. When presented with the options of creating a new organization in which he had complete control, or stay with the one he’s currently with, he thought about what his new team might look like, and quickly realized, why re-invent the wheel?
If I went into a new opportunity and I did my job well, I would try and do exactly what we are doing here. I wouldn’t want it any other way. -McCrimmon
So, the only question that remains, and one you probably already know the answer to, what do the Golden Knights look like with Kelly McCrimmon as the General Manager and George McPhee as the President of Hockey Operations?
In this organization, I believe in a real collaborative or participative management style. So we are all in a room, everyone in that room is comfortable contributing and they are listened to and they are valued. This works for us, it has worked for us, it will continue to work for us, it works for the organization, it’s going to work for our families, so we are all good. -McPhee
Day to day? We are going to have three days of meetings this week with the pro (scouting staff) and five days next week with the amateur (scouting staff) and I suspect those meetings will look pretty close to what those looked like prior. So it’s going to be much like it’s been. -McCrimmon
So in the end, not much will change except for the words after each guy’s name on their business cards, and probably a couple of extra bucks in the pocket of McCrimmon. The Golden Knights are still the Golden Knights and the plan of creating a dynasty will just keep on plugging.
We’re here and we’re going to be here for a while. -McPhee
For the Golden Knights, it doesn’t get much better than that.