Tampa GM Jay Feaster had a chance to celebrate with the Cup after his team claimed the 2004 championship. (Photo by Brian Bahr/Getty Images)
In Part 1 of a two-part series, Tampa Bay GM Jay Feaster discusses his role models as an executive in the NHL, and how he developed into the GM he is today…
Without a doubt, the person most responsible for my growth in this business is current Avalanche president Pierre Lacroix. I first worked with Pierre in 1997 when I was in Hershey and we switched our affiliation from the Flyers to the Avalanche. He was really instrumental in not only getting me the opportunity with Jacques Demers to make the move to the NHL, but just in terms of actually being willing to solicit my input for things on the hockey side. Being willing to listen to my opinions and observations. I also had the opportunity to work with both Francois Giguere and Michel Goulet at that time.
Philadelphia respected my opinions on the business side, but I didn’t have a hockey background so my hockey opinions weren’t necessarily sought out. Pierre was really the first one who took an interest in what I thought from a hockey standpoint. And then the other guy, along with Pierre, was Bob Hartley.
When Bob became coach in Colorado in 1998, he’s the one who went to Pierre and said, ‘You know, Jay wouldn’t mind moving on to the National Hockey League, if there’s ever an opportunity.’ And that was the first time Pierre became aware that I wouldn’t mind leaving Hershey.
When Jacques Demers was named coach and GM here in Tampa, he talked to a number of guys about coming in as his assistant. When he wasn’t getting anywhere, he phoned Pierre Lacroix and said ‘If you lost Francois Giguere (Colorado’s assistant GM at the time) what would you do? How would you replace him?’ Pierre said, ‘I would go to Hershey, I would hire Jay Feaster. I wouldn’t talk to anyone else and that’s the only name I’ll give you.’
So it was basically Pierre who got me the interview with Jacques. Pierre phoned me before Jacques and said, ‘You’re going to get a call from Jacques Demers. Go in and show him that you know what you’re doing. You’re the front-runner here. Make an impression in the interview.’
There’s no question Bob Hartley helped pave the way for me. Bob and I had a great relationship from Day 1. Bob is godfather to one of my sons, Ryan. And when my daughter, Elizabeth, who now is 11-years-old, was born in Harrisburg, Penn., other than my parents who lived in central Pennsylvania, Bob was the first to see her.
I know he was instrumental in talking to Pierre about the fact I was more than just the business guy in Hershey. Pierre would come, pretty consistently, to games in Hershey and we would sit together in the press box. During our march to the Calder Cup in 1997, Pierre was there throughout the playoffs and we were together quite a bit.
So it was a situation where Colorado made me feel welcome from the beginning. Even back when we did the deal in 1996 (the 1996-97 season was our first year with them, so it was the 1995-96 season that we negotiated the affiliation agreement), I had gone out to Denver for a playoff game and had to fly from Denver to Detroit, and then from Detroit to Tampa.
The Colorado guys were chartering to Detroit for a game and Pierre said ‘Come on the charter with us, then you can get your flight in Detroit.’
That organization made me feel welcome, and made me feel like a part of it from the very first day.
In Part 2 next week, Feaster will discuss other influences and learning the NHL ropes as an assistant.
Jay Feaster has been with the Tampa Bay Lightning since 1998 and became the team’s GM in 2002. He will blog on THN.com throughout the 2007-08 season. Read his other entries HERE.