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Much-respected Pollock built Canadiens dynasties as general manager

The Canadian Press
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The Hockey News
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Much-respected Pollock built Canadiens dynasties as general manager

The Canadian Press
By:

A moment of silence was held before the Toronto Blue Jays game at Rogers Centre on Wednesday in honour of Pollock, who served as an executive with the baseball club after leaving the Canadiens.

Pollock was the standard against whom other National Hockey League general managers have come to be measured.

The architect of the Canadiens dynasties was considered the shrewdest evaluator and dealer of talent of his era, pulling off brilliant moves to land greats like Guy Lafleur and Ken Dryden and build a team that was the class of the league.

The Montreal native, born on Christmas Day, 1925, won nine Stanley Cups during his tenure as general manager from 1964-65 to 1978.

"He always had the players ready and the coaching staff, too," said Rejean Houle, one of his former players. "That way he helped us be a better team.

"I had a lot of respect for Mr. Pollock."

That he sent two undistinguished prospects to the Boston Bruins for the rights to Dryden, then a relatively unknown goaltender at Cornell University who would grow into a Hall of Famer, was one of his oft-recalled moves.

But it was the landing of Lafleur that cemented his reputation.

Among the first to recognize that the entry draft, inaugurated in 1963, was the key to team building, he found fellow general managers from the six clubs that joined the NHL in the six-team expansion of 1967 willing to take aging but well-known players in exchange for their draft picks.

In May, 1970, he sent Ernie Hicke and a first-round choice to Oakland for the obscure Francois Lacombe and the now defunct Seals' first-rounder, all the while with his eye on the gifted Lafleur, then tearing up junior hockey with the Quebec Remparts.

The following season, when it appeared that Los Angeles may finish last and claim the top pick, Pollock sent veteran Ralph Backstrom to the Kings to boost them ahead of Oakland and allow Montreal to claim Lafleur first overall in the 1971 draft.

Lafleur went on to become the best player of his era, whose No.10 is now retired by the Canadiens.

Amassing draft picks also allowed him to claim future stars like Larry Robinson, Steve Shutt and current Montreal GM Bob Gainey to build the team that won four consecutive Stanley Cups.

He left the team after the 1978 when Peter and Edward Bronfman, who purchased the club in 1971, sold it back to the Molson family.

Pollock coached teenagers in the 1940s and managed a softball team that included some Canadiens players. He was hired as a scout by the club in 1947 and within three years was named director of player personnel.

It was after helping the Omaha Knights win the Central Hockey League title that he was named GM of the Canadiens.

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Much-respected Pollock built Canadiens dynasties as general manager