Deb Placey provides a unique look at the people who own, build, cover and manage our favorite teams by engaging in candid interviews with National Hockey League executives, including general managers, owners and notable brass from League partners. How they got into the game, why they pursued their career, how they see the future of the sport evolving and much more.
Ken Holland, Edmonton Oilers General Manager
Deb Placey is joined by Ken Holland, the General Manager of the Edmonton Oilers. Ken starts the conversation talking about why at the age of 64 he wanted to take the GM job in Edmonton (3:00) and what it’s like working with the Oiler’s ownership group (7:00). He discusses how he got his start in hockey management as a scout (12:00) and how hard it was to stop playing and start working as a scout (16:00). He reminisces about his time working at a liquor store during the summer, and how he almost became a vacuum salesman (20:00). Ken explains why Edmonton is poised to be perennial playoff contender, and why he credits Dave Tippett for the quick turnaround in 2019-20. He discusses Connor McDavid’s dedication to winning and how surprised he was at how good of a player Leon Draisaitl is (27:00). He looks back at his time in Detroit and tries to explain how drastically different the NHL is now and why certain players are willing to take less money than others (41:35). Ken talks about making deals with Steve Yzerman, how close the Red Wings were to trading Yzerman, Mike Babcock’s coaching future, what he likes to do when he has time to relax and why organizing golf trips and getting out on the golf course brings him back to his hockey paying days (49:50).
Jim Benning, Vancouver Canucks General Manager
Deb Placey is joined by Jim Benning, the General Manager of the Vancouver Canucks. Jim starts by talking about the state of the NHL, and the constant evolution he’s seen within the game since his playing days (1:00). He talks about the unique perspective he has when watching some of the League’s best offensive defensemen, such as Quinn Hughes and Cale Makar (4:15) and what he learned from his mentor Pat Quinn (6:00). Jim discusses the influence his father, a legendary scout for the Canadiens, had on him and the sort of players his father liked as a scout (10:12). Jim talks about the challenges he faced when he first started in Vancouver, how the Club is on its way to completing the rebuild, what his staff saw in Elias Pettersson and why Travis Green has been a successful coach (26:00). He explains why he traded for JT Miller and his philosophy when drafting and developing goalies (30:00). He shares some personal nuggets about himself in Deb’s “Executive Summary” (36:00).
Jarmo Kekalainen, Columbus Blue Jackets General Manager
Deb Placey is joined by Jarmo Kekalainen, the General Manager of the Columbus Blue Jackets. Jarmo kicks off the conversation talking about his favorite hobby and one of his favorite professional athletes to watch perform (3:00). He talks about all the injuries the Jackets have dealt with during the 2019-20 season, how gaining experience has helped him enjoy his time in the GM role, and the biggest challenges he faces regularly while running the Club (5:00). Jarmo reminisces about growing up in Finland, discusses the principles he tries to live by, and reacts to some of the perceptions that NHL player agents have had about him (7:30). He explains how he got his start in hockey as an agent, how his relationship with John Davidson has evolved over time, how he got the GM job in Columbus, and what it meant to become the first ever European GM in the NHL (14:00). He shares what it’s like to work with John Tortorella, and explains why he thinks Torts is a perfect fit for him and the players (21:00). He also tells us the one thing he NEVER does with Tortorella (22:30). Jarmo finishes the conversation talking about his two young goaltenders and their promising futures, the 2018-19 playoff run, and shares some personal nuggets about himself in Deb’s “Executive Summary” (30:00).
Chuck Fletcher, Philadelphia Flyers General Manager
Deb Placey is joined by Chuck Fletcher, the General Manager of the Philadelphia Flyers. The conversation starts with Chuck reminiscing about his Harvard days, and how he learned to love hockey while growing up in Atlanta (3:00). He talks about how his father Cliff exposed him to the life of an NHL general manager at a young age, describes how his longtime relationship with David Poile began, and shares a story about the one time he made a trade with his father (9:00). Chuck explains what it was like to work on the Florida Panthers staff as the NHL expanded in 1993 and the challenges surrounding the South Florida market at the time (15:00). He shares why he thinks Alain Vigneault is the best fit for Philadelphia, and offers quick hitter thoughts on a lot players currently on the Flyers roster, including Carter Hart, Travis Konecny and Kevin Hayes (22:00).
Pat Kelleher, Executive Director, USA Hockey
Deb Placey is joined by Pat Kelleher, Executive Director of USA Hockey. He offers a unique perspective on being a "hockey parent", explains why hockey has grown in the USA and the role that the NHL has had in in growing the game (3:00). Pat explains what all youth hockey coaches should be doing, and he reminisces about the "Miracle on Ice", and why the moment still reverberates to this day (13:00). He talks about USA Hockey's pipeline of players, the depth of talent in the U.S., and Jake Sanderson's NHL future (21:00). Pat wraps up talking about some of the key NHL alumni that have left an impact on USA Hockey and why it's so important to continue to push for diversity in the sport (26:00).
Jennifer Bullano Ridgley, Pittsburgh Penguins Vice President, Media Relations
Deb Placey welcomes Jennifer Bullano Ridgley, the Vice President of Media Relations for the Pittsburgh Penguins to the podcast. Their conversation begins with Jen explaining how she first became interested in pursuing a career in hockey and how her first job at Disney World led her to wanting to get involved in sports public relations (1:40). Jen shares her thoughts on the evolution of the sports industry, she explains her role with the Pittsburgh Penguins, and tells a funny story of her first month on the job with the team (5:00). She discusses working with Sidney Crosby, the crazy media requests he gets, and why sometimes she has to give him special treatment (11:00). Deb asks Jen how she deals with stressful moments, and Jen offers a wonderful piece of advice to those who want to break into her business (19:00). Jen reveals some of her superstitious quirks, explains why working with Marc-Andre Fleury was amazing, elaborates on her relationship with Dan Bylsma and Mike Sullivan, and discusses the differences between Ray Shero and Jim Rutherford (24:00). She reminisces about having to navigate the team through HBO’s first 24/7 behind the scenes show (26:00), offers up some of the challenges of working in a social media world (35:00) and explains how her relationship with Phil Kessel evolved (39:15). She shares a bit of her personal side during Deb’s “Executive Summary” line of questioning (47:00).