From The Mouth of Sam Pollock. Making Lots Of Sense (Except For The Russian Prediction)


He dreaded publicity and turned red when complimented, but Sam Pollock, (1925-2007)  who was with the Montreal Canadiens from1959 to 1979 and served as GM from 1963 to 1978, deserved the publicity and compliments. He helped create dynasties, found a way to land young stud Guy Lafleur, replaced moody and difficult legends with the less difficult (eg. Jacques Plante to New York for Gump Worsley), and withstood the WHA raids in the early to mid 1970’s by replenishing lost players and not missing a beat. People like Jean Beliveau said they would knaw through a goal post for the boss. “So would I,” said John Ferguson, “and I’m working for the Rangers now.”

And he said some good stuff:

“A store owner could run my business and I could run his. Whether it’s a hockey team or a laundromat, it’s 75% the same and 25% specialties you can learn with experience.”

His philosphy about trading with other clubs: “Why hurt a guy when you might want to do business with him again?”

“You can’t pay 10 minor leaguers NHL salaries just to keep them. Giving a prospect $40,000 instead of the $25,000 he should make may not seem like much, and to some it didn’t, but 10 times $15,000 can put you in the red in a hurry.”

“Long-term contracts are useless unless a reasonable form of renegotiation is built in. Otherwise, one side is bound to be unhappy somewhere down the line.”

“Hockey used to be 15% business and 85% the game, but now it’s the other way around.”

Overtime? “The strong teams would only win more often than they do now. Believe me. I’ve been a minor league hockey promoter where we had overtime and nothing leaves a sour taste in the home town fan’s mouth than to watch each team work hard for a tie – a very reasonable outcome of a hockey game – and then lose it in overtime.”

Reduced schedule? “Makes no sense at all. The players say cut the schedule by 10% and we’ll take 10% less in salary. But wages, though the largest cost, aren’t the only overhead. The electric company and the tax people aren’t going to reduce their bills. Besides, how long before the players work their salaries back up to their original level?”

International hockey? “That’s where the future lies. As I said, more revenue is a must and it can only come from two places – the box office and television. Individual promoters have the task of selling tickets and the league must earn a share of the dollars being paid football and baseball by US networks, an undertaking which has so far failed miserably. While established, contending teams like Boston and Philadelphia have lucrative markets, the NHL can’t wedge its way into living rooms in Houston and Seattle and consequently doesn’t draw the national audiences the networks need. Ther’d be more magic for the sports fan in Des Moines if he was offered a US-Czech game instead of one between Toronto and Atlanta.”

“Not long ago, I would have considered it far-fetched to suggest the Russians playing for the Stanley Cup, but it seems inevitable.” By 1980? “Yes, that’s not an outlandish prediction.”

Here’s Sam Pollock’s bio

6 thoughts on “From The Mouth of Sam Pollock. Making Lots Of Sense (Except For The Russian Prediction)”

  1. That was a nice stroll down memory lane. Gainey seems to have the same philosophy as Sam when it comes to long term contracts. I don’t recall anything over 5 years since BG has taken over.

  2. I think he’s really right about American fans who would much rather see US vs. Czechs insead of Toronto/Atlanta. They really would be much more interested and the sport might grow. But change in pro sports is almost imposssible, or at least at a snail’s pace.

  3. That’s right. As long as Bettman’s there, nothing much will change. Except maybe a new franchise in Puerto Rico.

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