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Peter Chiarelli Press Conference Transcript

Wednesday, 05.31.2006 / 12:00 AM / News
Boston Bruins
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Peter Chiarelli Press Conference Transcript
Nate Greenberg: Good morning everyone. Thank you for coming to the TD Banknorth Garden for the Boston Bruins press conference today to introduce our new general manager. We will have a short statement from all of the participants at the table and get a chance to talk individually as well. We do have a wireless microphone. When you are called on, if you could identify yourself and speak to the microphone, that would be much appreciated. We would like to introduce our head table and get a few words from each of them.

First is Boston Bruins President Harry Sinden. The new General Manager of the Boston Bruins, Peter Chiarelli, Charlie Jacobs, the executive vice president of the Bruins, and Mr. Jeremy Jacobs, the owner of the Boston Bruins. We will begin with a few comments from Mr. Jacobs.

Mr. Jacobs: Thank you all for coming. It’s an exciting day for the Bruins and for me, and for hopefully, everyone in Boston hockey. I am very pleased to be here today. At the start of last season, I was optimistic at this team’s prospects. There was no one more disappointed then myself as this season unfolded. As the owner, I have to take, and I do take, the responsibility of their performance. If the buck has to stop, it can stop right here with me. But at the ending of last season, it has proved to be a new beginning. We are not only introducing you to a new general manager today, we are changing our approach. We want to create a culture where players want to play and fans want to watch an exciting game of hockey in one of the best arenas in the world. I enjoyed meeting many of the candidates and was impressed by the talent, energy and expertise of those interviewed. But Peter was the one candidate who stood out the most. I found Peter to have a strategic approach to hockey operations, a deep appreciation for how the game is played, a solid reputation as one of hockey’s top emerging leaders, and a passion and energy towards building a strong, transparent team. I have faith that he will bring new dimensions to the Boston Bruins. Finally, I want to take this opportunity to thank all of our fans here today and in the media and those that come and follow this game. I have always said the Bruins fans are the best in the world and I mean that. My hope is that with the new era in management, our fans will be rewarded with the most exciting hockey team in all of the National Hockey League.

Charlie Jacobs: The Bruins today, in my opinion, are at a crossroads. Today is the dawn of a new era for Boston Bruins management. As evidence, this is the first time in the 82-year history that we hired a General Manager from outside of the organization to come in and head up our hockey operations. As we mentioned, last year was truly a disappointment and we had very high expectations, and when they weren’t met, there was a lot of processes that we had to address in terms of looking at ourselves internally. I’ll call it a self-evaluation process; looking at what we have done and whether or not we are employing the best practices available to espouse a winning environment for our players, fans, and all of those who were involved in different channels of the organization. During the process, we interviewed a number of candidates. Peter being our first choice, we found that there were different qualities in each, but Peter embodied all of the qualities we looked for. I want to speak of those briefly then I will introduce Harry.

I think that above all else, what we looked for in a leader is someone who has a vision first and foremost, and is articulate during all the different channels. Peter has the ability to convince and also articulate how he sees our team evolving. We also wanted to find somebody and I think you will find this in Peter, who is absolutely, unequivocally committed to bringing a winning team into Boston. Peter is that. No ifs, ands, or buts about it, he has to be committed, and he is. Now third, I would have to say there is an overall arching leadership value of communication that you will find in Peter and that we have found to be very comfortable in Peter. If you guys speak to him, which I am sure you will this afternoon, you will find a certain comfort level, what his knowledge of the game is, and his communication skills that he conveyed to us all. With that I would like to introduce Harry Sinden, the president of this team.

Harry Sinden: Thanks Charlie. It’s my pleasure to introduce our new general manager. I was involved and I contributed to these sessions with the leading candidates and like Charlie said, Peter came out number one in my book. To all processes, which included one-on-one type interviews, testing, many other sessions in which my role was, I guess to ask an unrelated topic of hockey to the candidates, and there is no doubt in anyone’s mind sitting up here, that the guy that came out on top of that after an exhaustive review was Peter. On top of that, we had to go through the same type of ordeal in New York last week in order to get this deal completed so we can have Peter here today. So it gives me again, with a great deal of pleasure to introduce to you, and before I do, I just want to correct Charlie on something. He is not the first person to come from the outside in 82 years, because I came from the outside. But he is the second. I would like to introduce to you, Peter Chiarelli, the new general manager of the Boston Bruins.

Peter Chiarelli: Thank you Harry. I am really truly excited to be in Boston. It’s great to be back. It’s been twenty years plus since I’ve last been here last. It’s really very exciting. Especially to be part of an Original Six franchise that really meant a lot to me. To be part of an Original Six franchise with the history and tradition of wining and character and things that I stand for. I would like to thank the Jacobs family for selecting me for this position. I would like to be very clear that the instructions given to me by the Jacobs’ are very clear and that is to return a winning tradition to the Boston Bruins organization and I am going to do that. I would like to talk about a couple of areas that are very significant to me with respect to the operations of the Boston Bruins. I want to introduce a new, fresh culture for this organization. I want players to want to play here. I want players to want to stay here. I want players to want to move their families here. I want them to be proud. I want them to be proud to have the Boston Bruins logo on their chest. In my experience as an agent, I got to know the concerns of the players. There are on-ice concerns and there are off-ice concerns that are truly valid. Sometimes they get lost in translation. In my experience with management, you become part of a team. You want to win. That’s your main objective -- to win -- and sometimes you lose sight of these other things that the players are thinking. I think because I’ve experienced both, I will be able to draw them both together and unite a common, strong bond towards a winning tradition for the Boston Bruins.

I want to talk a bit about team building. That’s very, very important. Team building is about picking the right players and that’s my job. I want the players that can skate. I want players with energy. I want players that can close the gaps and win pucks. I want a real true combination of speed and character. I’ve been lucky in my time with Ottawa to be under the tutelage of General Manager John Muckler who has won five Stanley Cups with the Edmonton Oilers, and that was all about speed and character. I’m going to bring that to the Boston Bruins.

I like an up-tempo game. I like skating. I like transition and I like puck movement. That’s part of the theme I would like to instill in this organization.

One of my strengths is communication. I want players to know what we are thinking. I want prospects to know how their development is going. I want them to hear from us first hand and I want it to be current and fresh. As I said in the beginning, it has been about twnety years since I have been here on a permanent basis, and that of course was across the river at Harvard. In my time there, I really truly learned and experienced the Boston fan and it was quite a thing. Enthusiastic, proud, a winning tradition, heart -- and I expect that. I know I can deliver it. It is my commitment to bring back the winning tradition to the Boston Bruins organization.

Question: I was just curious about this July 15 issue. What are you going to be able to do for the Bruins now and what can you do for Ottawa over the next six weeks?

Peter Chiarelli: I am still in employment with the Ottawa Senators. I have some ability to manage, to a certain degree, with the Boston Bruins. There are some conditions attached to that. I have the ability to have input for free agents come July 1st. I want to just touch upon that. In the course of this interview process, which has been by far the most thorough process I have been through. Grinding is actually a better adjective. I really, truly conveyed my vision and what I want to impart on the Boston Bruins throughout the whole course, from start to finish. So I expect and anticipate that this vision, this way of thinking and this way of communicating, will carry forth into this gap, albeit levels of control I have in this gap and onto a longer vision and longer term. I’m excited about it.

Question: Peter, the last GM got fired with a year left on his deal. You’ve got four years. (Ray) Shero and (Dean) Lombardi got five with their new deal. Given the youth of this, the core of this team, are you concerned about going forward, knowing what happened in the last case and what the timeline should be for growing a contender here?

Peter Chiarelli: I’m not concerned. I know I have a job to do. I know I have to put my imprint on the Boston Bruins organization. Length of time -- I know I have to deliver so that is not a concern.

Question: Peter, what is going to be your first job to do here as the new GM? Once it is official.

Peter Chiarelli: Well I have to meet with Mike Sullivan. I have to speak with him. I don’t know Mike, but I’ve heard a lot of good things about him. I think the coaching situation has to be addressed very quickly. There are some other plans that I have in mind and by that time, officially, that will be July 15. We’re hoping to have some new players in the fold. We will have some new players in the fold, so it’s a work in progress, but I’m excited to get started.

Question: Would you talk about Jeff Gorton and what his future is going to be? If there has been any decision made.

Peter Chiarelli: I’ve known Jeff for a while. We used to see each other in the rink. I like Jeff a lot and I look forward to working with him. Again, I’m in such an introductory stage here, but I’m really looking forward to working with Jeff. He is a smart person and a hard worker. I look forward to it.

Question: I’m still a little confused about the gap between now and July 15th. Which organization are you working for between now and the draft, during the draft, and the free agency period? Are you allowed to hire or dismiss the Bruins coach or are you still employed with the Senators? I’m still kind of confused as to which organization you’re serving.

Peter Chiarelli: I’m with the Ottawa Senators officially until July 15, but there are some transition conditions that allow me to address the coaching situation. There are also some transition conditions that allow me to have input on free agents starting July 1st. So officially, I’m with the Ottawa Senators, but there is a transition settlement. Actually, I think it works well for both parties considering the circumstances.

Question: Peter, without going player by player here, I know a standard part of the process of these interviews is you go over roster composition. Can you talk about the 20-25-man roster that finished out the season and what kind of turnover rate you would expect to see come the start of next season?

Peter Chiarelli: Can I speak to the roster specifically? There are players that I’m excited about on the Boston Bruins. They gave us a very hard time, us being the Senators, a very hard time. So there is a level of participation, a level of quality there that I’m excited about. There are going to be some roster spots. Part of my job is to want players, as I said earlier, to want players, to have players want to come here, so there will be roster spots. There will be a competition. I like the youth and I like some of the experience. There is a level of hardness that I like also. So it’s all part of the recipe that I will address in due course, but again, I’m really anxious to get started.

Question: Peter, knowing that your long-term allegiance is to the Bruins, what can you do or what do you want to do with the Senators? Obviously you don’t want to make them a better competitor for the Bruins, but how do you see that time playing out while your working with the Senators?

Peter Chiarelli: I don’t think there will be any problems. I’m a lawyer by trade and we learn to deal with conflicts all the time so on the surface I guess it looks a little confusing. It’s not, and again like I said earlier, the message, the mission I put forward in the interview process was very clear to the Jacobs’ and Harry and I think that will carry forward very strongly.

Question: Peter, it says your strength is in the contract area and the cap areas. Are you as comfortable in the personnel areas too or will you with your assistant, whether that’s Jeff Gorton or someone else, are you going to lean on them more for the personnel side and you direct the contract side?

Peter Chiarelli: Again, I haven’t had time to really focus on the potential restructuring and my, you know where I will place my emphasis and my time. I’m not uncomfortable with player personnel. I was an agent for a while, so I had to make hay as an agent. Part of that is accessing talent. I was able to be under again, fortunately, the tutelage of Marshall Johnson, who strives and excels in player development and assessment. Having said that, I have to surround myself with good people, so I think there is a balance and I will find that balance.

Question: You mentioned that you haven’t talked to Mike Sullivan yet. What is going to go into that decision, what timetable are you looking at to sign a coach and considering your vision of an up-tempo style and what you want to gain? What do you see in Mike Sullivan’s team? Do you think that fits in with your vision and coaching style?

Peter Chiarelli: To answer the first part, I think Mike is here but I have to talk to him. In fairness, I want to talk to him and have a substantive discussion. I’ve seen the team. And in all fairness to all parties, I need to talk to Mike.

Question: Peter as far as conditions and terms and things such as buy-outs and restricted free agents, are you allowed to get involved in anything like that before the 15th? Where the guys are under contract or do you have to stay out of that business?

Peter Chiarelli: No I have to stay out of that, but you have to keep in mind, in this interview process, I met three times in total. In each time, the first time was substantive with Harry and Charlie grilling me. The second time was even more substantive, something I’d never been through. It’s probably something that a Harvard guy thought up -- the HR test, executive test, grilling from Mr. Jacobs, and Charlie again -- actually not Charlie that time, a variety of employees from Delaware North. The third time we got even more into the nitty-gritty and my wife was even in tow, so it was heavy scrutinization. My point is, is that for them to make the decision, they examined me very closely and understood very closely what I was all about. Yes there are restrictions on this agreement, but I know that I have conveyed a strong enough message and vision that this thing is going to carry through and bridge the gap and we’ll be up and running very shortly.

Harry Sinden: Maybe I can just help out a little there. The last interview that Peter referred to was, as with all the candidates, very hockey specific in that we were asking these candidates very direct questions about players and coaches. Certain styles of play, what they liked in players, what they liked about certain teams and so it was very, very hockey specific. I got to tell you, that we found out an awful lot about that part of it in that final interview. The earlier interviews, we were more about finding out about the candidates themselves. The type of people they were. Philosophies on different things outside of hockey and they were run through some exhaustive tests, personality-type tests and psychological tests. The final interviews with these people were as I said, hockey specific, and Peter’s absolutely right, we found out everything that was possible to be found out on that side of the equation as far as Peter and the other candidates were concerned at that time.

Question: I don’t know if I should ask this to Peter or to Harry. Peter you mentioned these mechanisms that are in place, but if you could add some detail here to what these mechanisms are and what jurisdiction is there. How that’s metered out, specifically the free agency period, you know the laundry list.

Harry Sinden: Well I’ll answer and I think Charlie or Peter can jump in because we’re all involved a little bit in this thing. The league is going to monitor Peter’s involvement when it comes to the free agent period. By monitoring, the call has to go from Peter to the league in which we can be a third party on that call as to certain interests to have in any free agents, excluding Ottawa unrestricted free agents. So that pretty well narrows it down to what he can do when the free agent period arrives. Is that about right Peter?

Peter Chiarelli: Yes, that’s correct. It excludes Ottawa players and it’s through a third party of the league.

Harry Sinden: The other part where he can get involved, with certain restrictions, is the coaching situation. If there’s anything that Peter wants to do there, he can do it with interviews with Mike Sullivan or any of our coaching staff under certain settings. They have to do it in Ottawa don’t they?

Peter Chiarelli: That’s correct.

Harry Sinden: They have to come to Ottawa to do it but he can do that.

Peter Chiarelli: It’s a complex legal document.

Harry Sinden: Yes, so he has some leeway to meet with the coaches and he has some ways in which he can communicate his thoughts through the league when the free agency period starts.

Question: Who is going to be making the decisions on which players get bought out and which guys get qualified in a few weeks?

Harry Sinden: Well Peter eluded to it and I tried to comment on it. We found out an awful lot from these candidates in the hockey specific interview. We realize that he cannot get involved in that and we think we realize what he probably wants to do. Jeff Gorton, wish he was here, but he’s on top of that because he’s been running that since Mike O’Connell was let go. Any of the CBA issues or bylaws in the league that have to be adhered to, Jeff has made sure we are doing that properly.

Question: Charlie, you’ve played a very important role in this process. I’m wondering what you think and what you learned from it?

Charlie Jacobs: Well I can tell you that as we spoke to candidates, the outline of what we believe the next general manager should be became very apparent in terms of their skill set. The league today, in my opinion, is much different than it was pre-lockout, in terms of the way the game is played and in terms of dealing with the players and in terms of molding your team into becoming a destination spot for players to want to come to us. I think the parameters for a general manager became very clear through the process in hearing what other people’s thoughts were. It became a guide and an outline for what our perfect candidate would be. It was a very enlightening process and it also led us to what I believe is our best candidate.

Question: Come July, I’m sure Peter in Ottawa, you’d be in the process of trying to sign outside free agents for the Senators. What if the Bruins were trying to sign that same player? How would that play out as far as your role goes? I’m also wondering, maybe Harry you could touch on this one, is there a precedent you know of in the NHL for this kind of situation where you have a guy working for two different teams?

Peter Chiarelli: Well that’s addressed in the agreement, as far as if the Bruins were trying to sign one of the Ottawa players, I can’t speak for that at all.

Question: No, no I’m taking about outside players.

Peter Chiarelli: No, you mentioned Ottawa players.

Question: No what I meant was trying to sign players for Ottawa.

Peter Chiarelli: And the Bruins will be trying to sign them?

Question: Say Chicago, they’re both trying to sign the same guy.

Peter Chiarelli: Again, I’ve dealt with conflict before -- it will be difficult -- no question. I’ll be honest with you, it’ll be difficult, but as a lawyer you’re trained to deal with conflicts and to recognize them and work around them, As long as they’re disclosed, it’s going to be difficult, but it will work out and again, I look forward to drive the team.

Harry Sinden: I don’t know of any precedent like that, I really don’t.

Question: Who will actually have the authority to make the number five overall pick? And if in the instance of another team or GM wanted to approach the Bruins about making a deal of some sort, whom will they approach?

Charlie Jacobs: Jeff Gorton remains the interim GM and he will be here until July 15th and he’s also, as he has been in years past, will be running the draft with Scott Bradley. There is really no change in practice, so if another team potentially does want to talk about acquiring the pick or acquiring players from the Bruins, they would handle it with Jeff.

Question: Harry could you give us some more detail on why it got to this point, specifically to the draft pick as compensation and the July 15th start date. What was the crux of the issue?

Harry Sinden: The crux was the dispute between the two clubs as to whether or not some type of compensation was mentioned by our law to Boston in the initial call and the initial request by Boston to speak to Peter. The dispute was that Ottawa felt there was, and Boston said there was not. And the bylaws called for this type of thing to be in writing, not only spelling out any compensation, but spelling out the permission of the team to allow us to talk to Peter or any other candidate. And there were others that were working with other teams. That is not always endeared to by any of the teams in the league. It is sometimes and it isn’t in other times. In other words, if I called up Nashville or Anaheim and asked to speak with their assistant GM about the job here, it is just as liable to be ok and it would end there. The bylaw says that it has to be in writing. What happened here was, we didn’t put it in writing. We didn’t initiate it, and Ottawa is part of the problem because they are supposed to put it in writing as well, so we went through and got to the end of this process and found out that there was a dispute as to whether there was compensation or not. The commissioner had to come in and arbitrate and/or mediate.

Question: Harry, how active of a role did you play in the selection process? And going forward, how active will you see yourself in running this team going forward?

Harry Sinden: As I said, I was involved in the interviewing. I prepared a questionnaire for the candidates that were hockey related. My input for the candidates was to try and feel them out for the knowledge of the game, players, and coaches. My questionnaire was put together based on that. Then the last interviews, Charlie and I directed very hockey specific questions to the candidates. I had no role in the psychological analysis and personality analysis. Going forward, I see my role exactly as it’s been the last three or four years. I am a sounding board for the GM if he needs it or wants it. I represent the team on the board of directors at NESN, I am involved in other business decisions for Mr. Jacobs, and I don’t anticipate that changing from the last few years. It’s really a bystander from the hockey, the players, the coaches, and the playing of the game.

Mr. Jacobs: Harry has a continuing role. Not too different than my role at Delaware North. We have a mentoring role in developing the next line of management for both the team and the Garden and other activities. That will continue as long as I have anything to say about it.

Question: Did you get discouraged with what went on between the two team and the league? Did you wonder if things would fall through?

Peter Chiarelli: It was a little disconcerting, but things happen, especially in contracts and things in the NHL. But I knew that cooler heads would prevail and we’d work our way through it. I spent 7.5 years in Ottawa, very good years. I was born and raised there and it’s tough for me to leave an organization like that. They’re a solid, solid organization. As I said earlier, this is very exciting. An Original Six team. I’m a historian of hockey and to be a part of the Boston Bruins is very exciting.

Question: This is for Charlie or I guess Harry. How likely is it that you, in that initial period of the two weeks between July 1st and July 15, sign an unrestricted free agent? Especially if there is a big flurry of signings in those first two weeks, how active do you plan to be in that time?

Charlie Jacobs: That’s probably a better question for hockey operations, but we have to be very active. Given the status of our roster, it’s clear that we need to bring in the right character people. And we do have a very good direction from Peter, but I think the real question is who is shopping for the groceries and I think it’s probably what you’re getting at. The truth is, we have direction from Peter and Jeff, and they will be making the majority of those calls. With the direction from Peter, on the ends we’ve mentioned, Peter can give direction on which players yes or no he likes and we would go from there. But we will formulate our approach for July 1st, and during that course, Jeff will be here to make the call.

Question: This question is for Charlie. A lot of teams in the league have hired GM’s that have been a lot less complicated than this and so the question is two-fold. One, why was Peter worth going through all of this? And how can you assure people looking from the outside in that in the end it worked out in favor of the Bruins?

Charlie Jacobs: Well I would hope that you wouldn’t judge this decision on the next 5 or 6 weeks up to July 15th. This should really be painted in a much larger picture as a 3, 4, 5 year project. The saying goes, Rome wasn’t built in a day. We of course are concerned about who is going to play on our roster next October. We have to be. The truth is we need to apply a broader brush; we need to look at global processes here and what we need to fundamentally change about the way to go about our business. We have that now with Peter. I can’t say enough about what we need to do in order to get to be, as I said in my earlier remarks, about making this club a destination spot for players. Peter said it as well.

Question: There were so many radical changes during last season and so many questions about what the team is going to look like for next year. Given what your expectation were at this time last year, have they been altered at all by what happened during last season? Are you looking at next season a year from now that the Bruins are in the Stanley Cup semifinals, or are you thinking that this is a rebuilding process? Which way are you looking at it?

Charlie Jacobs: I think it’s difficult to be in the hockey business and say that we’re not focused on winning, because we are. We have to be. We have a responsibility, a public trust of people that follow the Bruins, who invest their time, energy, and money for whom we are expected to provide a winning team. We can’t go about our business any other way. We can say here today that we are going to be one of the clubs that is the most aggressive this summer and beyond that, of course, we can’t make any bold predictions here today about where we are going to be next June, but I hope that we have a winning team.
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