Dave Sandford/NHLI via Getty Images
Friday, July 1, 2016 | 2 a.m.
Jack Ferreira knows a thing or two about building a National Hockey League team — especially an expansion franchise.
The 72-year-old Ferreira has been involved in pro hockey for more than 40 years, including working as the inaugural general manager of the San Jose Sharks and Anaheim Ducks. He also did a stint as the general manager in Minnesota and was the director of scouting in 1993 for the Montreal Canadiens when they won the Stanley Cup.
Ferreira, who is now the special assistant to the general manager for the Los Angeles Kings, spoke to the Sun this week about the Las Vegas expansion team that will debut in the league in 2017-18.
Here are some highlights of the conversation:
You’ve twice launched an expansion team. Las Vegas has more than one year before its first game, but it seems that time will go quickly. Where do they begin?
The most important thing for them right now, they have to decide in their own mind what type of identity they want. When I was in San Jose, putting that together, you learn quickly you get no respect. You win a game and it’s because the other team had a bad night or the referee missed something. So, when I get to Anaheim, I knew I wanted to establish an identity. I purposely drafted a big team. The way the league was, it was built on speed. But we had a big and heavy team, and weren’t going to get pushed around. It worked. We won 33 games; 19 on the road.
Your initial roster in San Jose was dominated by journeymen and inexperienced players. Las Vegas should be better off because of the way the expansion draft is set. Some good players are expected to be available. How will that help them become competitive?
Vegas is going to be hit with a lot of bad contracts. There will be a lot of teams who leave guys exposed hoping you take them. They will to take some of those guys to hit the (minimum) with the salary cap. ... When you are putting a team together, you need to find a goalie. At least one. That is your No. 1 priority. Then build out from there.
I was looking at the Kings’ website. It seems like there are hundreds of members of the organization. Maybe I’m naive, but I didn’t realize all that went into putting a team on the ice.
Your biggest challenge, no matter where you are, is building a quality team. There is so much that goes into that. You have to set up your scouting — pro scouting, amateur scouting, in Europe. It is a huge task. You have to have good people, boy. You have to find people experienced in scouting. People you can really rely on. I hear all kinds of rumors (with who they are looking to hire). It’s experience versus inexperience. My advice: go with experience.
How tempting is it in the process of building that first team to get players with name recognition, someone fans are interesting in seeing play?
You can do that, but don’t get overly wrapped up into it. If you do, you will find you are taking on too much salary. And there won’t be too many players with that box office draw appeal.
How did players react to be taken in the expansion draft? Were they able to embrace being part of a new organization — one that wasn’t going to initially be successful?
Most of the players, when they came in, they are excited about showing the past team that they were wrong in not protecting them (for the expansion draft).
Even though the Sharks won 17 games in their first season and 11 in the second, the franchise was still one of the league’s best in apparel sales. Why was San Jose gear popular?
That was the color scheme we chose (teal, black and orange). Nobody had that and the logo was very good. It just took off. ... You’ll see the same with Las Vegas.
What’s the buzz around the league about Las Vegas getting a team? Are folks excited to come here for games?
I am. The last 11 years, we’ve gone there for the Frozen Fury against Colorado. That is always the most competitive preseason game we play because the fans are into it. Our fans would travel down for LA. There will instantly be rivalries that develop (for Las Vegas).
I always tell people that we aren’t a hockey city now, but that doesn’t mean we can’t become one. The same could have been said of San Jose in the early 1990s. How can Las Vegas borrow from what you guys did in the Bay Area?
In San Jose at the beginning, they used to announce things like off-sides. But didn’t last very long. They did it a couple of months and people caught on to the rules. There are so many transplants in Vegas that came from hockey areas, the fans you’ll get will understand the game. What they will find out in Vegas is teams like Detroit, they have an annual trip to the West Coast. They have a fan base of 1,000 that comes with them. They will obviously do Vegas.