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September 18, 2019

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Take 5: New GM expounds on philosophy behind building Vegas’ franchise

GM Named For Las Vegas' NHL Expansion Team

Steve Marcus

George McPhee speaks after being named general manager of Las Vegas’ NHL expansion team during a news conference at the T-Mobile Arena Wednesday, July 13, 2016. McPhee is a former general manager of the NHL’s Washington Capitals.

GM Named for Las Vegas' NHL Team

George McPhee, left , speaks with Bill Foley, the owner of Las Vegas' NHL expansion team, after McPhee was announced as general manager of the expansion team during a news conference at the T-Mobile Arena Wednesday, July 13, 2016. McPhee is a former general manager of the NHL's Washington Capitals. Launch slideshow »

At his introductory news conference on Wednesday, George McPhee took a page out of the UNLV coaching textbook. When asked about style of play, the general manager of Las Vegas’ first major-league pro franchise promised just short of putting the runnin’ back in Runnin’ Rebels.

“We’ll play a brand of hockey that people like. I’ve never enjoyed the sit-back style of hockey,” said McPhee, who was the Washington Capitals general manager for 17 years. “We’ll be a team that’s attacking all the time and pressuring pucks all over the ice.”

As franchise owner Bill Foley keeps working on securing a team name for the NHL’s 31st franchise, McPhee shed some light on the ideals and philosophies that will be the backbone of Vegas’ hockey team. Here are a few excerpts from McPhee’s comments:

On the differences between rebuilding a team and starting with an expansion franchise …

In some ways I like this situation a lot better. Historically, you take over a team that needs work and you have to dig out from under some bad contracts or players that aren’t getting the job done and you have to make changes to the staff. If it has to be done it has to be done, but it’s negative fun. Here you’re coming in and it’s a clean slate and you get to pick everyone in the organization. I’m looking forward to that. In some ways this is what every GM wants to experience at some point in their career.

On what they’re looking for in a coach …

We can take our time with that, but a coach has to be a lot of things. Obviously he has to know the technical packages, know his Xs and Os, but it goes beyond that. A coach has to be someone who deep down in his soul is a really confident person, really believes in what he’s doing. Certainly he has to understand the game, but for me it has to be someone that the players respect and like and want to win for. Someone who cares about the players and they care about him. The players will do what they’re told, but you want them to want to do it for the coach and for themselves.

On any concerns about potential distractions having a franchise based in Las Vegas …

If we get the right players they’re going to be focused on being great players and doing every single thing in their lives to be a great player. How they carry themselves, how they walk, how they talk, how they dress, how they present themselves in the community, how they help in the community. Those are the kind of guys we want. There are distractions everywhere, but your performance is based on you and if you let something or someone get in the way of that, that’s your fault and we’ve got the wrong guy. We’ll be getting the right guys. If you want to get into trouble there are lots of places to get into trouble in this league.

On what the Las Vegas franchise will offer to free agents …

I think a lot of people are going to want to play here. This is really an exciting town that has a lot to offer. This arena is fabulous, I’ve seen where the practice facility is going to go up; it’s a great place to develop future NHL players. It’s really important that all of these things are lined up: the rink, the practice rink, a place to live, how easy it is to get back and forth. That matters to players. Obviously the climate is fantastic and no state income tax matters. That helps.

On how they want to manage the salary cap, which is expected to be $73 million in 2016-17 and a little higher in 2017-18 …

We want to have the best salary cap management in the league. At my past job, one of the reasons that team was a really good team is we didn’t have cap issues. We did the right things, we did smart contracts and signed good players. And players who wanted too much money, we let them walk. You can survive the loss of a player, you can’t survive a bad contract. You can’t let dead money or pay-it-forward schemes or anything like that get in the way of what you’re trying to do. You manage the cap properly, you can manage people properly and you’ll have a good team.

Taylor Bern can be reached at 948-7844 or [email protected]. Follow Taylor on Twitter at

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