“Culture. It’s all about how you treat people.
-President of hockey operations George McPhee said when asked to offer career advice during the 2019 Knight to Remember Gala
That seemed like such a simple answer for someone who has such a complex position. At the end of the day, the business doesn’t really matter. It can be a professional sports franchise, poker room, or sporting goods store. Treat your employees right and they will work hard for you.
“It was a very team-like atmosphere; there was no drama. Everyone would come to the rink and do what they needed to do. They would practice hard, joke around. But there wasn’t any extra stuff that was distracting ever. And throughout the year, guys got closer and closer. Guys went to battle for one another, that’s why you have that team blocking so many shots. Guys aren’t willing to do that unless they like each other.”
—Former Golden Knights goaltender Laurent Brossoit on picking up intel from the Vegas dressing room
Brossoit’s statement sums up his perspective on the culture of the Golden Knights.
Culture isn’t only about being nice and treating people well. You need to set people up for success by having the right pieces around them. A strong support system.
”It’s not that we are targeting captains, but we do target really good people, some of whom that have been captains. Scouts felt strongly, and it was underappreciated, [Jack Eichel’s] physical strength and competitiveness have really been on display in the playoffs. In terms of evaluating players around the league, you need to do it in situations that are required. Jack didn’t really have that ability in Buffalo along the way. Jack was a young captain in Buffalo and gets here in a room of really good leaders.”
—Golden Knights general manager Kelly McCrimmon at the Stanley Cup Final media day
That was McCrimmon’s response to what was it that led the Golden Knights to acquire Jack Eichel beyond his talent level. McCrimmon’s response offers a glimpse into the evaluation process of players. Talent is important, but it goes much deeper than that. It isn’t about how good a player can be if he joins the Golden Knights, it’s about the Golden Knights making sure they have the proper support in place for a player to reach their maximum potential.
Eichel was widely considered a locker-room cancer. Fans of the Buffalo Sabres were elated the day Eichel was traded.
Golden Knights fans had a reserved level of optimism when the Eichel trade was announced, but it meant losing a beloved member of the organization in Alex Tuch. It all worked out in the end.
It is important to note how tight the players are on and off the ice. How positive the culture is. All of this despite a former goaltender’s agent tweeting a picture of a bloody sword through his back. The concerns from around the league about a lack of loyalty to its players from management.
The positive culture of the Golden Knights is the best kept secret no one outside of Vegas knows, nor understands.