European Power Nowhere to be Found

Loob Farjestad

On the ice, the Europeans have broken the barrier many years ago. But off the ice, it’s a different story.

Players not from North America make up about 30 per cent of the league, not bad considering that number is constantly rising. However, how many of those Europeans end up working in a management position in the NHL?

The answer is three. Yes, out of the 249 possible hockey management jobs in the NHL, up until a month ago, three of them are held by an European. That’s a measly 1.2 per cent.

The trio – Jarmo Kekalainen, the assistant GM of the St. Louis Blues; Ulf Dahlen, the assistant coach in Dallas; and Ulf Samuelsson, the assistant coach in Phoenix – make up the microscopic contingent of non-North American blood.

Not only is this a shocking number, but the possibility that an European GM might take over the helm soon is highly unlikely. The only two ever European coaches failed miserably. Remember Alpo Suhonen and Ivan Hlinka?

Once Europeans finish their careers in the NHL, they tend to head back to their native country and stay there. But the question is, is the NHL losing potentially great management talent by not pursuing these Europeans?

According to Ken Campbell of The Hockey News, he believes that it’s difficult for them to get into the North American network, with a large part having to do with the European stereotypes we’re oh so common with. The Europeans are not the ones to campaign for themselves or promote themselves, and fight for a GM job. 

However, there are a few names or candidates that would make a more worthy manager then some who holds that title right now. Campbell points out that the first name, which comes to mind, would have to be Hakan Loob.

The former Calgary Flames star is currently the GM of Farjestad in Sweden. This is the same team that has won four championships in the past eleven years, and in North America, we would call that a dynasty. But no NHL job has been offered to Loob yet.

Stastny

How about Peter Stastny, who’s currently in politics, or Igor Larionov? Mats Naslund and Jari Kurri is successful in running the hockey programs at both their respectable countries, while Euro scouts Thommie Bergman of the Leafs and Dan Labraaten of the Devils are well known for their ability at finding talent.

Have any of these men been approached?

Loob has a strong logic as to why Europeans aren’t holding NHL positions, which are dominated by North Americans.

“It you want to get something, you have to be more aggressive and tell people you’re capable and stand up for yourself a bit. I think maybe we don’t have the mental toughness to say those things. We have the mental toughness to do a good job, but not maybe to present ourselves as capable as we are. You hope without saying anything, somebody is going to ask you and it’s not that easy.” 

North Americans don’t find the time to understand the European culture or get to know how they would run a team. Everyone is too scared to be the first to put the control panel of their squad in the hands of someone not from these two countries. But until someone actually does, no one can say whether or not an European can get the job done.

Let’s say a Russian GM might be able to produce more undiscovered Russians on their team, and probably have more strings to pull overseas. Same goes for a Swedish GM or a Finn.  

They are capable of competing on the ice, and looking at international events, they are also capable of putting a team together and beating USA or Canada. Why can’t they do that in the NHL? or better yet, why aren’t they given the opportunity to do that in the NHL?

Sooner or later, there will be a first for an European GM. For now, the influence Europeans have on the NHL is at a bare minimum, and that’s not helping this game grow at all. 

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