Gord Stellick was the general manager of the Toronto Maple Leafs for only a little more than a year – from April 1988 until August 1989. At the age of 30, he was the youngest general manager in NHL history. But he sure recalls it well; and, he names leaving the team as the biggest regret of his hockey life.
In the video below, Stellick weighs in on the recent Maple Leafs drama, where now former general manager Kyle Dubas and the Maple Leafs decided to part company. It’s really worth listening to if you are a fan of the team.
In Retrospect, for Stellick, the Troubles Were Worth Putting Up With
In this post, I want to share and consider the recollections of the former Maple Leafs general manager now 35 years after the fact as he reflects on his time with the Maple Leafs. The one clear takeaway is that, while it made sense at the time for Stellick to leave, he now regrets that decision to this very day.
As the former Maple Leafs general manager spoke on the Kyper and Bourne Show, he shared his regrets of leaving the organization. He also believed that one day, in retrospect, Kyle Dubas might too regret forcing the hand of the team about the job.
Stellick Spoke about Regrets and Missed Opportunities
For this former general manager, the memories of his time with the Maple Leafs are bittersweet. On the video, he recalled the strange times brought about by the ownership of Harold Ballard. Ballard was known for his unique approach to team management. He was publicly vocal and seemed to relish criticizing his players through the media.
However, while Stellick doesn’t mince the challenges that he and the player faced back then, he also recognizes and appreciates the phenomenal opportunity Ballard provided him.
Stellick Made a Decision That Still Haunts Him
The decision that Stellick has come to regret as time passed was the “fateful” choice to leave the Maple Leafs and pursue his career elsewhere. He noted that he had a chance to move to the New York Rangers organization at the time, and hints it seemed far better than what was going on with the Maple Leafs.
Almost four decades later, Stellick admits that leaving the team was a choice he will forever lament. Although the move presented positive aspects for his media career, he now yearns for the chance to relive those moments at Maple Leaf Gardens. Even the little things, such as driving his car into that historic venue’s parking lot, was so special.
But he also agrees that the pressure and expectations associated with playing for the Maple Leafs were unparalleled (as they still are).
Stellick Knows What Life Was Like for Dubas
Stellick seemed pretty clear that he knew the weight Dubas felt from working with the Maple Leafs. He gets it that working for the Maple Leafs carries huge pressure. The team’s legacy and fan base demand success and, in some ways, overshadow any personal accomplishments.
He also spoke about the media scrutiny and expectations placed upon the players. In his mind they are like no other franchise. Even players from Sweden who played with the team at the time understood the weight of representing the Maple Leafs and the passion it evoked.
He wishes he might have had a chance to speak with Dubas about his own experiences – perhaps encouraging him to have made a different choice. [Although, watching Dubas at the media interviews, I doubt it would have made a difference.]
Stellick Lauds the Impact of Brendan Shanahan on the Organization
Stellick acknowledged in the video the impact of Brendan Shanahan, who brought success and a change in culture to the organization. Shanahan’s accomplishments include winning the Stanley Cup with the Detroit Red Wings. However, he also made significant changes as the team’s president.
Stellick admires Shanahan’s efforts to preserve the team’s traditions, such as the iconic Maple Leafs jersey. I agree with Stellick on that point. Shanahan has also worked to heal past hurts with players such as Doug Gilmour.
The Bottom Line
What’s so interesting to me in this video was Stellick’s reflections on his time with the Maple Leafs. He met tons of challenges, but he loved being part of such a storied franchise. He really gave the sense in the interview that he believed Dubas has now missed opportunities.
That fact reminds him of the lasting impact that decisions can have. The Maple Leafs are unique in that effect. While the team strives for success and sometimes fails, the history is so rich that it’s a memory that lasts forever.
He seems to genuinely feel bad that Dubas won’t take more advantage of that.
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