CALGARY — Brad Treliving will be working closely with a man who urgently steered him away from a career as a hockey player.
The new general manager of the Calgary Flames recalls Brian Burke inviting him as a young defenceman to the Vancouver Canucks training camp. Burke was Vancouver’s director of hockey operations at the time.
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"I was telling Brian how it was going to be my goal to play in, at that time was Pacific Coliseum. He said ‘you might have a better chance of buying a ticket to get in the building than actually playing in the building,"’ Treliving said Monday.
"I started to think my career might be better suited to the other side of the desk."
Burke, the Flames president of hockey operations, has a higher opinion of Treliving’s hockey management skills. The 44-year-old from Penticton, B.C., was the only candidate Burke interviewed to fill Calgary’s vacant GM job.
"I really believe we’ve hired the right guy," Burke said. "Everybody says that on days like these, but this is based on a tremendous amount of research.
"I’ve been at this a long time so there’s not a GM I can’t call and say ‘if you were looking at a young guy, who would you look at?’ And it all kept coming back to Brad."
Treliving is Calgary’s fourth different GM in less than four years. Jay Feaster was promoted from assistant to GM when Darryl Sutter resigned in December, 2010.
Burke stepped in as interim GM after firing Feaster in December. The question then was whether a veteran GM would work with the blunt, outspoken Burke or would his hire be an apprentice looking for a promotion?
The answer is the latter, although Treliving has developed considerable, and unique, hockey management skills in his seven years as an assistant GM to Don Maloney in Phoenix.
Treliving worked with Maloney on personnel matters and helped build a team despite the financial limitations of being run by the NHL for four seasons.
Treliving’s duties included managing the professional and amateur scouting staffs and making player personnel assignments to the team’s minor-league affiliates.
The Coyotes reached the post-season during their four seasons without an owner and fell short of the playoffs the last two.
"Brad has learned at the knee of a general manager for whom I have great respect, Don Maloney. He’s been directly and actively involved in every facet of the general manager’s job," Burke said
"He has a keen mind and a reputation as an extremely hard worker. It’s my job to provide Brad with whatever guidance and leadership I can."
Burke said the Coyotes gave him a 10-day window to interview Treliving and come to terms on a multi-year contract.
Hockey Canada is also showing interest in Treliving’s potential by naming him Canada’s assistant GM for next month’s IIHF men’s world hockey championship in Minsk, Belarus.
The Flames missed the playoffs for the fifth straight season after finishing with a 35-40-7 record for 77 points. Calgary was 13th in the Western Conference standings. The Flames went 25-24 in 49 one-goal games this season.
"I’m ready am ready for this. I know I’m ready for this," Treliving said. "I know the expectations of this market. I know the expectations of this fan base."
"I think we’re in the early stages of a building program, but we want to move it a long."
Burke has hired the son of a Dragon. Treliving’s father Jim is a co-owner of Boston Pizza and an investor on CBC’s "Dragon’s Den".
"I hear he’s kind of famous up here," Brad said. "We don’t get those shows down in Phoenix too often.
"What I take from his is first his hard work. He’s worked for everything he’s got. And you have to dream. I don’t know if I’ve met a bigger dreamer than him. He’s trying to change the world all the time. You don’t have a chance if you don’t have a dream."
One of Treliving’s first tasks is to find an assistant general manager. The other is to prepare for the NHL entry draft in June, when Calgary will have the fourth overall pick.
The new GM agrees with Burke’s continued assertion that the Flames are too small as a team.
"I think you need to have heavy teams now. I think you have to play a heavy game," Treliving said. "That’s not just a personal preference. Turn on the TV tonight and watch the games. You look at the game that are being played right now. It is hard hockey, it’s heavy hockey.
"My vision for the Calgary Flames is, you turn on the TV right now and you see the games going on, and you see the type of hockey that’s being played, I want us to be a team that’s consistently in these games that are being played from the end of April to the end of June."
Treliving has some of his father’s entrepreneurship in him. He co-founded the Western Professional Hockey League in 1996 and when it merged in 2001 with the Central Hockey League, he was commissioner of the CHL until joining the Coyotes in 2007.
He played professional hockey from 1990 to 1995 for the IHL’s Indianapolis, the AHL’s Prince Edward Island Senators and for five different teams in the ECHL. Treliving amassed 811 penalty minutes in 243 career ECHL games.
In a departure from the days when Sutter made the majority of the hockey decisions, the Flames now take a team approach to management.
"This model works in other sports with other teams and we’re determined to make it work here," Burke said. "Brad is the general manager. I can tell you this: this will probably be the last time I talk to the media for months."
Treliving views his relationship with Burke as a combination of partnership and mentorship.
"I’m going to be bending Brian’s ear more than he thinks I probably will be," Treliving said. "I have zero, zero reservation on how it’s going to work.