Wednesday, August 15, 2007
Pollock won nine Stanley Cups during Canadiens tenure
MONTREAL -- Sam Pollock, who built a hockey dynasty as vice president and general manager of the Montreal Canadiens in the 1960s and 1970s, has died. He was 81.
The Canadiens won nine Stanley Cup titles during Pollock's tenure as general manager from 1964 to 1978.
A moment of silence was held before the Toronto Blue Jays game at Rogers Centre on Wednesday in honor of Pollock, who served as an executive with the baseball club after leaving the Canadiens. His death was confirmed to the RDS television network by his son, Sam Jr.
"His contributions to the Toronto Blue Jays were many," Blue Jays president Paul Godfrey said in a statement. "The Blue Jays organization has benefited greatly from his leadership and vision. I was honored to have worked alongside him.
"Sam brought the same fierce competitiveness and intelligence to baseball that made him a legend in hockey," Godfrey said.
Pollock set the standard by which other NHL GMs have been measured.
As the architect of the Canadiens dynasties, Pollock was considered the shrewdest evaluator and dealer of talent of his era. He pulled off brilliant moves to land greats like Guy Lafleur and Ken Dryden and built a team that was the class of the league.
The Montreal native, born on Christmas 1925, won nine Stanley Cup titles during his tenure as general manager from the 1964-65 season to 1978.
"He always had the players ready and the coaching staff, too," said Rejean Houle, one of his former players. "That way he helped us be a better team."
Pollock sent two undistinguished prospects to the Boston Bruins for the rights to Dryden, then a relatively unknown goaltender at Cornell University who would grow into a Hall of Famer. That was one of his best moves, but his acquisition of Lafleur cemented his reputation.
Among the first to recognize that the entry draft, inaugurated in 1963, was the key to team building, he found fellow general managers from the six clubs that joined the NHL in the expansion of 1967 willing to take aging but well-known players in exchange for draft picks.
In May 1970, he sent Ernie Hicke and a first-round choice to Oakland for the obscure Francois Lacombe and the now defunct Seals' first-round pick. All the while, he kept his eye on the gifted Lafleur, who was tearing up junior hockey with the Quebec Remparts.
The following season, when it appeared that Los Angeles might finish last and claim the top pick, Pollock sent veteran Ralph Backstrom to the Kings to boost them ahead of Oakland. That allowed Montreal to choose Lafleur first overall in the 1971 draft.
Lafleur went on to become the best player of his era, and his No. 10 is retired by the Canadiens.
Amassing draft picks also allowed him to claim future stars like Larry Robinson, Steve Shutt and current Montreal GM Bob Gainey to build the team that won four consecutive Stanley Cups.
He left the team after the 1978 season when Peter and Edward Bronfman, who purchased the club in 1971, sold it back to the Molson family.
Pollock coached teens in the 1940s and managed a softball team that included some Canadiens players. He was hired as a scout by the club in 1947 and within three years was named director of player personnel.
It was after helping the Omaha Knights win the Central Hockey League title that he was named GM of the Canadiens.