Soon after the news was leaked – that Brad Treliving was to be named the next general manager of the Calgary Flames – the radio talk-show lines lit up. Inquiring minds wanted to know: Was Treliving, the Phoenix Coyotes’ assistant general manager, any relation to Jim Treliving of Dragon’s Den fame, and the owner of the Boston Pizza chain?
Yes, that’s his dad.
“I hear he’s famous up here,” said Treliving Monday, at a press conference announcing his hiring. “What I take from him, first, is 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, and you don’t have a chance if you don’t have a dream.”
Treliving will now get a chance to make his own dreams come true with the Flames, who are in the early stages of a rebuild and nearing the 25th anniversary of their one and only Stanley Cup championship.
Brian Burke, brought in as the Flames’ president of hockey operations last September, announced Treliving’s hiring at a press conference Monday. Treliving replaces Jay Feaster, who was fired as the team’s general manager back in December. According to Burke, Treliving was the only candidate who was interviewed for the job, and he will receive full autonomy to run the team as he sees fit. Burke will act as mentor and sounding board, and the two anticipate a collaborative relationship.
According to Treliving, part of the attraction of taking the Calgary job was the chance to work with a like-minded individual who shared many of the same ideas on how to build a winning team. That truculence Burke always likes? Treliving demonstrated that in his playing career, spent mostly in the low minors, where he registered a lot more penalty minutes than points.
“Turn on the TV tonight and watch the games,” said Treliving. “It’s hard hockey. It’s heavy hockey. It’s a big boys’ game out there. In order to have success, I fully believe you have to have a team that can play in those games.”
Treliving is 44 and shares some of his father’s entrepreneurial leanings. He co-founded the Western Professional Hockey League in 1996 and served as the league’s vice-president and director of hockey operations for five seasons. The WPHL eventually merged with the Central Hockey League, and Treliving became its president for seven years before joining the Coyotes.
For most of Treliving’s years in Phoenix, the Coyotes operated on a shoestring budget. After owner Jerry Moyes declared bankruptcy, the NHL owned the team until this past summer, when new ownership was finally secured. Phoenix generally had competitive teams despite its budget limitations. Calgary will represent a different sort of challenge, given that the Flames’ ownership is willing to spend to the salary cap.
“To me, money doesn’t solve all your ills,” said Treliving. “You have to spend it wisely. We were in a situation in Phoenix where we had to make smart decisions. Without smart decisions, we had a noose. We couldn’t hide or bury mistakes.
“What excites me [here] is this ownership group and their will to win. They’re prepared to do anything to assist in that.”
The Coyotes granted the Flames a 10-day window to negotiate with Treliving, and they came to terms quickly and amicably.
In Treliving, the Flames get one of a handful of young, up-and-coming managerial prospects. Burke said that he’d been talking to people in the industry since December about filling the vacancy, and Treliving’s name was at or near the top of everybody’s recommended list.
Coyotes’ coach Dave Tippett described Treliving’s two greatest assets as his work ethic and his communication skills.
“If you look at the things he’s done, he’s run a whole league – the Central League,” said Tippett, in a telephone interview. “He’s got a lot of experience in a lot of different areas of hockey. He’s a good person, easy to talk to. You like to see guys like that come up and go through all the steps and put the work in, so that when they get an opportunity at the top, they’re very prepared and well-rounded.”
Treliving called his apprenticeship in Phoenix “very fortunate,” noting that because they had a “small shop,” he got the opportunity to be involved in every part of the operation – negotiating player contracts, working with the minor-league team, pro and amateur scouting.
“I’m ready for this, I know I’m ready for this,” said Treliving. “I know the challenges we have ahead of us here as a team – and we do have challenges. I know the expectations of this market and fan base. I want you to know I’m prepared and ready for this challenge.”