Serge Savard, the man responsible for Marc Bergevin becoming the new general manager of the Montreal Canadiens, did not ring Scotty Bowman for an endorsement. But the 12-time Stanley Cup champion certainly threw his support behind Savard's choice of personality over experience.
Bowman had Bergevin as a player with the 1995-96 Detroit Red Wings and the pair later worked for four years together in the Chicago Blackhawks front office.
"No, Serge did not call me on Marc and I didn't talk to Serge at any time during this," Bowman said from his home on Wednesday. "But from what I know Marc had a least two interviews. Marc has been a hard worker and has lots of energy. People are not going to fool him because he should have quite a book on the talent out there.
"The last few years Marc has been a guy who has loved to watch any kind of hockey games. He has watched a ton of them - NHL, AHL, colleges, amateur and Europe. He's been watching games on almost every night getting a good line on a lot of players and that's a good asset to have."
Although, Bowman said that he has never fell victim to a Bergevin practical joke, the 46-year-old former defenceman is quick with a quip and he is an all-star prankster. But he also is passionate hockey person, a natural leader who attracts a crowd wherever he goes and a sound communicator.
He also has persevered through some difficult times. After the Chicago Blackhawks selected him in the third round of the 1983 NHL entry draft, he began his 20-year NHL career in 1984-85. A couple years later, he lost his mother at age 57 to a blood clot in her brain and his father, a firefighter, to a heart attack at age 62 in 1990.
Reeling from his parents sudden deaths, Bergevin became close with his sister and brother-in-law Gilles, only to see Gilles get liver cancer and pass away at age 43 in Aug. 1991. But somehow, Bergevin has managed to keep his sense of humour.
He kept his teammates on their guard. Bergevin once watched a teammate gulp down two of the dozen donuts he had dipped in hockey-stick hot wax. Bergevin always had a wig handy for a disguise and sometimes brought an equipment bag full of props for road trips.
No one was immune to a Bergevin prank, even the team's general manager. Once, while with the St. Louis Blues, he put together a fake newspaper story that criticized Blues GM Larry Pleau and had it included in Pleau's daily clip file.
The Blues GM was visibly upset, but then he realized the joke was on him later that day at practice after Bergevin gathered his teammates around him to yuk it up at the expense of their boss, who was sitting in the stands.
There is a serious side to Bergevin, however. A serious side that indicates he has a sound hockey mind. In seven years he made his way from pro scout to assistant coach to director of player personnel to assistant GM with the Blackhawks.
He finally received that elusive Stanley Cup ring when the Blackhawks won the 2009-10 championship, and Bergevin played a huge role in the achievement because he brought head coach Joel Quenneville into the fold.
Quenneville was Bergevin's coach in St. Louis. A few years later, when the Colorado Avalanche fired Quenneville following the 2007-08 season and he lost out to Todd McLellan on getting the San Jose Sharks job the next season, it was Bergevin who suggested to then Blackhawks GM Dale Tallon to hire Quenneville as a pro scout.
Four games into the 2008-09 season, Tallon replaced Denis Savard behind the bench with Quenneville and the latter steered Chicago to the title the next season.
"I know I'm ready," Bergevin confidently said at his introduction press conference on Wednesday.
One of the first moves he made was to phone Canadiens interim head coach Cunneyworth - the two played together with the Hartford Whalers in the early 1990s - and told him that he wanted Cunneyworth to return to his role as assistant coach. It will be up to the new coach whether to keep Cunneyworth.
Bergevin also will retain respected hockey people in assistant GM Larry Carriere and director of player personnel Trevor Timmins.
Putting more French-Canadian talent into the fold also will be important for Bergevin, a Montreal native from the Point-Saint-Charles neighbourhood. He wants more than one Quebec-based scout scouring the province's talent base.
Bergevin made a sound first impression, and it will be important for him to continue to entertain, explain his blueprint and thought process to the mercilessness media in Montreal. His first big moves will be to hire a head coach and figure out whether to retain Scott Gomez or buyout the remaining two seasons of his $7.4-million contract.
Let the games begin for new GM, and make sure all the Canadiens players, trainers, coaches and co-workers are on high alert for a prank or two.
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