Sam Pollock, the architect of the Montreal Canadiens dynasty of the 1960s and 1970s, died Wednesday in Toronto. He was 81.
During Pollock's 14 years as general manager and vice-president of the Canadiens, beginning in 1964, the club won nine Stanley Cups.
Sam Pollock, shown in 1998, was the Montreal Canadiens' general manager for nine Stanley Cups.
Pollock oversaw the franchise's transition from the generation of stars that included Jean Beliveau, Bernie Geoffrion and Henri Richard to the club that won four consecutive Cups in the late 1970s featuring the likes of Ken Dryden, Larry Robinson and Guy Lafleur.
He also convinced Scotty Bowman, once the coach of the Montreal Jr. Canadiens and the former bench boss of the St. Louis Blues, to return to Montreal to coach the NHL club beginning in 1971.
"He was a hard worker, had a lot vision, of course, and was an excellent businessman," Bowman told CBCSports.ca on Wednesday.
Pollock acquired future Hall of Fame goaltender Dryden, an unheralded draft pick of the Boston Bruins, and manoeuvred in 1971 to obtain the No. 1 draft pick of the California Golden Seals, which was then used to select Lafleur.
Bowman mentioned two other significant player decisions, one involving a veteran near the end of his career and another involving the team's future captain and current general manager.
"He traded for Frank Mahovlich [in 1971] prior to winning some more Cups and drafted Bob Gainey when most people didn't think it was that good a pick," Bowman said.
"He had a pretty good handle on junior hockey throughout Canada and he used to scout for us everywhere. Even if they came from colleges or the U.S.A., he was one of the first to take them from there."
Bowman also credited Pollock with not making emotional decisions and getting feedback from those who worked for him.
Pollock spoke to the New York Times in 1982 about maintaining a sports dynasty.
''First of all, you have to have continuity if you are to have success,'' Pollock told the Times. ''I think it gets the manager and the players to become more attached to each other.''
Pollock first joined the Canadiens organization in 1947 and served in a number of capacities from scout to player personnel to coach of the club's junior and minor hockey affiliates.
He succeeded Frank J. Selke as Montreal general manager in 1964.
The club would win four championships by the end of the decade and was able to remain competitive in the first part of the 1970s in the face of stiff competition from the Boston Bruins and Philadelphia Flyers.
Pollock headed 1976 Canada Cup team
Pollock was also in charge of Team Canada for the 1976 Canada Cup, which some hockey observers consider the most talented team ever assembled.
The winning club featured 17 future Hall of Famers, including Bobby Orr, Bobby Clarke and Gil Perreault, along with several Canadiens.
When Pollock left Montreal, the Canadiens were a powerhouse club that featured veteran stalwarts like Serge Savard and Guy Lapointe, as well as homegrown younger players, including Gainey, Steve Shutt and Doug Risebrough.
Pollock was elected to the Hockey Hall of Fame in the builder category in 1978.
He later switched sports, serving as president of the Toronto Blue Jays from 1995 to 2000.
Blue Jays team president Paul Godfrey paid tribute to Pollock in a statement released by the club.
"The Blue Jays organization has benefited greatly from his leadership and vision," Godfrey said. "I was honoured to have worked alongside him.
"Sam brought the the same fierce competitiveness and intelligence to baseball that made him a legend in hockey."
Pollock was also named to the Order of Canada in 1985.