The Minnesota Wild have players from Canada, the US, Sweden, Finland and even Switzerland. But the man at the helm is from the Comox Valley.
When the Wild’s season ended last week, owner Craig Leipold informed general manager Chuck Fletcher that his contract would not be renewed.
The announcement came on the heels of the Wild’s first-round playoff exit, at the hands of the Winnipeg Jets.
Exit Fletcher, enter Brent Flahr.
The Courtenay-born and raised Flahr was named interim GM of the team Monday.
It’s a natural progression for Flahr, who has been with the Wild as their assistant GM since 2009.
“I’ve been Chuck’s right-hand man, sort of ‘second in command’ so this is the next step,” he said, adding that the announcement caught him off-guard.
“Obviously Chuck is a close friend of mine, we’ve worked together a long time, and anytime something like that happens, it’s tough, but it’s part of the business. Anytime you lose in the first round of the playoffs, or don’t make the playoffs … in today’s day and age, there’s expectations, and you have to meet them. The owners have the right to make changes as they see fit, and that’s what happened.”
Being named interim GM does not guarantee Flahr the position moving forward. He knows the process involved, and there are still decisions to be made on both sides – not only before Flahr is officially offered the job, but also before he accepts it.
“He [Leipold] spoke with me briefly the day Chuck was let go and I will speak with him again more formally and see where it goes,” said Flahr. “I know he’s speaking with other potential hires as well, and at the same time, I have to see where my best interests lie and give it all some thought as well.”
With the 2018 NHL entry draft slated for June 22-23, and free agency beginning July 1, there is little down time for the Wild organization.
“[Leipold] told me he wants something done sooner, rather than later, and this is a busy time of the year, with the draft and free agency – just getting your ducks in a row with signing contracts. So the sooner the better, just so you can have a game plan moving forward.”
Being an NHL general manager is a highly sought-after position.
“Everybody wants to be an NHL GM,” former Minnesota Wild forward Patrick O’Sullivan said on his radio show, The Power Play, this week.
Flahr is no different in that regard.
“Obviously the job is something I aspire to, and hopefully at the right time, it will happen, whether that’s now, or 10 years from now, we’ll see. I’m still a young guy in this game.”
Flahr has been working in the National Hockey League ever since graduating from Princeton University, in 1996. He captained the Tigers in his final season of university, which is also when he made his decision as to career direction.
“I realized then that there was not much call for 5-foot-10 defencemen in the NHL, so …”
Flahr went directly from Princeton to the Florida Panthers organization, where he spent six years (1996-2002) as a scout. (Fletcher was the assistant GM of the team throughout that tenure.)
Flahr moved west, to scout for the Anaheim Ducks for four seasons, before heading to the Ottawa Senators in 2007, as the director of hockey ops. He spent two years in the nation’s capital before joining the Wild organization.
Flahr is cognizant of the fact that a new general manager could leave him in a somewhat precarious situation.
“When changes are made, people do bring in their own people… but at the same time, I’ve been in the game long enough and I’ve done a pretty good job in a lot of roles, so I think I’m a good asset.
“I have a good relationship with the owners, and a good relationship with the staff, but at the same time, it’s a business. So if it doesn’t work out, I’m a big boy. I’ll be able to find work elsewhere.”
Hockey has been a part of Flahr’s life since childhood. He grew up playing minor hockey in the Comox Valley, while attending Courtenay Elementary, then Lake Trail. He spent one year at Vanier, before leaving the Comox Valley to play junior hockey in Bellingham, when the Ice Hawks were part of the BCHL.
He left Bellingham to go to Princeton University as an 18-year-old, in 1992.
His parents, Melanie and Harold, still reside in Courtenay.