Hockey is a lot like the rest of life: It’s the company you keep.
In the case of new Flyers team president Keith Jones, he’s hung around with the best and they’ve all won Stanley Cups, be they Craig Berube (St. Louis coach), Joe Sakic (Colorado GM) or Rick Tocchet (Pittsburgh player/assistant coach).
It’s a nice fraternity to exchange ideas with and even learn a thing or two.
At Monday’s press conference at the Wells Fargo Center, Jones explained why he believes he’s cut out for this job, which includes constantly looking at the big picture.
While general manager Daniel Briere might be the one thinking up many of the personnel moves, it’s still Jones’ prerogative to have some say in these matters.
Jones has been around the game for more than three decades, first as a player and then for most of the current century as one of the top TV hockey analysts in the business.
He’s watched his compatriots have success and observed how they got there. That, along with his career in broadcasting makes him extra prepared for this career move.
“In that (TV) role I was able to meet everyone,” he said. “Everyone in the game. . .general managers to head coaches to presidents and have conversations with them. Continuing to learn as I went. I also had a view from upstairs for many games, watch players perform.
“Having that insight has been really valuable. The fact that a lot of them are my friends, even from playing days, has really helped. I’m incredibly honored that my friend group has been very successful in hockey. Craig Berube as a head coach, Rick Tocchet (now Vancouver’s coach), Joe Sakic in Colorado.”
Jones went on to list former Avalanche teammate Chris Drury (now president/GM of the Rangers), (New Jersey GM) Tom Fitzgerald and Carolina coach Rod Brind’Amour.
All these gentlemen constantly brainstorm the game, seeking to find the right balance of physical tools and mental acuity to forge winning teams. Jones wants to follow in those skatemarks.
“I’ve really been blessed that I’ve had an opportunity to learn from their character,” Jones said. “They’re educating, they’re really smart people. I’ve really been involved with them for a long time.”
Jones’ connections in the NHL go all the way to the top. He’s on a first-name basis with NHL commissioner Gary Bettman.
“I’ve gotten to know him on a different level,” Jones said. “He’s a tremendously bright man. I’ve learned a lot in any discussion I’ve had with him. So I have relationships league-wide.
“And I think some of those will come in handy. I look forward to furthering those relationships as I get started.”
Briere sounds thrilled with the Jones hire. He’s not just blowing smoke at his new boss when he says it looks like a very promising relationship.
“Jonesy, I am so excited to have you as president of hockey operations,” Briere said. “I’ve always admired your mind, the way you think the games. Not only breaking down the games but how you translate it to your audience to make it relatable to them.
“It’s one of the many reasons why you’re well known and so respected in all corners of the hockey world. I’m looking forward to working with you.”
>Tortorella’s take on ex-Flyers
Head coach John Tortorella made it clear he’s tired of hearing hockey fans in the Delaware Valley complain about the Flyers hiring ex-Flyers at key positions.
While it’s true there’s a long history of hiring former players in key positions – such as Bob Clarke, Paul Holmgren, Bill Barber, etc. – bringing in people such as Jones and Briere doesn’t necessarily mean they’re going to follow an “old school” pattern of behavior.
“I don’t get sometimes when in this (hiring) process, when people start talking about Flyers alumni being an ex-Flyer (like Briere, Jones). . .why do people think that they’re diseased?
“If you’re an ex-Flyer that you shouldn’t be in this organization, that we need to look outside. I’m proud that they are Flyers. Proud that they and other alumni care about this organization. I think they have strong personalities. And I think they care.”
Tortorella doesn’t have a filter when it comes to commenting on this particular situation.
“I don’t get some of the thinking out in this city,” he said. “But it is so important to have that belief. So I’m thrilled. I can’t wait to get to work.”