THE BOOK REVIEW:
You could say that Tom Lynn began his career in hockey management as a lawyer with the Manhattan firm of Proskauer Rose LLP, which has done a lot of work for the NHL.
That led him into the front office of the expansion Minnesota Wild in April 2000. Between then and the end of the 2008-09 season, his business cards carried such titles as assistant general manager, assistant GM/hockey operations, director of hockey administration and hockey affairs, and acting general manager.
Somehow he found time to write How to Bake an NHL Franchise from Scratch, a book that is subtitled The First Era of the Minnesota Wild.
Firstly, let’s deal with the bad news.
Lynn wrote this 465-page book over an 18-month period, doing it in fits and starts while on airplanes, in airports, in hotels, etc. He wrote it by himself and, admittedly, he isn’t a writer.
Unfortunately, it would appear that he didn’t have an editor, either. The book was published by Starry Night Publishing, a player in the self-publishing industry. A good editor would have pared this book down to about 350 pages by taking out a lot of the repetition. A good editor would have cleaned up a lot of the errant punctuation and spelling mistakes.
For example, goaltender David LeNeveu appears as Leneveu and Le Neveau within the space of two lines. There are other examples, too, such as Dave Tippet (it should be Tippett) and Peter Horacek (it should be Horachek). A good editor also would have discouraged Lynn from his habit of using nicknames throughout, often times referring to Wild GM Doug Risebrough as Riser, forward Andrew Brunette as Bruno and on and on.
Now . . . let’s move on to the good news, and there is far more of that than the other.
In fact, this book should become required reading for anyone interested in the business side of an NHL franchise or in the intricacies involved in putting together a franchise, from the front office to the roster.
Lynn was there from the start and he passes along a whole lot of inside information and anecdotes, covering such things as the building of a new arena, an NHL expansion draft, preparations for the annual NHL entry draft, dealing with player agents, negotiating contracts et al.
Risebrough had his fingers in every aspect of the Wild, including the building of the arena in which it would play. At one point, Risebrough has the architects make the home team’s dressing room smaller than originally designed and the visitor’s room larger. It was done in the interests of camaraderie — Risebrough didn’t want his guys too spread out, while he wanted visiting players to have as much space as possible.
When Risebrough started to move the Wild franchise forward, he had a five-year plan that was predicated on building through the entry draft. It’s interesting how Risebrough worked to make sure the Wild didn’t get ahead of itself and finish too high in the standings, thus moving it down in the entry draft order. It isn’t that the Wild threw games or anything like that; it’s just that Risebrough, who in fairness often was impeded by one of the NHL’s smaller budgets, wasn’t about to sign any free agents who might throw the plan out of whack.
When it came to putting a team together, the first thing the Wild — and the Columbus Blue Jackets, who came into the NHL at the same time — had to deal with was the expansion draft. Risebrough was adamant that he wasn’t going to take on a lot of over-priced contracts that belonged to fringe players. Lynn does a masterful job of detailing how the Wild prepared for this draft and how Bill Daly, the NHL’s deputy commissioner, came up with a rule in the middle of the draft that was aimed at getting the two teams to take on more of the contracts with which they wanted nothing to do.
Lynn also provides great insight into how Doug MacLean, then the Blue Jackets’ general manager, was reluctant to work in tandem with Risebrough going into the expansion draft.
Lynn also takes the reader inside the organization as Jacques Lemaire’s run as the Wild’s head coach comes to an end. It is especially interesting that Risebrough was poised to fire Lemaire during the 2008-09 season, only to get gun shy and let the coach finish the season.
I could go on and on, as Lynn really does shine a light into every corner of the operation. Suffice it to say, a hockey fan can’t go wrong with this book, which is available through amazon.com, either in hard copy or Kindle.
One person who doesn’t get a lot of mention is Lynn’s wife, Leslie. As you read through this book, you will be amazed at what all Lynn had on his plate, all of which resulted in long hours at the office and a lot of time on the road. He and Leslie have six children; she must be a wonderful wife and mother.
Managing the Wild’s AHL affiliate, the Houston Aeros, also fell under Lynn’s job description. As a result, he was responsible for the hiring of Kevin Constantine as head coach. WHL fans will find some insight into Constantine in the four-plus pages dedicated to that signing.
The Wild went through an ownership change after the 2008-09 season. Risebrough was gone and, eventually, so was Lynn. He now is a certified player agent and a principal of Veritas Hockey.