End Of A Hockey Era, Sather Transitions To New Role

Give My Regards To Broadway —  George M. Cohan’s Hit N.Y. Tune

New York’s adopted hockey monarch, Glen Sather, is abandoning his presidential throne and will be moving into a new role with the Rangers.

The full-time boss of the Blueshirts for almost two decades, Sather, 75, will transition from President to Senior Advisor.

The club simultaneously announced an immediate search to begin for a new club president. Finding a replacement for Sather will be challenging but a competitive field of candidates is out there and will be evaluated by the high command.

The official announcement about Sather’s move was made on Thursday night by Madison Square Garden Company Chairman and Chief Executive Officer James Dolan.

“Glen has been one of the most successful executives in Rangers history,” said Dolan.

As well as being Sather’s employer, Dolan long has regarded Sather as a close friend. The two-man team evolved into one of the best integrated and most convivial high commands in New York sports history. The solidity of this tandem is evident in Glen’s comment:

“I want to thank Jim for a great partnership, working together for the last 19 years,” said Sather in a prepared statement, “And I want to thank everyone in the Rangers organization.”

One of the National Hockey League’s most respected executives, Sather arrived in Manhattan in 2000 following his construction of the Oilers into a five-Stanley-Cup-winning dynasty. Sather earned renowned both in Edmonton as well as the Big Apple.

EDMONTON, CANADA – CIRCA 1984-85: (L-R) Owner Peter Pocklington and Head Coach Glen Sather of the Edmonton Oilers pose for a photo next to the Stanley Cup circa 1984-85 in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. (Photo by Andy Devling/NHLI via Getty Images)

“Considering Glen’s role with the Oilers and Rangers, he has to be considered one of the most influential hockey figures of all-time,” said veteran Canadian analyst and blogger John Shannon.

“Slats,” as he’s affectionately known in the hockey community, relinquished his Rangers managerial role in 2015, handing the reins to Jeff Gorton. However, Sather retained his prime title as overseer of the entire Blueshirts operation.

DALLAS, TX – JUNE 22: (L-R) Glen Sather and Jeff Gorton of the New York Rangers prior to the first round of the 2018 NHL Draft at American Airlines Center on June 22, 2018 in Dallas, Texas. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

Considering that he’s had hockey in his blood almost from the moment he laced on skates in his native High River, Alberta, it’s not surprising that Slats still will remain a valuable member of the Blueshirts general staff.

“I look forward to transitioning to a different role,” Sather explained, “and continuing to play a part in building the next Rangers Stanley Cup contender.”

As Dolan’s prime consultant, Sather will play a part in directing ownership to the best prospects to occupy his presidential chair.

“Glen and I will work closely together to identify his successor,” Dolan asserted.

In his consulting role, Sather will call upon the decades of experience he obtained both as an NHL and WHA player as well as an executive who created the Firewagon style hockey that won five Cups in Edmonton.

“Sather was a pioneer,” wrote Andrew Podnieks, one of Canada’s best-known hockey historians. “He brought excitement to the game.”

A member of the Hockey Hall of Fame (Builders Category), Sather completes his active hockey life after a long climb to the summit that began as a fiery forward with the Edmonton (Junior) Oil Kings in 1961.

He reached the NHL in the 1966-67 season with the Boston Bruins followed by tours of duty with the Pittsburgh Penguins, Rangers, St. Louis Blues, Montreal Canadiens, and Minnesota North Stars.

His longest stint with one team in the bigs — four years — was spent in The Big Apple. The Penguins dealt him to New York on January 26,1971 in exchange for Syl Apps, Jr. and Sheldon Kannegiesser. Emile (The Cat) Francis was the Rangers GM who made the deal.

MONTREAL, CANADA – CIRCA 1972: Henri Richard #16 of the Montreal Canadiens skates behind the net against Glen Sather #6 of the New York Rangers as goalie Gilles Villemure #30 fo the Rangers guards the net during a game at the Montreal Forum circa 1972 in Montreal, Quebec, Canada. (Photo by Denis Brodeur/NHLI via Getty Images)

As quickly as anyone could drop his gloves, Slats became a fan-favorite, the darling of the Blue-Seaters and just about everyone else in Rangerville. In the George Grimm book about the Francis Years, “We Did Everything But Win,” Francis explained his affection for Sather:

“That guy had the nerves of a thief. He was a competitor and he got his nose in there. If he was around, none of the opposition would take advantage of our players.”

Many Rangers fans of that era recall an episode when the smaller Sather took on the gargantuan Philadelphia Flyers defenseman Rick (Father of King Kong) Foley.

“Slats hit him in the goddamned teeth and knocked him right out,” Francis recalled. “Glen was like a bulldog. He never complained if he wasn’t getting any ice. He was a good penalty-killer and a good defensive player.

“I put him on a checking line and he worked his ass off. He was as determined a hockey player as you ever want to see.”

Slats versatility was evident another time after practice. Rangers trainer Frank Paice had bought a big dressing room safe for use by players to store their valuables. Paice was the only one with the combination but Slats figured he could open it himself — and did.

Francis: “I walk into the room and there’s Slats sitting in front of this big vault and he’s manipulating the dial, click, click, click. He opened the safe door! As a player, he was always full of mischief!”

As his playing career neared its end, Sather returned to his native Alberta, signing on with the World Hockey Association’s Edmonton Oilers. Eventually, he moved up to the coaching realm and then became the club’s general manager.

From that moment on, his executive career described a stratospheric orbit by hockey standards.

Under Slats’ aegis, the Oilers developed into a hockey dreadnought. With Hall of Famers such as Wayne Gretzky, Mark Messier, Jari Kurri, Grant Fuhr, Paul Coffey, and Glenn Anderson, Sather’s outfit succeeded the four-Cup Islanders as a hockey dynasty.

Sather’s Hall of Fame credentials were many and varied. Writing in his Who’s Who of Hockey, “The Players,” author Podnieks emphasized Glen as an innovator.

“He successfully integrated European players,” Podnieks asserted, “and changed the way the game was played. He wanted to score and score some more. It was Sather who first put out his superstars to kill penalties.”

Although he never crafted a Stanley Cup-winner in New York, Slats produced a number of excellent teams. Best of them all was the club that reached the 2014 Final round before losing to the Los Angeles Kings in five games.

The good news for Rangers fans is that Sather will be working closely with his pal, Dolan, to lift the Blueshirts back to the heights.

Having known Glen since he was a rookie forward in the bigs, I can assure you he’ll succeed in his new digs.

That’s the nature of Glen Sather!