EPISODE 3: Craig Button of TSN & NHL Network + Chara Talk


Craig Button was among a handful of potential guests I really hoped would join us early on for Press Pass. It wasn’t because he is “passionate to a fault,” as Craig jokingly says about himself in his Twitter bio. The main reason was because I am personally fascinated by former general managers in any sport who become commentators. There aren’t a lot of them who go on to do it full time (as opposed to just between GM jobs), when you think about it. Mike Milbury and Craig in hockey and Matt Millen in the NFL are two who come to mind.

As I mention in the show, unlike coaches, GMs have a track record of good trades and brutal trades, good draft picks and bad draft picks, good free agent signings and horrific free agent signings. So people like Craig are in the unique position of opining on player personnel moves when knowing it’s so easy for viewers (and others in the studio) to think about moves they made.

When I reached out to Craig via email, he wrote back within five minutes. His reply: “Absolutely. Done. Happy to help any way I can at any time.”

That is class. To be clear, Craig and I don’t know each other well. This is different than the podcast’s first two guests – Ray Ferraro and Howie Rose, whom I consider personal friends. But that’s Craig. He understood what this show seeks to accomplish. He knew I was looking for him to discuss what it’s like to be critical of people who had the jobs he had as GM of the Flames and VP of Player Personnel with the Stars. As you’ll hear, his approach is honest and direct.

Craig brought a lot to this interview. I honestly didn’t know if he’d have much to share about Lou Lamoriello, for example. But he had plenty, and it’s the kind of insider’s viewpoint you don’t often hear. My thanks to Craig for doing the podcast and being so passionate – not to a fault.

To the readers of this blog, thank you. We continue to welcome any questions, comments or requests you have for the show. Please email us at presspasspodcast@gmail.com. You can also sign up on the home page of this website for updates.

Next week’s episode is a conversation with Frank Seravalli of DailyFaceoff. We may say this a lot, but you really won’t want to miss it. Frank is exceptionally candid on a number of subjects, including how he felt in the aftermath of exclusively reporting on most of the selections by the Seattle Kraken in the Expansion Draft several hours before they were to be officially unveiled.

Episode 3 Rundown:

· Craig names three NHL players he views as the most underrated.

· “I haven’t worked a day in my life;” on the joys of talking hockey on TV

· The transition from NHL GM to analyzing other managers’ performance

· The influence of two former GMs on his hockey and broadcast career

· Being critical as an analyst, and dealing with criticism of his own body of work as a GM – “There’s no way you can hide from it”

· His advice to athletes and executives in dealing with the media or going on to broadcast careers

· Breaking down NHL Drafts

· Wisdom he received from legendary ex-Devils head scout David Conte

· When there’s a passionate debate on the air on TSN, does it get tense in the TSN studio when the cameras are off? (Jeff O’Neill talk!)

· Is Craig interested in returning to a Hockey Operations role?

· The greatest aspects of being a general manager

· The role of pro scouts, and what makes a good scouting report

· How NHL staffs prepare for the trade deadline

· What he’s looking for when he attends a game to scout a draft prospect.

· Inside the Flames’ first round selection of Eric Nystrom in 2002, and Chris’s bet with Islanders owner Charles Wang at the draft

· What makes Lou Lamoriello so successful?

· Jeff Vinik and the importance of strong and supportive team owners in the NHL

· Pat and Chris on Zdeno Chara signing with the Islanders, plus stories about his first seasons in the NHL and a thought on the expected reaction from fans