WINNIPEG - The new team has a new team running its hockey department.
True North announced this afternoon at the MTS Centre that Kevin Cheveldayoff will be the general manager of Winnipeg’s new NHL entry.
He’ll be partnering with Craig Heisinger, who's been named senior vice-president and director, hockey operations and assistant general manager of the franchise. Heisinger has been the GM of the AHL’s Manitoba Moose for the past nine years. Heisinger’s previous title was also True North’s senior vice-president of hockey operations.
The announcement came with True North boss Mark Chipman stating: "Today I believe we’re taking the most-important step in the future of NHL hockey in Winnipeg."
"It’s not going to be easy at times, at times we’re going to lean on each other for strength," said Cheveldayoff.
"But one thing I can honestly say is I could not have a better man to join me in this building process. Zinger and I go back a long, long way. We met each other when I was a 15-year-old player in Brandon and from that point on we’ve had a very, very good friendship, a very, very good rivalry. The relationship that we have is going to be something that is a strength for us in the future."
Cheveldayoff, 41, hails from Blaine Lake, Sask., and was the Chicago Blackhawks assistant general manager and senior director of hockey operations. He joined the Hawks at the start of their Stanley Cup winning season of 2009-10.
Prior to that, Cheveldayoff was the GM of the IHL’s and AHL’s Chicago Wolves for 12 seasons. During that time, he guided the Wolves to four league championships.
He’s also a former first-round NHL draft pick. The rugged defenceman was the New York Islanders choice in the 1988 draft. A knee injury ended his playing career prematurely after the 1993-94 season.
His title in Winnipeg will be executive vice-president and general manager.
Heisinger, the former equipment manager for the NHL’s Winnipeg Jets, stayed in Winnipeg and joined the Moose organization in 1996. In 1999, GM and coach of the Moose at the time Randy Carlyle convinced him to move to the front office and he took over the GM’s chair from Carlyle in the summer of 2002 when Carlyle departed for the NHL’s Washington Capitals.
Heisinger is a former James. C. Hendy Memorial Award winner as top executive in the AHL (2009) and was emotional in making his speech when saluting the Moose fans.
"I was hoping it would be (emotional)," said Heisinger afterward. "I was trying to get through it, but I didn’t. The part about the Moose fans… a lot of good people have been through here in the past 15 years and cut their teeth. People were very patient, not with myself, but with the players and the coaches and I don’t think that can be understated.
"I think at the end of the day the No. 1 reason we had the press conference last Tuesday and again this Wednesday is because of the organization that was built here and the fan support they’ve shown over the past 15 years has provided this opportunity and given the NHL a second reason to look at Winnipeg."
Both Cheveldayoff and Heisinger said the first order of business is to make calls to players and employees in the Atlanta Thrashers organization – particularly the scouting department – while getting ready for the NHL entry draft on June 24-25.
The hiring of a head coach is also paramount, but the franchise will not necessarily rush to have a boss in place before the draft.