NHL.com’s Q&A feature called “Five Questions With …” runs every Tuesday. We talk to key figures in the game and ask them questions to gain insight into their lives, careers and latest news.
The latest edition features Dave Andrews, who is retiring Tuesday after 26 years as president and CEO of the American Hockey League.
Dave Andrews has worked in hockey for more than 50 years. His time as a goalie, coach and general manager helped shape his vision for modern-day player development. The American Hockey League had 16 teams and was regionally based when he was named president in the summer of 1994; he leaves the position Tuesday with the AHL consisting of 31 teams and stretching from coast to coast.
Andrews is retiring but will remain with the league as chairman of its executive board. He also will chair the AHL Return to Play task force and assist in the transition for his replacement, longtime NHL executive Scott Howson.
Here are Five Questions with … Dave Andrews:
You were an executive with Cape Breton, the AHL affiliate of the Edmonton Oilers, before taking this job. You won the Calder Cup in 1993. Was running the AHL in your sights then?
“Well, I had never thought about [leading the AHL] as my next step in my career, for sure. I was on my career path. I was going to run through the Edmonton Oilers in Edmonton, and either there or with another NHL club get a chance to move into a management role in the NHL. And I did, you know, have one or two conversations with teams and certainly had the opportunity in 1994 to move to Edmonton and work with Glen [Sather] in Edmonton.
“I felt I had the background to manage [the AHL]. And I also believed strongly that the league was not in a great spot, but it could be with the right approach.”
What was your sales pitch and vision for the AHL in 1994?
“We needed to differentiate ourselves from the (International Hockey League, the main competitor at the time). We needed to build on the strengths of the American league, and the strengths of the American league were in player development. We needed to build on the fact that we had significant NHL ownership in our league and we had to create something that was attractive to every NHL team as a development location.
“The other piece of it was that we had (16) teams at the time. We had an awful lot of them that had a shelf life financially by the looks of how things were trending early. We needed to strengthen our league in terms of the number of teams in the league, the quality of ownership in the league, and the quality of the markets. We needed to get a critical mass of NHL teams moving their affiliates back to the American league. We needed to have a perception that we were a league on the move forward.”
Scott Howson will replace you. What makes him the correct choice in your mind?
“The depth of his experience. Scott has been in and around the American league for 25 years. He understands the league. He knows the people involved very well. He’s also a person of great integrity. We have pretty different personalities. I think he’ll be very different in terms of how he approaches things and how he interacts with our board members. [He is] very quiet by nature and very, very thoughtful.”
You and Hockey Hall of Fame member Jack Butterfield are the two people who have led the AHL since 1966. How did he influence you, and how will that shape the transition to Scott?
“I can say that once I took over, [Butterfield] set an example that I hope I’m going to be able to follow with Scott. When he handed me the reins after all the years he’d been president, he certainly never publicly second-guessed me, and I don’t know that he [did privately]. This is going to be difficult to do because I’ve been doing this a long time. I do have opinions, so it’s going to be difficult. But it won’t be difficult because I know that when I came in, if Jack had been [looking] over my shoulder, it would have been very awkward and uncomfortable.
“I’m going to be there for Scott whenever he needs it and with whatever help he needs, and I know he’s going to need some. But at the same time it’s going to be when he needs help, not when I think he needs help. So I had that opportunity when I took over, and Scott’s going to get the same opportunity, and I’m going to make sure that I don’t do the wrong thing.”
You are not done with the AHL quite yet; you will chair the Return to Play task force, which will include five NHL general managers and a mix of AHL team executives. What will that project entail?
“The (AHL) executive committee asked me to take responsibility for putting together a task force that would essentially take on some responsibility from a strategic point of view for managing our league’s Return to Play in 2020-21; not only strategically figuring that out, but also if we get consensus from a group that is as strong as that group is, it will help us build consensus around both the NHL and the American league as to what that Return to Play should look like. The task force will not be taking any responsibility for actually managing the Return to Play or the operational side of it.
“It is a group with a lot of experience and a lot of expertise on both the hockey side and the business side that can discuss, debate and look at all of the various options and how to best attack getting us back to play.”