Danny Williams and Glenn Stanford combined their talents to build the St. John’s IceCaps

Robin
Robin Short
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One’s the rock star, the other is the producer.

Danny Williams is centre stage, bright lights. Glenn Stanford is the man just off to the right, shaping the show into the hot-ticket event.

Different personalities, but so far, at least, one dynamic combination.

“Glenn and I work well together,” Williams said this week.

“I’m able to look at the big picture and the numbers side of it. He’s the idea and operations guy.

“Between us, it works well.”

No kidding. There’s a correlation between Winnipeg and St. John’s, one that goes beyond the NHL team/farm club relationship. Both are back in the pro game after Winnipeg’s original Jets flew south to Phoenix, and Toronto fetched the St. John’s Maple Leafs back home after 14 winters in Newfoundland.

With the re-emergence of the new-look Winnipeg Jets, and subsequently the St. John’s IceCaps, hockey enthusiasm in both cities has, it could be argued, reached a fever pitch. Tickets are selling like hotcakes. Sponsors are lining up. It’s cool to wear IceCaps gear.

The names — Jets and IceCaps — are buzzwords.

And Danny and Glenny, down here at least, can walk on water.

They needed each other to make the American Hockey League happen again in St. John’s. Williams needed Stanford for his knowledge of the league and, most importantly, his contacts and ability to pull it together. Stanford needed Williams for his business acumen and, let’s not kid ourselves, deep pockets.

With apologies to the coach, Keith McCambridge, and the Stanley Cup-winning goaltender, David Aebischer, it’s Williams who is the face of this franchise. It’s Williams who is met with Al Waxman, King-of-Kensington-like acceptance as he strolls downtown (just ask IceCaps’ general manager Craig Heisinger), and poses for umpteen photos with fans as he takes in the Jets’ home-opener against the Montreal Canadiens.

It’s Williams who is competitive, and intense. Just like Stanford. And just like Mark Chipman, the Jets’ owner, who put the stamp of approval on the farmhands’ relocation to St. John’s.

Yes, Williams is the front man, but a philosophy of winning is a shared trait among the three executives.

“I met with Mark Chipman, his wife, his brothers last weekend,” Williams said, “and they’re quality people. He’s extremely competitive, but he’s also very thorough, yet humble. But he’s also intense. We talked about the AHL and he said he regretted having never won a Calder Cup, but he still wants to win one.

“I take great encouragement in that, to be quite honest. I said, ‘Well, b’y, that makes two of us.’

“I think that dynamic between myself and Mark, and Glenn and Zinger (Heisinger) is a good one. I think there will be a competitive edge, and if we’re able to put the right team together at the right time, we could win a Cup down here.

“That’s where I’m headed.”

Politics, Williams said, was a rewarding experience. But after becoming the ninth premier of Newfoundland and Labrador, he quickly understood there was a lot to learn (he recalls devouring upwards of a half-million — yes, half-million — pages of background documents to get up to scratch).

But hockey — well, that’s another matter. He played it up through the minor ranks, wore the St. Bon’s colours, played junior and a bit of senior for Bluegolds, varsity at Memorial. Coached the Junior Caps to a couple of championships. Still plays to this day.

He was involved with the old St. John’s Capitals executive for years, a smart, young, whipper-snapper brought on board by Don Johnson and Terry Trainor, back in the day when senior hockey’s Caps were kings of this town.

So there’s a comfort level that comes with the game.

“I love it,” he said. “I owe a lot to sport, building my business connections, the law practice. A lot of that came out of sport and goes back to people like Don Johnson and Terry Trainor.

“Hockey is very much in my blood. It came naturally to me.”

But Williams, ever the sharpy, knows a business opportunity when he sees it, and he knew the AHL could be a big hit in a city with a 6,000-seat rink and no hockey since the major junior game fizzled in 2008.

Williams was prepared to break even on the venture, perhaps even make a few dollars. It was based on reasonable projections, not knowing for certain which way the St. John’s wind was blowing; based on the experience of other teams.

But Williams and Stanford went whole hog, marketing the heck out of the IceCaps, riding the wave of momentum started in Winnipeg.

“At the end of the day, we’re intent on delivering a product here, and I’m hoping our product on the ice will be very competitive.

“Glenn and I, and even Winnipeg’s ... our reputations are on the line, so we’re here to deliver. When the community has responded, we have to respond in kind.”

Williams has a lease on the AHL club for the next three years (at just over $1 million per). Winnipeg’s True North Sports and Entertainment, parent company of the Jets, still owns the AHL franchise, the only Canadian NHL team to wholly own its farm club.

Williams has his eye on the AHL team, but doesn’t want to go down that road, just yet at least, with Winnipeg.

“I haven’t even asked,” he said. “I don’t want to be presumptuous enough to even mention it to them.

“We’ve got a lease here, a good arrangement. The last thing they want is to hear me say that I’m going to buy the team. I haven’t even approached them.

“Obviously, if it was for sale I would be interested. But there are other franchises for sale from time to time. But right now, we’ve got a franchise, a good arrangement and I’m quite happy with it.

“It’s a good team.”

On the ice, and in the boardroom, too.

 

Robin Short is The Telegram’s Sports Editor. He can be reached by email rshort@thetelegram.com

Organizations: IceCaps, Winnipeg Jets, American Hockey League NHL Maple Leafs Heisinger True North Sports

Geographic location: Winnipeg, Phoenix, Toronto Newfoundland and Labrador

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Recent comments

  • Mark D
    October 17, 2011 - 08:16

    Robin, you neglected to mention a third member of the leadership team - Elizabeth Matthews - who runs the public relations for Mr. Williams. She is very well experienced with professional hockey as well, having been with the St. John's Maple Leafs Booster Club whereby the wives and girlfriends of the players raised money for charities around the province.

  • Yah
    October 15, 2011 - 18:26

    Nice to see the insatiable ego is alive and well.

  • Gerard Morry
    October 15, 2011 - 14:41

    Great assessment. With these two winners with proven track records in command the Ice Caps have every opportunity to succeed. Good Luck to the Ice Caps on a successful season.