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Émilie Castonguay's player-first approach key to winning culture in Vancouver

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The Vancouver Canucks are earning praise for hiring Émilie Castonguay, who becomes only the second woman to be named an assistant GM in NHL history. Sam Chang believes that as a former player agent, Émilie Castonguay will likely take a player-first approach, which will be essential in rebuilding a winning culture in the organization. The Zone Time crew also discuss the inherent sexism in much of the response to the hire, including the questioning of Castonguay's credentials and qualifications.

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Video Transcript

JULIAN MCKENZIE: Émilie Castonguay named the first female assistant general manager in Vancouver Canucks history.

OMAR: Huge. Huge.

JULIAN MCKENZIE: That's pretty big. Comes days after Rachel Doerrie named an analyst for the Vancouver Canucks, as well, and they continue to fill out their ranks with the front office. Matthew Adarsh might even be linked to that team. But also, Scott Mellanby, and Sean Burke, and a few other names, as well.

It's kind of weird that some of the Montreal Canadiens retreads are being connected to the Vancouver Canucks. Sam, you are the resident Canucks fan, whether in good times and bad times. How do you feel about Émilie Castonguay being the AGM of the Canucks?

SAM CHANG: I am so pleasantly surprised by these last two hires. I like, first of all, for them to hire women, like, who knew they could hire more than one woman? Like, amazing.


SAM CHANG: It sounds like it sounds like they're maybe on the hunt for a third. Who knew that could happen?


SAM CHANG: I know, groundbreaking. But it's-- I'm-- I'm super happy. Like, if you watched Émilie Castonguay's press conference yesterday, she said all the things that I think Canucks fans have been wanting to hear for a long time, like, you know, it wasn't, we're just trying to make the playoffs.

It was the goal is to win a cup. She talked about changing the culture of the team, which is something that I think they've-- they've been criticized for over the last 10 years, especially since Gillis left. And I think we talked about this when we were talking about the Montreal Canadiens' new general manager whose name I can't even remember.


OMAR: Kent Hughes.

SAM CHANG: Kent Hughes. Thank you.


SAM CHANG: But I've-- I'm always pro hiring agents to be in the front office because I think agents spend their careers looking out for the best interests of players, and I think for a team to have a winning culture, you kind of have to put the interests of your players first. It can't just be about the bottom line or making it to playoffs so you can generate more playoff revenue.

You get there by making sure that players want to come to your team, that they are happy when you're there, that you are doing things the way-- doing innovative things like Gillis did like finding sleep consultants, lobbying the league for a better schedule, and those are the types of things that I think agents do when they get hired into the front office. So I'm very happy with this hire.

JULIAN MCKENZIE: Who wants to go next between Omar and Avery? Who wants to go next? Uh--

AVRY LEWIS-MCDOUGALL: I'll go-- I'll go next. You know what? For those who are saying, how you know, oh, but is she qualified? Is she qualified to be an AGM? Well, she has multiple degrees. She played--


AVRY LEWIS-MCDOUGALL: She played college hockey. She didn't--

JULIAN MCKENZIE: Yes, she did.

AVRY LEWIS-MCDOUGALL: She knows more about the game than Bobby, than Kyle, one, two, three, four, five, six, Avry, knows about the sport, so shut the hell up.

JULIAN MCKENZIE: Shout out Kyle one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine. You ain't shit.


AVRY LEWIS-MCDOUGALL: No it's true, though. Like, and I think that's what-- that's what made the whole day like, so bad because like, yeah, for the Canucks, man like, they're-- they're hitting-- they're hitting on hires, and it's like-- it's a significant thing. And then you see people say like, oh, well do we know-- do we know she's qualified?

When the heck-- when? When? When did we ever do that? When? When?

OMAR: Teams do it all the time. Yeah. They do it all the time.

Hey, you player had a great career for our organization. Yes I did. Cool. How would you like to be the president of hockey operations? I don't know anything about that.

That's fine. You're hired. Like, it happens all the time.


OMAR: So like, when--


OMAR: I hate-- I hate how we're now-- how now the focus is on like, oh, what did she do and what has she done. Like, what's the-- come on. Come on. Like, stop it.

SAM CHANG: And the people who are like, why are they hiring on the basis of gender. It's like, well the NHL has hired on the basis of gender as in, you're a man, I'll hire you for like, the last however many decades.

OMAR: Mhm.

JULIAN MCKENZIE: We shouldn't care about gender. Why are they making this a big deal that they hired a woman?

OMAR: It's so backwards.


OMAR: It's so backwards. If it doesn't matter, then why are you--

AVRY LEWIS-MCDOUGALL: Why you-- why are you mad about it? Huh? Like, oh, my gosh.

JULIAN MCKENZIE: Why are you mad about it?


JULIAN MCKENZIE: Why are you mad about it?


JULIAN MCKENZIE: Go ahead, Avery. You were going to make a point.

AVRY LEWIS-MCDOUGALL: The sexism was over 9,000. It was embarrassing.

OMAR: Mm. Yeah. But [INAUDIBLE] man, honestly. And the thing is like, you-- you can't look at this moment and not think it's anything but positive, right. Like, these are the moments that we remember. Like, this-- this is-- this is why diversity in anything is huge. If you can see something, you can be something.

I'm-- I'm ecstatic that I can tell my little sister that there's a woman who's the assistant general manager of an NHL team. That's-- that's huge for me, and I feel like that should be big for a lot of people. So-- so please, don't bring up all of this fake water to-- to rain on this parade.

Like, no. Come on. If you want to criticize this, criticize every-- every hockey person who-- who has degrees or whatever or who has no experience at all and is working in the league right now. So like, knock it off. Please stop.

JULIAN MCKENZIE: And-- and if you watch, you want to contribute to the conversation in-- in a much more constructive way, ask the question well, when are we going to see more persons of color in those front office roles. That's something you could ask. That's like, hey, you're right that's great that Émilie Castonguay is there, and we need more women as AGMs and other significant roles in front office positions.

Let's get more persons of color there, too. Let's get more women of color up there, as well. Like, that's a way you could do it. Don't waste people's time and be like, well, how many degrees does she have. Sam, was it you who said that like, she was like among the minority of certified NHLPA agents with degrees?

SAM CHANG: I think there's like 174 PA agents, and 58 of them have law degrees. And not only does she have a law degree, she is actually called to the bar so she's actually a lawyer.


JULIAN MCKENZIE: So I have a question. So, I'm just going to be ignorant about it. Like, so if-- there are people out here who have agents who've never like, studied law or nothing? Like, how does that work?

SAM CHANG: I have no idea.

JULIAN MCKENZIE: How's that work?

SAM CHANG: I have no idea how you hire agents--

OMAR: But no one-- but-- but no-- but no one--

JULIAN MCKENZIE: And no one questions that. Like, I don't know.


No, yeah.

OMAR: The only-- the only time I know that--

JULIAN MCKENZIE: Let Bobby Orr be an agent.

OMAR: Yeah.

JULIAN MCKENZIE: I mean, maybe he went to school for that. That's totally possible. But like we let Bobby Orr be an agent, and no one was like, oh, you didn't go to the bar or anything. Like, but no. It's Bobby Orr.

OMAR: Honestly, the only time I ever hear people bring up those who work in hockey who have degrees is when it's as an insult. Like, when people bring up like, oh, George Parros has a degree, but he sucks at his job. Or like-- like, that's the only time I ever hear it.

So like, why or-- why is this now the, oh cool. You have all this stuff? You are worthy of being the assistant general manager of this team. Like, stop it. Stop.

JULIAN MCKENZIE: Can you imagine a sport like hockey, you know, all the CTE you get getting punched in the head and all that, but you bring up that somebody has a degree, that's an insult. Oh, yeah. That's right.


JULIAN MCKENZIE: That's right. Yeah, that's right, man. You have a degree. What do you know, computer boy? Yeah. How dare you--


JULIAN MCKENZIE: --know about advanced statistics.

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