Wings, FBK follow similar paths to success
That much will probably show on Sept. 30 when the Red Wings visit Karlstad, Sweden to play an exhibition game against FBK.
"Some people can't even believe we're able to bring them here to Karlstad," FBK's president, former NHLer Hakan Loob, told NHL.com.
It actually fits that the Wings and FBK will play an exhibition game. At least off the ice it's as if these two organizations were separated at birth. They have each experienced wild success by following business philosophies that are strikingly similar.
"I think there is a comparison to be made," Loob admitted.
Since 1975, when the Swedish Elite League was born, Farjestads has won eight championships, including five in the last dozen years. The Red Wings have won the Stanley Cup four times in the last dozen years and have been to the Final two other times.
As in Detroit, where senior vice president Jim Devellano, vice president Steve Yzerman, and GM Ken Holland have all been in the organization for more than a quarter-century, with assistant GM Jim Nill now in his 15th season, Farjestads' front office has its share of continuity.
Loob, GM Thomas Rundqvist, coach Tommy Samuelsson and fellow front-office mates Kjell Dahlin, Roger Johansson and Frank Neal all played together for FBK and have worked together since retiring. Jorgen Jonsson, a longtime player for FBK, recently retired and joined the front office. All of them played at least one season in the NHL.
"It's like a big family," Rundqvist told NHL.com.
"We know exactly what we have in each other," added Loob.
The front-office families with both the Wings and Farjestads are led by committee. Each member has his own responsibilities and rarely are they challenged by the higher ups.
"No organization is about one person," Holland told NHL.com. "It's about a team."
Holland said the idea is to have team chemistry in the front office that can trickle down to the ice. Loob operates under the same philosophy and it works because, like Holland, he is surrounded by people he knows and trusts.
"If you're not given responsibility, you're not going to take it either," Loob said. "For somebody to run the big show, he's not competent enough to do it all so he needs all the people he can to surround him and make things better all the time. And, if you need people, you have to give them something. You can't just ask them to polish your shoes."
"We're not just filling out papers," Neal, an FBK scout in Canada, told NHL.com. "We have input."
As is the case for any successful business, communication is essential.
Holland constantly talks with Nill and chief scouts Mark Howe (Pro), Joe McDonnell (Amateur) and Hakan Andersson (European). Every time he acquires a player, he does so knowing that player can play the Wings' style and fit into the organizational philosophy.
"When Jimmy Nill talks to a scout out there, once that scout walks him through what he sees, it's like Jimmy Nill is seeing it with his own eyes," Holland said. "We have a philosophy. We have a direction. We talk about it. You have to have one direction."
Similarly, both Loob and Rundqvist said they have almost their own language that they can use with all the members of the front office and scouting staff. Loob said it's not a language suited for just anybody.
"The Farjestad language," he called it. "Everybody is familiar with that tone and nobody has to feel bad about it. It's high pitched sometimes. We have reasons to get mad and we show that. We want to be together in madness, sadness and gladness."
Everything they do, of course, is geared toward one familiar goal: Winning.
No team has done more of that in Sweden than Farjestads. And, since the mid-1990s, the Red Wings have been the standard bearer for all NHL teams.
The how is in the blueprint.
"We have a strategy that tells us history is a very big part of the game and so is what we're doing now," Loob said. "The third step is what will we do in the future? What kind of visionary thoughts do we have? When it comes to history and the future, why wouldn't you want to use people that know about it, people who can walk the walk so to speak."