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SASKATOONEXPRESS - September 12-18, 2016 - Page 1









VALID ONLY AT THESE THREE LOCATIONS: 1702 8TH ST. • 705 22ND ST. • 3330 8TH ST. Volume 14, Issue 36, Week of September 12, 2016

Saskatoonʼs REAL Community Newspaper

Blades’ new GM Priestner prepared for new role with team

Colin Priestner wants to be judged by the Saskatoon Blades’ results, not by his last name (Photo by Sandy Hutchinson) Darren Steinke Saskatoon Express t is a conversation that is burned in Colin Priestner’s head regarding how big the rebuild was going to be for the Saskatoon Blades. In early September 2013, Priestner’s father, Mike, purchased the charter Western Hockey League franchise in the aftermath of the club hosting that year’s Memorial Cup tournament. A week before the sale officially went through, Mike and Colin were in San Jose, Calif., visiting family friend Todd McLellan, who was the head coach of the National Hockey League’s Sharks at that time. During the visit, the trio discussed the Priestner family’s looming acquisition of the Blades. McLellan, who is now the head coach of the NHL’s Edmonton Oilers, gave his thoughts on what would


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be a great plan in building a major junior franchise. He had been the head coach and general manager of the Swift Current Broncos from 1994 to 2000. The veteran bench boss proceeded to address the reality of the situation the Priestners were facing. “I just recall him (McLellan) saying like, ‘I’m just warning you guys this is going to be five years of pain,’” said Priestner, whose club was 26-42-4 last season, missing the playoffs for a third straight year. “I never forgot that expression. “I just hoped that when we left that (meeting) hopefully we can make it three years of pain or four or something. It was painful at times the last three years, but I also think we’ve learned a lot.” That meeting was Priestner’s first big introduction to hockey, where he wasn’t

just observing the game as a fan. After his father officially purchased the Blades, Priestner became the team’s managing partner, which saw him move from his hometown of Edmonton to Saskatoon. In late June of this year, Priestner became the Blades general manager, when the club’s head coach and general manager Bob Woods elected to return to the NHL as an assistant coach with the Buffalo Sabres. In a period of three years, Priestner went from not having a whole lot of interaction with hockey to being the youngest general manager in the WHL at age 32. A couple of family members had more links to the game and the league. Mike was a WHL goalie in the mid-1970s, while Priestner’s younger brother, James, played four full seasons in the WHL ending in 2011. During that time he played

for the Kamloops Blazers, Brandon Wheat Kings and Prince George Cougars. The sport Priestner excelled at as an athlete growing up was tennis. He participated in the Canadian National Junior Tennis Championships in 2000 and 2002. He played two years on scholarship in the National Collegiate Athletic Association’s division one ranks with Eastern Illinois University. Following those two campaigns, he returned to Edmonton to pursue a career as a singer and songwriter, and released an album in 2005 and another in 2006. When sales sagged on the second album, Priestner went to work for his family’s automobile company. He spent eight years in the automobile industry and was the general manager of a number of dealerships at the end of that run. “It was a good preparing ground,” he said about getting ready for life in the hockey industry. “I think all businesses have a lot of similarities especially when you are dealing with people. “It taught me how to deal with a variety of people from mechanics to sales people to finance people to accountants. You really learn how to deal with all different types of people. “In this business, you have players who are outgoing. You have players who are shy. You have coaches who are outgoing. Some people burn a little hot. Some people you need to warm up a little bit.” Working in the automotive industry gave Priestner another key experience, which was stepping into a field of work as the boss’s son. It was an obvious situation he would encounter when he became the managing partner with the Blades. When he took on the title of general manager, some fans said the only reason Priestner had that job was because he was the boss’s son. A couple of those comments appeared on the Blades Facebook page, and Priestner has dealt with that reaction out in public. “You have to have a thick skin,” said Priestner, who is enrolled in the Business of Hockey MBA program at Athabasca University. “I am an easy target being a young guy whose family owns the team. “I honestly felt the same way in the car business, when I was working for dealerships that the family owned. (Continued on page 7)

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Saskatoon Express, September 16, 2016  

Saskatoon Express, September 16, 2016