SUNRISE, Fla. – Florida Panthers first year General Manager Bill Zito has made another addition to his front office.
On Tuesday the team announced the hiring of Brett Peterson, naming him Assistant General Manager.
Peterson now becomes the first African American AGM in the 103-year history of the National Hockey League.
He joins the also-recently hired Paul Krepelka, who will share the role of Assistant GM.
“I’m very excited for this opportunity with the Panthers and with Bill’s growing front office team,” Peterson said in a statement released by the team. “It’s a special day for myself and my family and I can’t wait to get to work.”
Peterson has been working as a player agent, serving as Vice President of Hockey for Wasserman Media Group, one of the bigger sports agencies out there.
He has been an NHL certified agent since 2009.
Peterson has a solid hockey background, winning an NCAA National Championship with Boston College in 2001 during his four seasons with the Eagles.
“His substantive hockey experience as a player, significant developmental and evaluation skills, and business acumen as a negotiator combine to form an elite skill set that is very difficult to find in our sport,” Zito said in the team’s release. “There are many who can excel in one of those disciplines, but few who excel in all three.”
According to the Panthers, Peterson will have an active role in the Florida Panthers Foundation’s community-based programs. The goal is to make hockey more inclusive for South Floridians.
UPDATE: Peterson spoke to members of the media via teleconference on Tuesday afternoon. Here are the Qs and the As.
There has been a real positive reaction on social media since the announcement of your hiring. What has it meant to receive such a positive reception?
It’s exciting. It’s exciting for me and my family, it’s exciting for the Florida Panthers, it’s exciting for the NHL and I think it’s exciting for everyone that’s involved with the game of hockey, to have something different and something exciting, so we could be happier.
Was it difficult to leave your career as an agent and switch over to the team side?
It was difficult. You establish a very strong bond with your clients. In many capacities, I consider them very good friends or family, so it is hard because you feel like you’re walking away from some guys. But at the same time, there was always an interest level from an agent to know what’s going on on the other side. We spend so much of our time trying to figure it out for our clients, and this way you kind of just get to know, so it’s exciting.
What does it mean to you personally to be the first Black Assistant General Manager in the NHL?
To be honest, it’s really hard to put into words. It’s an honor. It’s something that never in my wildest dreams would I have even thought would be possible. There’s a lot of people that have helped me along the way; everyone at my old firm, coaches, players, teammates, they keep me involved in this game. I’m just happy that now there can be a second and a third, so it’s a very fun time.
You mention a second and a third person in a job like this, just how excited are you about the future, to kind of open the floodgates to more diversity in Assistant GM and GM jobs?
I’m very excited. You know hockey is very special game that is composed of very special people from all levels, so I think it’s going to be exciting times because I think other people will realize that things are possible, and they should be. There’s never really been a hard stop, but there hasn’t been this type of opportunity yet, so I’m happy that we can hopefully create some more.
When you were attending Boston College, did you know Miami Dolphins head coach Brian Flores at all?
I did know Brian. We haven’t kept in touch, but we were BC at the same time. Actually, one of my wife’s brothers played the football team, so I knew Brian very well. it’s exciting to see how well he’s doing down there. He’s a great guy. He cut his teeth for a long time with the Patriots and I’ve followed his career, so i’m super excited to see another BC guy doing things.
Along those lines, Flores and Dolphins General Manger Chris Grier are the only African American coach-GM combo in the NFL and the Marlins hired a woman to be their General Manger just yesterday. Do you feel like South Florida has become one of the more progressive spots in the country at these hirings?
Yeah well it seems to be, but I don’t think we’re just going out to get people. I think they’ve identified people that are good at what they do and hardworking and excited, and it just so happens to be that a couple of us are African American and one of us is a woman, and that shouldn’t matter; we want the best candidates. But I’m very excited that South Florida in particular…you know it speaks a lot about the people of South Florida and the State of Florida, so it’s a very exciting time for everyone in Florida and I think everyone certainly around the country.
When you were transitioning to a role away from being a player, were you looking people of color to be a role model for yourself, or did you find it troubling that there weren’t people in the kind of positions that you’re in today?
It didn’t really factor too much in any of my decision making just because having been a hockey player my whole life since the age of two, you kind of get used to not seeing as many people around, so I just cultivated the good people and that was always my goal and it’s still going to be my goal. I remember of my first agent meetings actually introducing myself to Eustace King and just saying hello because at the time, he was the only other person of color that was in the agent business, and he’s done fantastic things out in LA and I’m excited to see him keep going. It’s fun. I think just like anything we want to keep getting better as people and certainly as team people and I’m excited to be a part of it.
How does your agent background help you in this job? We’ve seen in some other sports how that kind of background can really help you in this capacity.
it’s the other side of the curtain, right? At least I know a little bit about the tactics that are going to be coming to us, and I know a lot of the relationships and the people that are in the business and obviously some of the clientele that they usually keep. As an agent, you spend so much time identifying players, and to have a little bit more comfort on the team side, because you get to look at players later in their careers, is a little bit comforting. It should be fun. As an agent, you spend all your time calling people to ask for something, so it’s actually nice to sit back and take some phone calls for a change.
You and Bill Zito go back a ways to when both of you were agents together, so what does it mean to be reunited with him here in Florida and what has he told you about your role here with the Panthers?
We’re kind of working through that. I envision that I’ll do a lot of player development stuff and all things hockey operations, as well as help out a little bit on the business side too. It’s going to be exciting. With Billy, we go way back. He gave my first run in the agent business, and that also makes it very comforting for me. He’s one of the sharpest guys that I’ve ever met and it’s going to be exciting to watch him work.
In their release, the Panthers indicated that you would have an active role in the Florida Panthers Foundations and in community-based programs. Is that something you have a passion for doing?
Yeah, absolutely. I’ve done a lot of work with a few different charities in the Boston area, and I’m excited. It’s such a great game. I’ve been lucky enough and the game has been great to me, and I just to help open up doors and hopefully help grow our footprint with the Panthers down there, in terms of getting people excited about, not only the Florida Panthers and our product, but the game of hockey in general. There’s just a wide range of opportunities that I think people don’t even know exist to them, so it’s something I am passionate about and super excited about.