CHICAGO (AP) — Jeff Greenberg grew up watching Mario Lemieux and the Pittsburgh Penguins. He played hockey all the way through the club level at the University of Pennsylvania.
It's that love for the sport that prompted Greenberg to take on a unique challenge.
After working in baseball for more than 15 years, Greenberg has moved over to the NHL as an associate general manager in the revamped front office of the Chicago Blackhawks. Greenberg is tasked with overseeing the strategic systems and processes for the team's hockey operations department.
“At the end of the day, this was an incredible opportunity that I couldn't pass up,” Greenberg said Monday.
While Greenberg is trying a new sport, at least professionally, he didn't have to move very far. He joined the Chicago Cubs as a baseball operations intern in 2012 and was promoted to assistant general manager in 2020. He also spent some time as the team's director of pro scouting and baseball operations.
Greenberg was working in Chicago's front office when the Cubs won the 2016 World Series for the franchise's first championship in 108 years. But hockey has never been far from his mind.
“Absolutely loved my experience working in baseball, but that passion, that connection to hockey, never really left,” he said. “I'd come home late from a game or from the office and you know I'd try to find a late game or highlights, just try to keep my pulse on the league, what was happening across the industry.”
Greenberg, 36, interviewed for the Blackhawks' GM job this year, but the team opted to drop Kyle Davidson's interim tag. Greenberg then reached out to Davidson to congratulate him, and the two struck up a relationship from there.
Davidson was interested in Greenberg's experience with the Cubs' internal systems for scouting, evaluating and monitoring player development, and the conversations evolved into a job opportunity.
“I think there was definitely an element to sharing my vision and how he would be incorporated in that and how he would play a major role in that,” Davidson said, “because he's leaving one of the premier sports franchises in North America, so it's got to be worth it.
“I guess, to that extent, I did have to pitch him a little bit, but there was obviously mutual interest for him to make that leap.”
The vision that Davidson thinks Greenberg is the right person to implement is one internal system that houses the team's scouting, player development, analytics and any other evaluation information, data or tools.
Picture a scout on the road pulling up a file with his phone that includes everything the team knows about a particular player, including observations from other members of the organization and when those were posted in the file. It's a sophisticated system that has become fairly common in baseball, but isn't believed to be around as much in hockey.
“That was one of the reasons why the opportunity initially was pretty interesting,” said Greenberg, one of three sons of prominent sports lawyer Chuck Greenberg, who played a role in Lemieux's ownership group purchasing the Penguins.
“My sense was there was opportunity to move the needle and kind of close that gap between where hockey is now and where baseball has gone over the last 10 years.”
While Jeff Greenberg works on that long-term project, he also is going to play a role in the team's coaching search. Derek King closed out the season as the interim coach as the Blackhawks finished with a miserable 28-42-12 record.
King remains in the mix for the job, and Davidson said the team plans to identify a candidate list and begin the interview process in the next couple of weeks. He didn't sound too interested in keeping up with the NHL coaching carousel.
“I don't think we're concerned with the number of openings or some teams moving faster,” Davidson said. “I think we're going to run through our process on our end and we'll find the best candidate for us through that process.”
Jay Cohen can be reached at https://twitter.com/jcohenap
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Jay Cohen, The Associated Press