This week I interviewed Scott Mellanby. He was kind enough to speak about his days as a player and his current role with the Montreal Canadiens.
Mellanby’s impressive career spanned over 1,500 games in the NHL with 5 different teams. From starting out with the Flyers as a teenager, to captaining the Atlanta Thrashers at 40 years old, he certainly accomplished a lot. Over 800 points, an All-Star game appearance, making the playoffs 12 times and competing in the Stanley Cup Finals twice is an impressive resume. Mellanby has worked in hockey management since his retirement and is currently one of the Assistant General Managers of the Canadiens.
Josh Wahler: You had one of the longest careers in NHL history. What was the key to sticking around in the league for so long?
Scott Mellanby: I was fortunate that when I started in Philadelphia, they were very progressive with fitness and nutrition and really educated us as players in those areas. I was also injured with broken bones and issues here and there, but for the most part, I stayed away from major injuries. I never had my knees or shoulders operated on. I trained hard and I loved the game.
JW: What was it like being with the Panthers during your incredible run to the Stanley Cup finals, did you ever envision something like that when you initially joined the team as an expansion franchise?
SM: When I was picked in expansion, I was devastated. The previous expansion teams in Ottawa and San Jose, were terrible. But quickly, you could see we were a special group. We were the most successful expansion franchise in any sport in year 1 and going to the finals in year 3 was incredible. I never could have envisioned that, but we were good, not a fluke. The year after that we almost broke the record for most games without a loss to start a season and I think were 16-4 the first 20 games.
JW: What’s it like to be the inspiration for the most famous tradition in Panthers history (the “Rat Trick”)?
SM: I have great memories of that season and the Rat. I am thrilled to be a part of their history, I just wish they had more good memories. Its been pretty bleak the last 15 years.
JW: Is there any particular game you played in that stands out for you the most?
SM: Wow that’s a tough question. I had a long career and there are many. The playoff games are special and the closing game to win any round is an incredible feeling. I was fortunate to play in the finals or semis with 4 different franchises but unfortunately I never won a cup. Every spring is still difficult because it hurts so much but I am thankful for what I have and try not to be bitter for what I don’t. I do vividly remember the last 2 games of my career. Game 3 in Madison Square Garden, we were down 6-0 with a few minutes left. They played Sweet Caroline and the whole building stood and sang as they always do but man it was loud. We would be down 3-0 after that game and I remember while they were playing the song, taking it all in, knowing my career was over. I had 1 more game but I knew I was done. It was surreal. I wasn’t upset, but was amazed . The ride was almost over. And when game 4 ended, all my teammates surrounded me and embraced me. They also knew. It was very special and emotional.
JW: How do you feel with the work you’ve done this summer and with the position of the Canadiens heading into next season?
SM: I feel good about what we have done as a group in Montreal. You always want to help your coaches and players more, but there is only so much you can do in this cap world. We would love another 40 goal guy, but they aren’t easy to find, and if one is available, it’s an 8 million dollar cap hit, which doesn’t always work. It’s tough to make deals because it’s as much about money fitting now and 3 years from now, and the hockey part has to match too.
JW: What skills as a leader on the ice do you believe are important to your success in your management roll?
SM: I don’t think my leadership on the ice has anything to do with it. Not to sound arrogant, but I think I would be a leader in any environment or job. Leadership to me is a natural part of people and although you can get better at it, I think most of it is in your DNA. Also, contrary to popular belief, I think most leaders are the strong silent type and lead by example, particularly in sports. Are they vocal? They are at the right times and have a natural feel for when something, either positive or harsh, needs to be said. But for the most part, they are quiet types. There is a saying I like that I heard in a movie. The loudest one in the room is the weakest one in the room. I think that is fairly accurate. Not absolute, but often.
JW: You founded Athletes Against Autism, can you tell us a little about that and how people could get involved in such a great cause?
SM: Unfortunately AAA is no longer. Ollie Kolzig, Byron Dafoe, and I got it started and we raised some money and awareness but after a few years it went away. I’m proud of the work my wife and I have done however, supporting the cause and raising awareness. Our personal situation with our son has been quite a journey. I hope someday we can find a cause and cure. Too many lives are being affected.
– Josh Wahler