Neil’s Topics


The secret formula for good leadership – the thing that helped me lead the Rangers to a Stanley Cup victory – was the ability to take into account all of the distinct entities that made up a team.

I had to shore up each player, each formation, knowing that they all had a complex history, a variety of talents, idiosyncrasies, and concerns to bring to the game.


Finding the Right Players

In the NHL – and sometimes in business – it can take a number of years to build a contending team.

The key is ownership and understanding what you need to create a business that will sustain long term competitiveness. You have to avoid “quick fixes.” Draft and stock pile good, young talent, making sure to turn over their player roster in the years ahead.


Tough Business Choices

As a leader, you will eventually find yourself in tough spots. No matter how much you want to be a nice person and make everyone happy, every good leader has to be the bad guy . . . to someone.

In my time, I made 100 trades over 11 years. Trading members of your team isn’t easy. It’s tough being the one who has to make the call on which guy you’re going to have to let go – a guy who has been so proud to wear your team’s jersey. I got paid to hire, fire, and make decisions.


Facing Defeat, Winning the Game

Even the best general managers or business leaders face a time when they have to make improvements to a defeated team



There are four big rules to follow when you negotiate – on the ice and in business.



The best General Managers in professional sports – and the best leaders is business – are able to keep their teams competitive by managing a balance between day-to-day needs and future success.


  • “Neil Smith was able to do what no other general manager could in 54 years for the New York Rangers-win the Stanley Cup! It was Neil's bold approach to changing the culture that allowed the team to galvanize into champions.”