WHO IS NEIL?
Neil Smith is one of North America’s premiere sports executives. As President and General Manager of the New York Rangers, he worked closely with the team’s four different owners-Paramount, Viacom, ITT and Cablevision-to rejuvenate the storied franchise both on and off the ice. Smith ultimately led the Rangers to their first Stanley Cup Championship in 54 years and positioned the team as one of the most successful and profitable brands in the NHL. He is currently the owner of the minor league hockey team the Johnstown Chiefs, serves as a scout to the Anaheim Ducks and is a leading analyst on Versus Network, the NHL Network and countless other electronic media outlets.
Smith joined the New York Rangers in 1989 as the youngest GM in Rangers history. He was given a mandate to rebuild a team that had not won a championship since 1940 and to turn the Rangers into a modern brand that attracted a young and diverse fan base. On the ice, Smith quickly assembled a group of seasoned veterans and emerging superstars, bringing some of the most talented players in the world to Madison Square Garden. He initiated the blockbuster trade for the legendary Mark Messier, who became the team’s captain and a New York sports icon. Under Smith’s leadership, the Rangers became an elite team and twice won the Presidents' Trophy emblematic of placing first in the entire league. In the 1993-1994 season, the team famously won the Stanely Cup and Smith was selected Executive of the Year by The Sporting News.
While rebuilding the team, Smith also spearheaded a campaign to improve the team’s business performance and increase its fan base. He built and developed the team’s profitable minor league franchise, implemented a variety of branding initiatives including the unveiling of a new logo and completely re-organized MSG’s ticket prices and put in the highly lucrative rink side seats.
Born in Toronto, Neil Smith developed his love for hockey from his mother who played in a women's league in Winnipeg, Manitoba. By age 8, he was enrolled in the local house league and eventually earned a hockey scholarship to Western Michigan University. As a freshman, he was selected to the All-America team as defenseman, then named team captain his sophomore season. He was eventually inducted into the WMU Sports Hall of Fame, and given the school's highest honor of the Distinguished Alumni Award.
In 1974, Neil Smith was drafted by the New York Islanders and spent several seasons in the minor leagues. Later, he worked for the organization as a pro and amateur scout. The Detroit Red Wings then hired him in 1982 as Director of Scouting and General Manager of the team's minor league affiliate, the Adirondack Red Wings. With the AHL Red Wings, he won 2 Calder Cup championships. Smith has also served as General Manager of the New York Islanders.
He currently lives in New York City and is writing a book that shares the lessons he has learned from a 30 year career in the professional sports business.
“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.”