When Ned Colletti began his career in baseball with the Chicago Cubs in media relations and publications in time for the 1982 season, Doug Wilson was in the prime of his career, one of the NHL’s best defensemen with the Chicago Blackhawks. In Wilson’s Norris Trophy-winning 1981-82 season, he posted 85 points in 76 games, second in the league among defensemen behind only Paul Coffey.
Colletti didn’t know Wilson all that well back then other than some casual encounters, but he was certainly aware of Wilson’s accomplishments. In fact, Colletti’s first job in sports came in hockey as a beat reporter for The Philadelphia Journal, where he covered the Flyers for two seasons before relocating back to his hometown of Chicago, partly to care for his father who was dying of lung cancer. While in Philadelphia, Colletti figured covering the Flyers was “maybe the best job I’d ever have.”
Instead, Colletti’s path has taken him in all kinds of different directions, including serving as the GM of the Los Angeles Dodgers from 2006 to 2014, where his teams made the playoffs in five of nine seasons. Prior to that, he was the San Francisco Giants’ director of baseball operations and assistant GM from 1994 to 2005.
But even when he was with the Giants and Dodgers, he never strayed too far from the other sport he was passionate about. Colletti is fortunate that the baseball and hockey seasons don’t overlap, allowing him plenty of time to devote to each. “I watch so many hockey games,” said Colletti, 65. “I start at 4:00 and I’ll watch a Metro (Division) game, and then I’ll tape another Metro game, and then I’ll watch a 7:00 game, and then at 10:00 I’ll go back and watch the Metro game that I taped.
“I watch people. I’m an observer of people and how people perform, how people think, how people sacrifice, how people are selfish sometimes. Building teams is something that I’ve done for a long time and something that I’m passionate about and curious about.”
When Wilson hired Colletti as a professional scout for the Sharks in September, it seemed like an odd hire. But most people weren’t aware of Colletti’s passion for the sport or how many hockey people he knows – including Wilson, whom he reconnected with while both were in the Bay Area, Wilson as a Sharks defenseman and then a front-office mainstay after he retired. Other NHL friends include longtime executives such as Brian Burke, Ron Hextall and Ray Shero. After the Sharks made the announcement, Colletti figured he got about 400 messages, most of which were from hockey people. “He loves the game of hockey,” Wilson said. “Several times in the last decade or so I looked at adding him with his wisdom, his experience, his love for the game, his knowledge and a certain skill set that he’ll bring to us. But he was kind of busy in his other jobs.