Wild’s Owner Promotes General Manager Bill Guerin
In his first NHL job as a general manager, Bill Guerin has led the Minnesota Wild to the playoffs in four consecutive seasons.
Owner Craig Leipold, who bought the franchise in 2008, expressed a strong vote of confidence in Guerin by recently promoting him to president of hockey operations. Guerin’s elevation was announced Tuesday by the Wild.
Guerin, 52, came to the Wild from the Pittsburgh Penguins, where he played on a Stanley Cup championship team in 2009. The Penguins also won NHL championships in 2016 and 2017 when Guerin served in team management. As a young player, Guerin also was a member of a Stanley Cup championship team when he played for the New Jersey Devils in 1995.
Leipold is optimistic the highly competitive and personable Guerin can bring a Stanley Cup championship to Minnesota.
“Four years ago, Bill brought his championship pedigree to our organization and the improvements he’s made to our hockey team and organization are self-evident,” Leipold said in a Tuesday written statement. “The results are both tangible and intangible and he continues to demonstrate his talent for building a Stanley Cup contending team.”
Guerin retains his role as general manager in which he’s responsible for securing the best talent the Wild can sign and put on the ice. By adding president of hockey operations to his title, the Wild said that Guerin would have “an executive advisory role in addition to his team-development duties.”
The Wild will begin the 2023-24 season with an Oct. 12 home game against the Florida Panthers. Last season, the Wild exited the playoffs in the first round by losing to the Dallas Stars. The team finished the 2022-23 regular season with a 46-25-11 record, earning 103 points in a third-place finish in the Central Division of the Western Conference.
“Under [Guerin’s] impressive leadership, the Wild achieved consecutive 100-point seasons for the second time in franchise history and have qualified for the Stanley Cup playoffs all four seasons, while amassing a top-ranked prospect pool and balancing challenging salary cap constraints,” the Wild said in its promotion announcement.
NHL teams are bound by a salary cap and the Wild have less money to spend on their player salaries than other teams because of the Wild management’s decision to buy out the contracts of Zach Parise and Ryan Suter. Consequently, the Wild will continue to take a negative hit from the buyouts during the next two seasons.
On that major personnel move with huge financial consequences, Guerin received the blessing of Leipold, his boss.
In a TCB story published in 2022, Guerin talked about his relationship with Leipold and how they discuss big personnel decisions facing the Wild organization.
“I go to him with my ideas and with a plan,” Guerin said in the TCB interview. “I try to explain as best I can why this is necessary and how this is all in order to bring us closer to a Stanley Cup. They have not all been easy conversations. It’s not like an immediate yes. Some things are bigger than others, right? We have to talk about this, and it’s important. It’s people’s lives. It’s their careers. It’s a lot of money. It’s the future of our team. So, they need to be discussed.”
Since the Wild’s first season that began in 2000-01, Minnesota hockey fans have been waiting for a Stanley Cup championship. Many have grown frustrated that the Wild have struggled to move beyond the first round of the playoffs.
In 2023, the Wild led Dallas 2-1 games in the best of seven series, but ultimately fell to the Stars. It was a replay of the playoffs in 2022, when the Wild led St. Louis 2-1 after the first three games and went on to lose the series to the Blues.
Wild Coach Dean Evason took heat from the fans for those playoff series losses, but so did Guerin. However, many fans have given Guerin credit for being a straight shooter, because he doesn’t go into hiding when the team loses a playoff series or is mired in a seasonal slump.
In bad times, Guerin is still willing to answer tough questions posed by Dan Barreiro on KFAN radio or by Michael Russo on his podcast for The Athletic.
Promotions for two Wild veterans
The Minnesota Wild also announced two other promotions on Tuesday.
President Matt Majka has been named CEO of Minnesota Sports & Entertainment. MSE consists of the Minnesota Wild, minor-league Iowa Wild, and Saint Paul Arena Company, which is the manager and operator of Xcel Energy Center, Saint Paul RiverCentre, Roy Wilkins Auditorium, TRIA Rink, Herbie’s on the Park, and 317 on Rice Park.
“Matt’s steadfast leadership over the past 25 years has successfully propelled our organization through tremendous growth, moments of adversity, and continuous evolution,” Leipold said.
In its announcement, the Wild said that Majka “will drive continued innovation, growth, and focus on exceptional experiences across the organization.” As CEO, Majka will be responsible for all business units.
Guerin and Majka both report directly to Leipold.
Another Wild veteran, Mitch Helgerson, was promoted to chief revenue officer. He has been serving as senior vice president of marketing and broadcasting.
In his new job, Helgerson will manage all revenue streams for the organization, which includes ticket sales and service, corporate partnerships, premium seating, retail, and broadcast partnerships.
Helgerson, who reports to Majka, has been with the Wild organization for 18 years and previously worked in finance for Ecolab.
“Mitch has a proven talent for taking our organization to new frontiers,” Leipold said. “He piloted the development of our business intelligence team, which was unrivaled in professional sports at the time, and continues to creatively optimize opportunities for our organization in a hyper-competitive marketplace.”