A lot has changed in hockey since Tom Reid’s playing days back in the 1960’sand 1970’s. Even more has changed in the years since he began working with the NHL Alumni and MN NHL Alumni Association where he held post as the local division’s president for 12 years.
But to Reid, the changes in both are good, as long as there remains a bridge like the MN NHL Alumni Association to help keep guys connected.
We caught up with Reid to talk past, present and future of each.
MN NHL Alumni: You’ve been fortunate to play and watch the game of hockey over the years as well as observe, the alumni associations evolve in so many ways. What are some of the biggest differences you’ve witnessed in each?
Tom Reid:As far as the game and players today goes, No. 1, the salary levels have escalated markedly since my playing days. My first contract, whichhangs in my pub (Tom Reid’s Hockey City Pub) and frequently I have people ask me, ‘was that $10,000 a bonus?’ and I say, ‘bonus? That was my salary for the year!’ Most players didn’t make a lot of money, so our goal for the original alumni association, was to try and get some dollars and benefits for these players.
I was fortunate enough to be on the original National Hockey League’s Alumniboard in Toronto where we knew that we wanted players of the past to have something more. As a result, the organization there, and in Minnesota as well as other affiliates has grown leaps and bounds. Most of the NHL teams have a local or regional alumni group now, even in locations where teams no longer exist.
MN NHL Alumni: What drew you to becoming a member and advocating for the alumni association both here and in Toronto?
Reid:After retiring I stepped away completely from the game for a little while and then decided it was time to get back involved again. I wanted to try and grow the organization here in Minnesota and attempt to make it better for the players that have retired. Whether they played for the North Stars or the Wild, or wherever, just so you had something to relate to as far as hockey goes. You acquire a closeness and camaraderie with fellow players when you’re in the NHL—it’s really like family! I think making sure players still have that family to go to when their playing days are done is so important.
MN NHL Alumni: What are some of the programsthat you’ve seen the MN NHL Alumni association initiate that you’re most proud of?
Reid:For me personally, it was just getting the group established and cultivating its growth;trying to put our name out there and get recognized. Now, (current president) Brad Maxwell has done just a tremendous job fundraising a variety of different events. We’re especially proud of what’s being done here with the donation of AEDsto arenas in need across Minnesota—it’s been really great!
MN NHL Alumni: Everyone’s dying to know—is there an alumni discount at Tom Reid’s Hockey City Pub?
Reid:(Laughs) Not for the guys that are retiring now—they have more money than I have!
We have a great time at the Pub. We have our annual alumni meetings there. The restaurant business is a very, very tough business. I didn’t realize how tough it was until I got into it. The competition is strong; it makes you better. But I enjoy it, I enjoy walking around and talking to the customers. I try to be there before and after every Wild game to talk to fans. We’ve grown our footprint over the past few years and we’re pretty happy with the result so far.
MN NHL Alumni: What would you say to recently retired players to encourage them to get involved with our group?
Reid:We just want them to get involved. There are a lot of guys from around here who played for the Wild, or for other NHL teams, but haven’t joined yet for whatever reason. I know schedules are tough, especially with familyand their commitments with their own children in hockey, or other sports, or dance, or whatever it may be. But I would just encourage them to remember that we are in this association together. Soon the former North Stars will be gone and it will be retired Wild and other former NHL players.
We hope it gets bigger and better and we hope to have more involvement from young guys who are just getting out of the game. My message to them is: I know you want to step away for awhile, but we hope when the time is right, you’ll get back into it with the MN NHL Alumni Association.
There are a lot of benefits to joining the alumni association, locally and nationally, and I would encourage former NHLers to reach out at some point and be a part of it. You don’t have to do a lot, just a little bit makes a difference.