Born in Montreal, Quebec, Canada, Sam was a keen evaluator of talent. In 1950, with the Montreal Junior Canadiens and in 1958, with the Ottawa-Hull Canadiens, he won the Memorial Cup. The Montreal Canadiens saw potential in Pollock and quickly hired him to be the successor to Frank J. Selke, serving as Personnel Director from 1959 to 1963. In 1964, Selke finally retired and Sam took over his job as general manager of the Habs.
He spent 14 years with the club as General Manager giving up the job in summer of 1978. He spent one last season with Montreal on their board of directors, before retiring in summer of 1979. Pollock name was included on the Stanley Cup, 12 times, including a NHL record 9 as a Manager. Sam Pollock and head coach Scotty Bowman not only presided over a Canadiens dynasty, but many of their players went on to having successful coaching and managing roles with their own teams.
With the end of NHL sponsorship of junior teams, Pollock believed that drafting good young prospects was the key to long term success in the NHL. To this end he was always scheming, sometimes years in advance, in order to be in position to pick up the "cream of the crop" in any annual entry level draft.
Among one of his shrewdest moves, was a series of trades in which the Canadiens obtained the first overall pick in the 1971 NHL Amateur Draft, the year in which Guy Lafleur would be eligible. It appeared as if the first overall selection would be held by the California Golden Seals so he persuaded Seals owner Charlie Finley to trade the Seals' pick and François Lacombe in return for Montreal's first round pick and a veteran Ernie Hicke. However, during the 1970-71 season, the Los Angeles Kings were playing even more poorly than the hapless California Seals. The Kings were in danger of "beating" the Seals out for last place. If this happened Pollock would lose his first overall pick. Pollock shrewdly traded the aging but still valuable Ralph Backstrom to the Kings for two insignificant players. Backstrom's presence helped lift the Kings out of last place, the Seals finished at the bottom, and the Habs drafted Lafleur.
On another occasion he traded two college prospects to Boston for a young goalie named Ken Dryden. He was also instrumental in acquiring Larry Robinson, Serge Savard, Guy Lapointe and Steve Shutt, all of whom would become superstars for the Canadiens.
In another deal, one which was never consumated, New York Islanders GM Bill Torrey drafted defenceman Denis Potvin first overall in the 1973 entry draft, Pollock approached Torrey, hoping to trade for Potvin. Pollock's strategy was to offer a "quick-fix" package of mature players in exchange for the top draft pick. Although it was tempting, as the Islanders would immediately benefit from the trade, Torrey ultimately turned down the offer. Potvin went on to be a long-term asset to the Islanders, leading them to 4 Stanley Cups later in the decade.
- In 1976, he was the General Manager for Team Canada which won the inaugural Canada Cup.
- Stanley Cup Champion - 1959–60 as Personnel Director
- Stanley Cup Champion - 1964–65, 65–66, 67–68, 68–69, 70–71, 72–73, 75–76, 76–77, 77–78, as Vice President/General Manager
- Stanley Cup Champion - 78–79 as a member of Board of Directors. (all 12 with the Montreal Canadiens)
- In 1978, he was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame as a builder and later into the Canadian Sports Hall of Fame.
Frank J. Selke
|General Manager of the Montreal Canadiens
1964 – 1978
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