Panthers name Peterson first Black assistant general manager in NHL

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Brett Peterson was named assistant general manager of the Florida Panthers on Tuesday. He is believed to be the first Black assistant GM in the NHL.

“It’s exciting whenever you get a chance to kind of reignite a boyhood dream of chasing the Stanley Cup, being in the National Hockey League,” Peterson said. “Having the opportunity to be the first at something is even more exciting, something I never would have expected.”

A former defenseman at Boston College, Peterson was a player agent and vice president for hockey at Wasserman whose former clients include Boston Bruins goalie Tuukka Rask. The 39-year-old native of Northborough, Massachusetts was one of two Black agents (Eustace King) certified by the NHL Players’ Association.

“His substantive hockey experience as a player, significant developmental and evaluation skills, and business acumen as a negotiator combine to form an elite skill set that is very difficult to find in our sport,” Panthers general manager Bill Zito said. “There are many who can excel in one of those disciplines, but few who excel in all three.”

Peterson said he enjoyed helping young players build their careers, which is why he considered remaining an agent when Zito offered him the job. Zito is the co-founder of Acme World Sports, where Peterson began his sports representation career.

“There’s something about taking a player on a journey,” Peterson said. “That’s what’s exciting about this, you’re taking a team on a journey now. Having a chance to help manage a team and chase a Stanley Cup is just a completely different extreme I can’t wait to take part of.”

Peterson will work for a Panthers team with a young nucleus led by 25-year-old center Aleksander Barkov. Coach Joel Quenneville won the Stanley Cup three times for the Chicago Blackhawks (2010, ’13 and ’15) and goalie Sergei Bobrovsky is a two-time Vezina Trophy winner (2013, ’17) with the Columbus Blue Jackets.

“I think they’ve got an exciting market that’s primed to pop,” he said. “I think they’ve got some good young pieces; they’ve got a good core team in there. It’s our job, and everyone involved in the hockey ops job, to help it come together and make something pretty special. So that’s what I’m looking forward to.” 

Peterson played four seasons at Boston College (2000-04) and helped the Eagles win the NCAA Frozen Four in 2001. He had a solid minor league career playing 317 games for Atlantic City, Johnstown, Florida and Phoenix of the ECHL; 21 games for Albany and Grand Rapids of the American Hockey League and two games for Flint of the International Hockey League.

He retired after the 2008-09 season and transitioned into sports representation through past hockey connections. He joined Acme World Sports, which was acquired by Wasserman in June.

“I met with a group that represented a bunch of my roommates when I played at BC, kind of formed a relationship with them. The sports agency business was something I always wanted to get into,” Peterson told The Color of Hockey in 2013. “It just kind of fit that along the time I was thinking about stopping playing hockey. They wanted me to come on and work with them.

“It’s one of the rare cases that it kind of worked right from the start,” Peterson said. “It’s been unbelievable ever since.”

Peterson was part of a group that helped put together an all-Black and Hispanic team from the NextGen AAA Foundation that won the Beantown Summer Classic tournament in August. The team was coached by former NHL players Mike Grier and Bryce Salvador.

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