LAS VEGAS -- In a matter of months, former player Murray Craven has gone from being the Montana-based golfing buddy of Bill Foley to calling Foley, the owner of the NHL's newest expansion team, his boss.
The 52-year-old Craven -- who played 1,071 games for the Detroit Red Wings, Philadelphia Flyers, Hartford Whalers, Vancouver Canucks, Chicago Blackhawks and San Jose Sharks, collecting 759 points along the way -- was a semi-retired hockey dad and businessman before he re-entered the game with a bang. Now, he oversees the building of a new practice facility for the newly minted Vegas Golden Knights, as well as getting his first taste of being an NHL scout.
I sat down with Craven -- who was officially named the 31st NHL franchise's senior vice president in August -- recently to talk about how he's helping prepare the Golden Knights for their inaugural season next fall.
ESPN.com: How did you end up in Montana?
Murray Craven: I'm from Medicine Hat [Alberta]. Whitefish, Montana, was our vacation place. It's a ski resort. And it's beautiful. Skiing in the wintertime. Great golfing and boating in the summer.
ESPN.com: How did you end up meeting Bill Foley?
Craven: Golfing. We belong to the same golf course there.
ESPN.com: Who's better?
ESPN.com: How many strokes do you have to give him?
Craven: It's kind of not fair. I have to give him quite a few now. He owns his own golf courses, though. He gets up there with the greens keeper and has the tees moved up to wherever it's best for him. It's not a fair fight anymore.
ESPN.com: Do you remember the moment Foley said, "I'm thinking of putting an NHL team in Las Vegas. What do you think?"
Craven: I remember it distinctly. He pulled up in his boat at my dock. We were playing golf later that day. We chatted about golf and then, as he was pushing off, he said, "Oh, and by the way, I think I'm going to try and put a team in Las Vegas." And I said, "You are out of your mind. They will never let you do it." As I walked away, I said to myself, "I think he's serious about this."
At that point it was just an idea, even for him. And it gained momentum and slowly picked up speed -- now we're sitting here in Las Vegas.
ESPN.com: At what point did you go from providing advice as a friend and former player to being part of the team?
Craven: We never talked about it that much, mostly because there was so much uncertainty about the whole thing. Everyone thinks this was kind of baked in the cake, that we were getting this thing a long, long time ago. It really wasn't like that. It was always kind of, "We'll kick it down the road until we get to that point."
My role's always evolving, and it will continue to. But, at the same time, I need to learn the management side of the game too. That's my goal. I obviously have to get the practice facility built, and we have some American Hockey League responsibilities to take care of, and we have to get T-Mobile [Arena] all ready. And then, in between, in order for me to be involved in the conversations, I have to know the players. My goal is to [scout] 10 games a month. Our regular scouts are going to see 20.
ESPN.com: Was the scouting part of the plan for you all along?
Craven: Yeah. I've always been on the other side of the game. I was always a player. I've never ventured to the other side, really, so it's all new to me. Even scouting is new to me. It's been a learning experience. We have a lot of experienced scouts. We have guys who have decades [of scouting]. So when I sit with them, I'm always asking them, "What are you looking at? How are you doing it?" Everyone thinks, "Oh, it'd be easy to just go scout a game." It's not. Because you end up watching the game and not actually focusing [on scouting]. So they tutor me on how to do that. Don't try to watch two teams in one night. Focus on one team, and focus on five or six guys at first.
ESPN.com: What's Bill Foley like to work for? And did you worry about the transition from golfing pal to employee?
Craven: It's different. No doubt it's different. I knew it would be. Now I work for him. I can still bug him about his golf game. I don't see him as much. He's a busy guy. I'm a busy guy. I'm not worried about it, to tell you the truth. Whatever happens, happens.
ESPN.com: Has the experience of doing the job been different than you thought?
Craven: No, it hasn't. There are more pieces to it than I thought. Obviously, the game has changed since I played -- especially on the analytics side. But I knew the commitment it was going to take to do it. It's seven days [a week], 365 [days a year] right now. You cannot remove yourself from it. You don't go home at night and put something else on TV. You go home at night and put whatever games are on and you watch them till you're done.
ESPN.com: When you finished playing, what did you do? Did you miss hockey, or were you happy to move on?
Craven: After I was done [at the end of the 2000 season], I took a year off. And then I had it in my contract with the Sharks that I would work for them post-hockey. I worked for them in Cleveland. I would spend one week a month in Cleveland. I enjoyed that but I had a young family at the time, a newborn, my boy.
So I looked at the road I was going to take and I just wasn't prepared to pay the price. I knew what the future to get into coaching would have held. A lot of buses, a lot of starting at the bottom. Coming off playing 18 years, it just wasn't in the cards for me. So I took some time off, got into some building and construction activities, commercial and residential, and I enjoyed that. And then this opportunity came along, and it's great. It was the right time of my life to jump back in. It's a lot of work, though.
ESPN.com: There were rumors in the early going that you might end up as the Vegas GM.
Craven: It never, ever even crossed my mind that I would be ready for that. Not a chance. I would never have said that to Bill. Or positioned myself in that manner. That would have been putting my own interests in front of everybody's. I'm not that way.
ESPN.com: What's your relationship like with GM George McPhee?
Craven: I'm trying to learn from George. George is my boss. Obviously I've got other responsibilities. I've got to build these things. When it comes to the hockey stuff, he's my boss. He's got the experience. I don't.