CALGARY -- Calgary Stampeders fans might know Michael Petrie from the years he spent covering the team for the Calgary Herald. But he has spent the past two-plus years working for the club and was promoted to director of football operations earlier this month.
Here’s a quick question-and-answer about his unique path to his current role.
It seems to be a strange path to go from reporter to director of community and media relations to director of football operations. How did this happen?
In title, it might appear to be a big jump. But in reality, it has been a smooth, logical transition. It’s like Huff said when I was promoted to this post: I’ve been handling a growing number of football-operations responsibilities over the past two years and this was a natural progression. Each of those positions required many skills and a lot of knowledge that contributed to the next.
An important thing to remember is that I’m not being thrown into the deep end and being asked to run the show. I’m just part of a machine that includes a lot people with vast experience. Jane Mawby is an amazing, unheralded part of the football club, John Murphy is a really good personnel guy who understands football ops, Pat and Geo are practically Stampeder legends, and guys like Brendan Mahoney, Chris Poffenroth, Ross Folan, Stan Schwartz, Ted Hellard and Lyle Bauer are all great resources. We all just work together and get it done.
It’s interesting that you covered this team as a reporter for eight years (and the Bombers for two) and now you’re in this position. What did you learn during that time that helps you today?
It’s hard to explain the opportunity I had to learn about the CFL during that decade. I think because I was so keen to learn, Wally took a liking to me and we spent countless hours over the years talking about football; sometimes in a reporter-coach way, but also informally. He was always willing to explain and teach if I had questions about anything. You have incredible access to very knowledgeable people as a reporter if you’re interested in learning.
I also spent hours picking Jim Barker’s brain over the years and I liked watching Tom Higgins work and the way he dealt with people. I always enjoyed talking to guys like Don Matthews, Jim Daley, Brendan Taman and learned a lot from them. Whether it was personnel stuff, communications stuff, motivational, operations, whatever … I tried to be a sponge. Those candid conversations with people around the league were probably the things I missed most when I stopped being a reporter and joined the Stamps.
How did the past two-plus years with the Stamps lead to this current job?
If you’re motivated and passionate about your job, Huff will challenge you with added responsibility. He likes to test people and reward them if it is deserved. That’s evident if you look at the changes we made to the coaching staff this off-season. We lost some very good coaches and Huff replaced them with people who had already earned his respect and earned the opportunity. I think that’s why he trusts me with this role. He tested me with a lot of different duties and is confident I can handle it.
What does the director of football operations do?
It’s a role that covers a lot of areas and constantly evolves. Right now, some of the main duties include handling the salary cap, supporting the scouting department in any way possible, getting up to speed on roster-management procedures, getting ready for the season and I continue to oversee the media-relations department. A million logistical and operational things take place behind the scenes and we’re all working on those tasks.
It says in your bio that you grew up in Saskatchewan but were a Stamps fan. How did that happen?
I lived in Calgary when I was about four years old to seven years old and cheered for the Stamps. We moved to Kelvington, Saskatchewan, when I was seven or eight and I stuck with them. I tend to be contrarian and go against the grain on some things, so I enjoyed cheering for them while everyone else was crazy about the Roughriders. It was fun because a lot of people in town knew I cheered for Calgary and there was plenty of good smack talk. Back then, Calgary played in Regina almost every fall and my birthday present was often a trip to the big city to watch the Stamps.
Who were your favourite players?
Tom Forzani was No. 1, for sure. I also really liked Ray Odums and Terry Irvin. Willie Armstead was great; Richie Hall, J.T. Hay. There weren’t a lot of wins, but there were a lot of good players. Of course the ’90s were incredible but it was crushing to go to Taylor Field in 1995 and see them lose to Baltimore in the Grey Cup.