Courtesy of Chris Snow
For Chris Snow, a Massachusetts native and former Daily Orange sports editor, covering the Boston Red Sox for The Boston Globe seemed to fit the requirements of a dream job.
So when he jumped from covering his hometown team to working in an NHL front office, some were left puzzled.
It was a tough decision, Snow (’03) said, but ultimately the right one.
“Leaving a job that was really viewed as a dream job, my friends and my family were confused saying, ‘Why would you do this?’” Snow said.
That was in 2006. Today, Snow serves as the director of hockey analytics for the Calgary Flames, where he’s leading a new movement of embracing statistical analytics in the NHL. Despite the initial reaction from some, a move back to hockey was natural.
“My dad was a big Bruins fan,” Snow said. “He had season tickets to the Bruins at the old Garden, and he would take me two or three times a year. Our seats were front row right behind the goalie and I was just hooked.”
After graduating from Syracuse University in 2003, Snow moved to Minneapolis to cover the Minnesota Wild for the Star Tribune. When a lockout canceled the 2004-05 NHL season, Snow took a job at the Globe to cover the Red Sox.
While on the beat, Snow took a serious interest in the statistical-based analysis used by the Sox and other MLB teams. He picked the brains of executives like Josh Byrnes, then-general manager of the Arizona Diamondbacks; then-Red Sox executive Ben Cherington; and most notably, former Red Sox general manager Theo Epstein.
All the while, Snow stayed in touch with then-Wild general manager Doug Risebrough, leaning on him for advice.
In mid-2006, Snow had a few job offers: he had options on the table with Yahoo Sports and Sports Illustrated. Or he could stay at the Globe. He weighed his options and looked to Risebrough for advice.
Instead, Risebrough gave him something else to consider.
“After some conversations (with Doug), this fourth alternative of going to work for the Wild presented itself.” Snow said. “His thought was that the salary cap had come into existence, the league wasn’t very analytical. He thought that the things I was seeing … could apply to his office even though I had zero experience playing hockey.”
A jump to the other side was intriguing. Soon after, as he was juggling his four choices, Snow traveled to Minneapolis to cover a Twins-Red Sox series. When he was there, Risebrough issued an ultimatum. He needed a decision.
“The Boston Globe had given me two opportunities to intern and given me the opportunity to cover the Red Sox at age 23 and I felt loyal and I felt torn.” Snow said.
Snow recalls driving to Risebrough’s office, still undecided. He made his choice in the exact moment he gave his answer: I’m in.
Snow dove headfirst into a new career and quickly learned to navigate the differences between a newsroom and a front office.
“The hardest part was when you’re a journalist, you have a very concrete, real product.” Snow said. “It is kind of out there for everyone to see so there is a fulfillment there. There are a lot of details that go into a hockey season that are pretty mundane that no one ever sees. So it was a big adjustment for me there; how I measured my days and how I was doing.”
But he found the professional sports environment to be an energetic one.
“When you work for a sports team you’re around people who are high-energy, competitive, in it for the same exact reasons as you are,” he said. “So there’s a real energy to it.”
Three years later, Snow was thrust back into the job market after the Wild changed ownership. He caught on with the Flames doing project work. In 2010 he was hired full-time, and has been working in Calgary ever since.
Today, Snow is still applying the statistical evaluation lessons he learned in baseball and hockey to better assess athletes and make smarter decisions.
“It’s been really rewarding. It’s new, so there’s really a creative aspect to it.” Snow said. “The Flames were definitely one of the first NHL teams to have a full-time, staffed, analytics person.”
When he reflects, he admits his career path is rather unorthodox. Sometimes, Snow ponders what might have been had he stayed in Boston.
“I wonder about it. It’s like two lives, and I went down this path instead of that one. I still wonder about where I’d be and what I’d be doing.”
Published on January 24, 2017 at 9:23 pm