Hockey GM tenure length

I scraped a little data from the internet to analyze a couple of simple questions:

  1. What is the average tenure of an NHL GM?
  2. Is there a difference in the length of tenure between Canadian and U.S. based teams?

The data include GMs who worked in the 1950s onward.

You can access the data here.


1. First, GMs last an average of about 5.5 years in their job.  I didn’t break the data down by month, so this number could be off by a decimal point or so.  But that’s the ballpark figure.  The old-time GMs (like Art Ross, Frank Selke and Harry Sinden) are outliers that drag the mean away from centre.  It should be no surprise that the median tenure is 4 years. Here’s a histogram of the distribution:


2. There is a clear difference in the average (and median) length of GM tenure based on whether or not they are employed by a Canadian team.

Mean Median
U.S. 5.76 4
Canada 4.79 3


I can’t say anything about cause here–maybe GMs working for Canadian teams are forced to be more budget conscious?  Or maybe Canadian fans are more fickle?  Or the Canadian media is more critical?  Who knows, and who can even say the trend will continue into the future?

However, if GMs know about this trend, it could influence how they think about running teams.  A GM who has to worry about employment may make decisions more likely to maximize short-term success even at some expense of long term success.  This could involve trading away young talent or future picks for veterans, or signing players to long term deals in exchange for a short term payoffs.  Seems like something I’d keep an eye on if I were the owner of a Canadian team…