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Canadian Press
8/22/2006 3:36:23 PM

(CP) - Garth Snow now has five weeks under his belt at the helm of the New York Islanders and the NHL's newest GM has barely had time to catch his breath.

"I drink a lot more coffee and work out a heck of a lot less," he joked in an interview from his Long Island office.

His surprising hiring by Islanders owner Charles Wang on July 18 after the abrupt firing of Neil Smith - less then six weeks after his term began - was met by some in the hockey world with criticism and laughter. One New York paper referred to the fact the Zamboni driver wasn't available for the job so the Isles chose the backup goalie.

Lucky for Snow, he didn't have time to notice.

"I honestly was so busy the first week that I didn't have a chance to read the papers," said the 37-year-old native of Wrentham, Mass.

Snow was thrown into the fire, with two salary arbitration hearings in his first week on the job as well as having to hire a scouting staff, a strength and conditioning coach, a head equipment manager, a video coach and a goalie coach.

"There was a lot on my plate right off the bat," said Snow. "That kind of broke me in."

He knows people are the league are questioning his hire given his lack of experience.

"Lack of experience? Yes, definitely," Snow said. "But I think the blow is softened when I have a guy like (head coach) Ted Nolan, (player development director) Bryan Trottier and (pro scouting director) Ken Morrow to help me with the transition."

He no longer has senior advisor Pat LaFontaine, the respected Hall of Famer who resigned the same day Smith was fired. Even so, Snow exudes confidence when addressing the challenge ahead. He feels his personal knowledge from having either faced or played with players around the league is a huge bonus which should help his lack of experience on the job.

"I probably know the league better than any other manager around, with regards to having the network - playing with players since 1993, in regards to knowing our own team and system. A person from the outside would not have that knowledge of our team. So I think there were more pluses in my corner than minuses."

Snow also comes armed with a bachelor's degree in business and master's degree in administration he got while tending goal as a walk-on for the University of Maine in the early 1990s. And because he wasn't on a scholarship, he actually showed up for classes and worked hard at it unlike many athletes.

"I didn't have a choice," Snow said.

Regardless of what he says, Snow knows the only way to prove the critics wrong will be for his team to succeed.

"And that would be the same as anyone else," he said. "Whether it was their first year as a GM or their 20th year, the bottom line is that you have to have some success. You have to win hockey games."

Still, his every move will be scrutinized by everyone associated with the game.

"I can't be under any more pressure than I was as a goalie in the Stanley Cup final, or a goalie in the Olympics, or in the (NCAA) national championship game," said Snow. "For me this is almost like a relief."

Snow's only noteworthy signing so far has been veteran defenceman Sean Hill. But a more important negotiation is already underway - getting star goaltender Rick DiPietro, a restricted free agent, under contract before camp opens Sept. 14.

The former goalie tandem is now at opposite ends of a big contract negotiation, but that hasn't changed their relationship.

"I'll be honest, Ricky and I still go to dinner, we play golf together," said Snow. "Just because I'm the general manager doesn't mean it ruins the friendship. I've spent a lot of blood, sweat and tears with a lot of guys in that dressing room. I'd like to think that this is more than just a business.

Those guys are my good friends and they always will be."
 
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