Panthers hire Brett Peterson as first Black assistant GM in NHL history

via Florida Panthers
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The Florida Panthers hired Brett Peterson as their assistant GM on Tuesday. In the process, it’s believed that Peterson became the first Black assistant GM in history.

Like new Panthers GM Bill Zito, Peterson comes to the Panthers after being a player agent. The 39-year-old’s hockey career went as far as the AHL level. As Peterson told NHL.com’s William Douglas, he’s excited for the opportunity, even if he didn’t expect to make history.

“It’s exciting whenever you get a chance to kind of reignite a boyhood dream of chasing the Stanley Cup, being in the National Hockey League,” Peterson said. “Having the opportunity to be the first at something is even more exciting, something I never would have expected.”

Panthers hire Brett Peterson, likely the first Black assistant GM in NHL history

While the Panthers’ immediate future looks murky (they made savvy moves, but also lost Mike Hoffman and Evgenii Dadonov), there are early signs that Zito is steering the ship in a better direction. Zito touted Peterson in three specific areas when it comes to being an assistant GM in the NHL.

“His substantive hockey experience as a player, significant developmental and evaluation skills, and business acumen as a negotiator combine to form an elite skill set that is very difficult to find in our sport,” Zito said, via Douglas. “There are many who can excel in one of those disciplines, but few who excel in all three.”

It’s worth noting that the Panthers made this landmark hire months after former GM Dale Tallon’s departure. While an independent investigation didn’t corroborate claims, allegations surfaced about Tallon making racist/offensive comments while in the playoff bubble.

Hopefully a sign of a greater trend of inclusivity in NHL front offices?

When it comes to increasing inclusivity, there’s been a decent upward trend in NHL hirings. Early on, the Seattle Kraken have made waves in that area, in particular.

By naming Brett Peterson as possibly the first Black assistant GM, the Panthers advance that trend even more. This seems like a positive sign that the Hockey Diversity Alliance wasn’t asking too much of the NHL with this August press release:

We will accelerate our efforts to ensure that no barriers exist to prevent Black individuals from getting hired by, and advancing within, the NHL and each of our member franchises (individually and collectively, the “League”) and hereby commit to increase:

  1. the number of Black executives in the NHL to 3.5% before the end of the 2024/2025 season;

  2. the employment of Black hockey-related personnel to 5% before the end of the 2020/2021 season; and 8% before the end of the 2022-2023 season;

  3. the employment of Black non hockey-related personnel to 10% before the end of the 2020-2021 season; and 12.5% before the end of the 2022-2023 season.

No doubt, the NHL has a long way to go to improve representation. Still, the Panthers hiring Brett Peterson as assistant GM is a big step in the right direction — even if it’s a single step. It may also help the Panthers win more games.

(Is Peterson right in expecting the Florida market to “pop” soon? Well, we’ll see.)

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.