Panthers hire Brett Peterson, NHL's first Black assistant general manager

Panthers hire Brett Peterson, NHL's first Black assistant general manager (Courtesy Associated Press)

The Florida Panthers hired Brett Peterson as an assistant general manager on Tuesday.

The team said Peterson is believed to be the first Black assistant GM in the National Hockey League.

Peterson’s hiring comes days after the Miami Marlins hired Kim Ng as the first female GM in Major League Baseball. Among its recent anti-racism and diversity initiatives, the NHL formed an executive inclusion council that aims to increase minority participation in front offices and on coaching staffs.

The 39-year-old Peterson has a background as a player agent just like new general manager Bill Zito and fellow assistant Paul Krepelka. He was previously vice president of hockey for Wasserman Media Group and has been an NHLPA certified agent since 2009.

“It’s a great move by the Florida Panthers, and Wasserman Hockey will certainly miss him,” Wasserman Hockey senior vice president Judd Moldaver said in a phone interview. “He played the game at a high level. He treats people the right way. He’s extremely smart. Players love him, respect him.”

Peterson played five professional seasons in the minors after winning a national title during his time at Boston College. The Northborough, Massachusetts, native also advises and consults for a nonprofit organization that provides mentoring and hockey programs for underprivileged youth and underserved communities.

“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 in a release sent by the Panthers. “There are many who can excel in one of those disciplines but few who excel in all three.”

The Panthers said Peterson will take an active role in their foundation’s community programs aimed at making the sport more inclusive in South Florida.

“I’m very excited for this opportunity with the Panthers and with Bill’s growing front office team,” Peterson said. “It’s a special day for myself and my family, and I can’t wait to get to work.”

Wasserman Hockey executive vice president Markus Lehto, who took over many of Zito’s clients at Acme World Sports when Zito became assistant general manager of the Columbus Blue Jackets, said he wasn’t surprised Peterson’s skills were coveted by a front office.

“I expect that many of the same qualities that made him a successful agent — his character, his respect within the industry, and his understanding of all levels of the game — will also make him a successful executive,” Lehto said.

Stephen Whyno is a writer for The Associated Press.