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Patrick Award another fitting tribute to Devellano

Tuesday, 10.13.2009 / 10:42 AM / 2011 NHL Awards

By Brian Compton - NHL.com Deputy Managing Editor

"When I think back, I've been in the NHL 43 years and being from Toronto, I've only worked for American clubs. I suppose it's a reward for working for three U.S. clubs for a long, long time. I've been fortunate that each one of those clubs has had a fair amount of success while I was there."
-- Jim Devellano

Truth be told, there really aren't many milestones in this game Jim Devellano hasn't reached.

But Oct. 21, he'll be able cross another one off the list.

On that day, the seven-time Stanley Cup winner will be one of three honorees for the Lester Patrick Award, which is given for outstanding service to hockey in the United States. Devellano, along with Mark Messier and Mike Richter, will be presented the award in New York City.

"I'm really honored to be going in with the two guys that I'm going in with," Devellano told NHL.com. "Richter and Messier? Boy, that's really something. Two great Rangers icons, for sure. It's nice to be going in with those kinds of guys."

The Lester Patrick Award, one of the most prestigious awards in the game, was presented to the National Hockey League by the New York Rangers in 1966. It honors the memory of Lester Patrick, who spent 50 years in hockey as a player, coach and general manager and was a pioneer in the sport's development.

Devellano was the first person to be hired by Mike and Marian Ilitch after they purchased the Detroit Red Wings in 1982. He now is in his 28th season with the club and is currently the team's Senior Vice President after spending eight years as the general manager.

Under Devellano's watch, the Red Wings transformed from an annual cellar dweller into a League powerhouse. Detroit has won four Stanley Cups since his arrival and has consistently been near or atop the standings for close to two decades. He went to Detroit after helping build the New York Islanders' dynasty that featured four straight Stanley Cups and 19 consecutive playoff series victories.

"I'm very appreciative of it ... it's a nice award," Devellano said. "I've attended a lot of those over the years -- different people that I've known that have won it. I was a little surprised and pleased (when I heard the news). I had no hint, or nobody had ever tipped me off."

A Toronto native, Devellano only has worked for U.S. clubs. He joined the St. Louis Blues as a scout -- after offering his services for free -- in the late 1960s before helping Bill Torrey build the Islanders from scratch in 1972. In all, Devellano has 14 championship rings on his resume.

"It's a nice accomplishment, for sure," Devellano said when asked if he felt relieved to be receiving the Patrick trophy. "I've had a couple of things the last couple of years that have been nice. In 2006, I was elected to the Michigan Sports Hall of Fame. When I think back, I've been in the NHL 43 years and being from Toronto, I've only worked for American clubs. I suppose it's a reward for working for three U.S. clubs for a long, long time. I've been fortunate that each one of those clubs has had a fair amount of success while I was there."

Now that Devellano, 66, will be honored with the Lester Patrick Award, the logical next step would be an induction into the Builders wing of the Hockey Hall of Fame. After all, when Devellano took over in Detroit, the Red Wings were averaging roughly 4,000 fans per game. Now, Detroit is known as "Hockeytown."

"I'm only human -- of course you think about it," Devellano said of the Hall of Fame. "That is the epitome. I guess that's probably the highest honor that you can get in our game if you're in management, being elected as a Builder. It's a decision that other people make. It's not something that you can do much about. It's a decision that other people have to make and I would be lying that it certainly would be nice if it could happen. But again, it's not in my hands. We'll just have to see."

Contact Brian Compton at: bcompton@nhl.com