While the sports world lost a legendary figure with the passing of Yankees’ owner George Steinbrenner, Devils’ President/CEO/GM Lou Lamoriello lost a close friend and a respected colleague.
Steinbrenner died Tuesday at age 80 after suffering a massive heart attack. Under his ownership, the Yankees won seven championships, including the 2009 World Series.
“It’s a sad day, certainly for his family and baseball, the Yankees and those who knew him well,” Lamoriello said.
Lamoriello shared fond memories of his relationship with the owner known as “The Boss.” After the formation of YankeeNets, whose Puck Holdings affiliate purchased the Devils in 2000, it was Steinbrenner who tapped Lamoriello to serve as Nets’ CEO for two-plus seasons from 2001-02 to 2004. Lamoriello has remained on the board of Yankee Global Enterprises since then.
“His support throughout all of those years was just exceptional,” said Lamoriello, who called Steinbrenner for his birthday on July 4. “He had me become part of the Yankee family, and I still am to this day, being on their board.”
There was a side of Steinbrenner that few knew.
“The area that most people don’t know or maybe don’t want to know is what he did for charities and the reason he did them,” Lamoriello said. “He did them because he felt it was the right thing. What he did for the Armed Forces, what his whole family continues to be involved with. I’m sure you can see a lot of that association at a lot of the events that take place at Yankee Stadium at different times. What he did is just incredible. The Steinbrenner family just thinks that way. They’re a very private family. They do things not for what the public thinks, but because they’re right.”
Steinbrenner attended Devils games at the Meadowlands, though he managed to stay out of the public eye. He watched Game 7 from the television in Lamoriello’s office as the Devils captured their third Stanley Cup in 2003.
“He did things like that because he wanted to,” Lamoriello said. “And he was never afraid to say what he thought, which is what I admired about him.”