On November 9, Devils' President/CEO/GM Lou Lamoriello will be inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame along with former NHL players Brian Leetch, Brett Hull, Luc Robitaille and Steve Yzerman.
Lamoriello is being honored in the Builder category for his more than four decades of service to the game as a championship college coach and athletic director; Stanley Cup-winning NHL general manager, team president and CEO; and title-winning GM in international hockey.
Over the last 23 years, his stewardship of the Devils has produced eleven 100-point seasons, four Eastern Conference titles, eight Atlantic Division crowns and Stanley Cup championships in 1995, 2000 and 2003.
As general manager of Team USA, Lamoriello was the architect of the club that won the inaugural World Cup of Hockey in 1996. He also served as the general manager for the 1998 U.S. Men's Olympic Team.
A 1992 recipient of the Lester Patrick Trophy for outstanding service to hockey in the United States, Lamoriello captained both the hockey and baseball teams as an undergraduate at Providence College. He went on to serve as the hockey coach and athletic director at his alma mater, guiding the Friars to the 1983 Frozen Four. Lamoriello was one of the founders of the Hockey East Association, serving as commissioner from 1983 to 1987.
On Saturday, Lamoriello and the 2009 Hall of Fame class were honored in a pregame ceremony before the Detroit Red Wings-Toronto Maple Leafs contest at the Air Canada Centre.
Lamoriello joined an NHL conference call with the media on Friday:
Q. I'm just wondering if you can take us back to June when you found out you were going to go into the Hall. Obviously players know they have that three-year window so they might expect it or be wondering about it, but I imagine it might have taken you by surprise. LOU LAMORIELLO:
Yes, it did. In fact, it was something I wasn't even thinking of in any way, and in fact at that point not even the players, but knowing who potentially would have gone in as players because I wasn't even aware that the selection committee was in process at that time.
When I did get the call from Bill, I was in a meeting. In fact, I was being visited by Slava Fetisov, he was in the city at that time, so I was just saying to myself what was Bill, and then when I called back, and certainly that's when I got the news.
Q. For a guy like yourself who's spent so much time in the game, what does it mean to you? It must be fairly touching I would imagine. LOU LAMORIELLO:
Well, there's no question it's touching. It just really reflects, or I use the word flashback, of how fortunate I have been to be associated with two organizations for the period of time in both, and then be surrounded by such quality people, whether it's coaches, players, because any recognition to someone like this in this position is really, you know, the sort of results of what everybody has done with and around you. And without them, nothing would happen.
I think it was one big flashback of how fortunate I really was and thinking of some of the things that have transpired.
Q. I have to ask you, what is your business philosophy in building such a successful organization? LOU LAMORIELLO:
Well, I think first of all, there has to be a philosophy which you believe in yourself and not only preach but practice. And I think that what we have tried to do is put a foundation together and stay on track with it, and whatever the principles were in that foundation, certainly competency has to be there, in no order, loyalty, and I believe you have to have a work ethic to go along with those three things. And then just get people who want to do the things that are necessary to have success unselfishly, and in that point I'm saying always realize that there is a reason for a logo in team sport in front and the name in back.
But then getting competent people, getting strong people, and then don't waver from the philosophy no matter how strong the people are, and don't allow the media and the fans to in any way dictate what you have for information in the seat that you sit in, because you have that information, and not be afraid to make mistakes. That's how you learn. You just hope you don't make more mistakes than you do things right.
But I would say stay on course of what you firmly believe in.
Q. I'm curious, you've had so many various highlights throughout your career in college and in the NHL. Is there one or two, and it could just be all three Cups, but one or two really that stand out and say these are the highlights of my career, these made my career? LOU LAMORIELLO:
I don't think there's any one. I think that there are many. In fact, I think that if you had to look at one as far as a highlight but not to the extent of a Stanley Cup, because there is nothing like winning the Stanley Cup when you're involved with hockey, but John MacLean's shot in '87 sticks out because that really was the turning point, getting to the Playoffs, and players believing that success could come back, and then we had that run there; I think you could look at the '96 World Cup situation where it was totally unexpected to transpire; and then of course each one of the Cups individually.
But even beyond that is to watch the success of some of the players, watching Scotty Stevens go into the Hall of Fame and doing all of the things that are necessary to watch players have success and be surrounded by so many great coaches, and we really have had them here, three different ones for each of the Stanley Cups and the late John Cunniff who developed players.
So I think there are a lot of things that stand out as far as highlights, and sometimes the most important ones don't go recognized.
|Lamoriello raises the Devils' third Cup in 2003. |
Q. And I wondered, you see these players now, these Hall of Fame players or Hall of Fame caliber players who are all becoming executives in the NHL. They're taking on high ranking roles either as general managers or as presidents and whatnot, Steve Yzerman being one in particular obviously. Curious, as a longtime manager and executive in the league, what do you think about seeing all these players, and do you think players are more qualified nowadays to do that?LOU LAMORIELLO:
Well, I think it depends upon the individual. When you say are players qualified, absolutely. But I think you have to look, and the one you mentioned, Steve Yzerman, I've had the pleasure of knowing and working with Steve while he was with the Red Wings and then now in his position with Team Canada and also at Board of Governors meetings, and I couldn't be more impressed with his professionalism. He's a consummate professional on and off the ice, and what he's done is he's learned from great people, Jimmy Devellano and Scotty and Kenny Holland and the Ilitch family, so he's come with some great tutelage, so he is going to be a success in that position and eventually be a general manager. But there could be other players that might have similar success on the ice, but if they haven't been a student in different areas, and really it's something that they really enjoy and love, it might not work out.
So I believe that it's fantastic to have former players in these positions. They have a feel for the players. They've been through the experiences. They can share their experiences, whether it's positive or negative, to make the game better. And I've learned from these people in different areas, too, in seeing what their thoughts are.
Q. I wanted to ask you about your '96 World Cup experience. As you mentioned, totally unexpected. But a fantastic victory for U.S. hockey, one of the greatest ever. You're going into the Hall with Brian Leetch and Brett Hull, alongside both of them. Can you talk a little bit about both of them and about the experience of '96? LOU LAMORIELLO:
Sure. You know, in speaking of both of those, I'm touched to be going in with them because I had experiences with both Brett and Brian both when they were in college and Brett when he was playing in college while I was coaching at Providence, we played against his team in the NCAA quarterfinals. And then of course Brian, I go way back. Brian's dad and I played against each other while he was at Boston College and myself at Providence, in fact, four years against each other. I also tried to recruit Brian but lost out to his dad's influence to go to BC. So I have a little background with both of them.
Going back to that World Cup, that was a special time because we put together a bunch of players and then brought them actually to Providence College and had a training camp there and were together for several weeks. I can still remember the meeting that we had; to have success we're going to have to make a commitment, and no one is expecting anything, but if we do the things that have to be done – in that coaching staff at that time was Ron Wilson, Paul Holmgren and John Cunniff, their commitment was there, and there were a lot of things that transpired throughout that tournament. But both Brett and Brian were at the top of the list. Brian was captain of that team.
I've had great experiences with them, have nothing but the utmost respect for them both as people and as players and have followed their careers.
Q. Was it a relief to have Brian on your side for a brief amount of time after always having been against him in Devils-Rangers?LOU LAMORIELLO:
No question. He haunted me before that tournament and he haunted me after.
Q. Go where you want with this, but I'm wondering if you can go back the 20-odd years when you started in New Jersey and then think through until today in terms of what are the core challenges for the general manager today versus then? Have those core challenges changed? I mean, there's so much focus now on the cap and the money of it, but I'm wondering if in retrospect if the four or five core challenges are the same and have they changed much?LOU LAMORIELLO:
I think that the core challenges are still the same, but where the biggest challenge is is the collective bargaining agreement today and where free agency is at such an early age and the decisions that you're making can be very short-term for success. The challenge is trying to keep success sustained over a period of time.
To go back to what you mentioned, when I first came in – before I do that, every challenge is different in every organization. It depends upon the individual circumstances in that organization. Some might be just getting to the point where they get to the Playoffs; some might be ready to win the Stanley Cup. So a general manager in each situation is different.
But where it's shared the same is making those judgments on players at a very early age, and then once you feel that you know something about them, and I'm not talking about the top 10 or 15 percent that everybody knows; I'm talking about the ones a little below that where you have an opportunity to lose in a short period of time, do you make a commitment over. That to me is the biggest challenge of where those decisions are, because bad decisions today will stick with you through this new system for a long period of time. And I think that's the biggest challenge.
Q. And that would have been true 25 years ago but not as accentuated as it is today?LOU LAMORIELLO:
Well, no, I don't think it would be true 25 years ago as it is today, because you always would have been able to find some means to correct a mistake, whether it's holding money out of a contract, trading a different player or taking money back or doing things. Here it's very difficult to do those things. Trades – you know, yesterday was simplistic compared to today because the extenuating circumstances, it's not just hockey trades. You cannot make a hockey trade today like you could before because in order to make one, you have to have equal talent. When I say that, at least for what people are giving and getting; equal monies for what people are getting, which is almost impossible; and then room because you have to consider the people that you already have on your team, and are you bringing someone in with a price tag that is getting more than the players you have given money to but he's not quite as good.
So there are a lot of variables that have to enter in if you want to have success with a team and win, because the chemistry and what goes on in that locker room has to be carried and is always carried out on the ice.