Hall of Fame enshrinement fitting tribute to Devellano
Forty-four years and seven Stanley Cup championships later, Jimmy Devellano finally will get his night in Toronto when he's inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame on Nov. 8.
Devellano, who is currently a Senior Vice-President and Alternate Governor for the Detroit Red Wings, will be enshrined in the Builder Category. Devellano was hired as the Red Wings' GM in 1982 by owners Mike and Marian Ilitch after helping construct the New York Islanders from scratch. With Devellano's help, the Islanders went on to win four straight Stanley Cups from 1980-83.
The Red Wings have won four Stanley Cups since Devellano's arrival and have reached the Stanley Cup Final on six occasions. While he's since passed the torch to current GM Ken Holland, the winning hasn't stopped. Detroit won its last championship in 2008 and returned to the final round the following year.
"Of course, I've known about it since the 22nd of June," Devellano told NHL.com of his induction. "Certainly, it's been some time since I first heard. I'm probably a little bit more excited as we get a little closer. It's certainly a very nice honor."
"There's a couple of things you'd like to accomplish if you're in my position long enough -- one is to win a Stanley Cup, and the other probably would be to cap your time in the game as a builder in the Hockey Hall of Fame. But you have to be voted in. It's not the easiest thing to accomplish. You're thankful when it happens, for sure." -- Jimmy Devellano
Devellano, who said he will have roughly 30 guests in attendance for his big night, admitted that as excited as he is for the event, there also is a sense of relief.
Despite all of his accomplishments and championship jewelry, he wondered if his time ever would come. After growing up in Toronto and starting for free as a scout for the St. Louis Blues in 1967, he finally will be recognized for everything he's done within the game.
"I think that's a fair way to put it," Devellano said. "It's been talked about by some media people over the last five years. It's no secret it's been brought up. Certainly, it's nice that it's happened. I think when you get into this game in a management position -- for me, it's (been) 44 years -- it's kind of like the pinnacle. There's a couple of things you'd like to accomplish if you're in my position long enough -- one is to win a Stanley Cup, and the other probably would be to cap your time in the game as a builder in the Hockey Hall of Fame. But you have to be voted in. It's not the easiest thing to accomplish. You're thankful when it happens, for sure."
The Islanders certainly were thankful for everything Devellano did for the franchise.
As the director of amateur scouting, Devellano helped then-GM Bill Torrey build one of the greatest teams ever assembled. Players such as Denis Potvin, Mike Bossy, Bryan Trottier and Clark Gillies were drafted by the Isles, and all are members of the Hockey Hall of Fame.
"The Islander days were very important to me," said Devellano, who admitted he reflects often on his time in Long Island. "First of all, I don't get to Detroit as a general manager if I don't do a job for the Islanders. I know that. Bill Torrey was a great boss; he was a great mentor for me. He really gave me a lot of authority. Basically, he entrusted the draft to me.
"We had a lot of success. It led to four consecutive Stanley Cups. You really put that into perspective … that no other U.S.-based team has ever won more than two (consecutively). Here are the Islanders -- in their eighth, ninth, 10th and 11th years of existence -- (winning) four in a row. It was a team that almost was 90-percent built through the amateur draft. I'm very proud of that. That was my role there.
Jimmy Devellano (Getty Images)
"I would still tell you the highlight of my life was the first Stanley Cup with the Islanders. You get into this business, you don't know if you're ever going to win one. If you do win one, you're not that cocky to think you're going to win two or three … or six or seven. It happened, but I didn't know that at the time. Those were very, very happy times."
While his early-round selections usually stood out, it was Devellano's ability to draft players in later rounds that made the Islanders an unstoppable force. It's those selections of which he's most proud.
"Kenny Morrow out of Bowling Green in the fourth round (in 1976) turned out to be a heck of a player," Devellano said. "Dave Langevin (seventh round, 1974) out of Minnesota-Duluth. Those are the ones you're kind of proud of because they're late-round picks. When you think of Morrow, Langevin and Bobby Lorimer (ninth round, 1973) -- I took them all out of U.S. colleges in later rounds. They were three of the six defensemen on Stanley Cup teams."
The Ilitch family took notice of Devellano's success and offered him the Wings' GM job in 1982. Fully aware that Torrey wasn't leaving the Islanders anytime soon, Devellano, who was aspiring to be a GM, packed his bags for Detroit.
It took some time, but Devellano -- a recipient of the Lester Patrick Award in 2009 for his contributions to U.S. hockey -- helped turn the Original Six franchise around.
It started in 1983, when Detroit used its first-round selection on a player named Steve Yzerman. Just like he did with the Islanders, Devellano used the draft to form the Red Wings into a powerhouse. They've since raised four Stanley Cup banners to the rafters at Joe Louis Arena.
"In Detroit, I think of some of the later guys -- (Vladimir) Konstantinov in the 11th round (in 1989)," Devellano said. "Obviously, (Nicklas) Lidstrom (third round, 1989) turned out to be a superstar. Our (European) scout, Christer Rockstrom, was really on the ball. I don't know if there's ever been a better third-(round) pick than Lidstrom. Probably not. Between the Islanders and the Red Wings, we've drafted a lot of Hall of Famers."
Soon enough, Devellano finally will become one himself.