Skip to Main Content

Holland brothers on opposite sides of Western Finals

by Dan Rosen

Detroit Red Wings' GM Ken Holland (right) is the older brother of Dallas Stars scout Dennis Holland. Red Wings-Stars highlights
As Ken Holland was handling personnel issues and conducting interviews prior to Game 3 of the Western Conference Finals in Dallas, his younger brother Dennis was mowing their mother's grass in Vernon, British Columbia.

Later Monday, as Ken watched his Detroit Red Wings dominate in a 5-2 victory from the general manager's suite at American Airlines Center, Dennis watched the first two periods from his couch before leaving to coach his son Jacob's baseball team.

So goes the striking difference in lifestyles between an NHL general manager and pro scout, but the fact is that the Holland brothers, who are separated by more than 13 years, have the same vested interest in this series.

You see, Ken has been the Red Wings GM for 11 seasons, while Dennis has been a Western Canada scout for the Dallas Stars for the last six. Ken and Dennis are as tight as brothers should be despite their gap in age, but they haven't spoken since before the series began and they likely won't until it's over, which could be Wednesday night when the Red Wings go for the sweep.

"It's not a rivalry," Dennis told, "but more of a hope that your brother does well, just not against your team."

Ever since Ken was an 18-year-old goalie preparing to play major junior hockey in Canada and Dennis was a 4-year-old toddler, the brothers have had a bond built on athletics.

Vernon is a small town, and inside the Holland household, the talk always centered on hockey in the winter and baseball in the summer.

Ken fondly recalls taking Dennis to the backyard and throwing fastballs at him.

"My mom would be at the kitchen sink yelling at me and I would be just humming the ball at him," Ken told hours before Game 3. "Turned out Dennis was a tremendous ballplayer and a tremendous lacrosse player."

In the winters, Dennis remembers his brother letting him shoot pucks at him after a long practice.

"In your own mind you're scoring," Dennis recalled, "but he let a few squeak in just for me."

With their athletic bond being as tight as it is, it's no surprise that Dennis and Ken appear to be following similar paths in the hockey world.

They each were WHL stars – Ken won 45 games for the Medicine Hat Tigers from 1974-76 and Dennis recorded an astounding 429 points in 209 games for the Portland Winter Hawks from 1986-89. He split 1987 WHL Rookie of the Year honors with Joe Sakic.

They were each drafted in the NHL – Ken in the first-round of the 1975 draft by the Toronto Maple Leafs, and Dennis in the third round of the 1987 draft by the Detroit Red Wings.

Ken spent nine seasons in the American Hockey League, and played four games in the NHL. Dennis never made it to the NHL, but instead played seven seasons in the minor leagues and two more in Germany before retiring.

"He had great hockey sense, great hands, and he was a competitor," Ken said. "When you look back, his foot speed was OK, but not enough to get him to the next level."

Ken should know. As the Red Wings' Western Canada scout in the late 1980s, he ranked and rated his brother prior to the 1987 Entry Draft. Ken, though, claims he left Dennis' selection up to GM Jim Devallano and chief scout Neil Smith.

A couple of years after Dennis finished playing, he became the coach of the ECHL's Toledo Storm for two years before landing his job with the Stars in 2002.

"My parents instilled in us that no matter what we do, whether we're trying to win a Stanley Cup or in the backyard playing a road hockey game, we play to win at all costs," Dennis said. "We have a passion for this sport."

Ken instilled that passion in Dennis. He has always been his hero.

"He played goalie and I was a forward, but I was still trying to be like him," Dennis said. "My first memories of him are of him playing for the Tigers in the WHL and my mom and dad and myself going to watch him play and me wanting to be like him, a hockey player playing in front of people.

"People look up to Wayne Gretzky, but I remember at 4, 5 and 6 trying to stand up on the ice, he was the guy I was looking up to."

As the older brother, Ken's job has always been to guide and protect his brother. So after Dennis' two mildly successful years in Toledo, a team the Red Wings supplied players to, a meeting with Ken led to his search for a new job.

"There were funny signs in Toledo like, 'Can your brother get me a job, too?' " Ken recalled. "In the end I thought it was in his best interest to make a name for himself on his own because ultimately it would appear he would be living off of my accomplishments."

Dennis used his WHL ties with Les Jackson, now the Stars co-GM who was their assistant GM at the time, to land a job with Dallas. Jackson was working with the Brandon Wheat Kings when Dennis was playing in Portland.

"(Ken) was the one that really pushed and thought I'd be able to be successful in the scouting business," Dennis said.

Which brings us back to the present time.

Ken lives under a microscope in "Hockeytown" with his team one win away from going to its fourth Stanley Cup Final since he became GM 11 years ago. He stays in fancy hotels, eats expensive meals, watches games from suites high above the ice, and makes great money.

Dennis, meanwhile, lives in relative anonymity in British Columbia. He drives hours through all kinds of weather to scout the player could become the next Mike Modano. His claim to fame so far is his involvement in the Stars drafting defensemen Matt Niskanen and Mark Fistric as well as wing Loui Eriksson.

Ken (left) and Dennis (right) share a mutual respect for each other and remain close.
While Dennis isn't quite sure if he wants to follow in Ken's path the entire way and become an NHL executive, he still thinks like he did when he was a toddler.

His brother is his hero, his guide in the hockey world.

"He really is," Dennis said. "I enjoy watching him do his work. He's a fantastic person and a fantastic GM. He's a mentor."

Except this week.

Right now Ken is the enemy standing in his way of the ultimate prize, and it doesn't matter where a Holland brother is watching the games – be it the GM's suite or played back on a TIVO after coaching a baseball game – the stakes have never been higher in this sibling rivalry.

"He's got three Stanley Cup rings. That's what I hope to win," Dennis said. "If I have to step over him to get it, then I have to step over him to get it. In saying that, if a team is going to beat us to go to the Finals, his is the team I would pick."

Contact Dan Rosen at

View More

The NHL has updated its Privacy Policy effective January 16, 2020. We encourage you to review it carefully.

The NHL uses cookies, web beacons, and other similar technologies. By using NHL websites or other online services, you consent to the practices described in our Privacy Policy and Terms of Service, including our Cookie Policy.