Jim Devellano used to work just down the street here from the Hockey Hall of Fame as claims adjustor for the unemployment insurance agency. That was about two or three miles up Yonge Street.
Today, on the corner of Front and Yonge, Devellano can look back at his old job and say, "Thank god I left it." He went to work for the Blues for free as a scout in 1967 and the rest is, as they say, history.
He drafted young studs who became Hall of Famers like Mike Bossy
and Steve Yzerman
. Tonight, the seven-time Stanley Cup champion, became a Hall of Famer himself.
Here is some of what Devellano had to say in his induction speech:
"Let me begin by offering my congratulations to the other inductees. First, Angela James and Cammi Granato, I'm thrilled to be going in with the first women, the inaugural class. Daryl "Doc" Seaman has done so much for hockey and still continues the legacy with his family. It's wonderful that he's being honored. Then, an old former player of mine, a competitor, great goal scorers, we used to have a lot of battles, Dino and I, but he was a terrific player and I'm thrilled to be going in with you Dino. I'm really delighted to be sharing this evening with such a fine and worthy group of inductees.
"I've had the good fortune in working in the greatest hockey league in the world for 44 years. I've gotten some lucky bounces along the way, but I have really been lucky in working with some wonderful people who gave me opportunites and put their faith in me and I'd like to thank many of those people.
"To the very first general manager of the St. Louis Blues
, the late Lynn Patrick
, for allowing me to get my foot in the door and work for the original St. Louis Blues
as a scout here in the Toronto area. I really had no background but had a great passion for hockey and I wanted to find a way to somehow get into the National Hockey League. Lynn Patrick
gave me that opportunity.
"It was while I was in St. Louis that I would meet up with a young coach by the name of Scotty Bowman. We became friends and many years later I would bring him to Detroit to coach our Detroit Red Wings
, and I guess we all know how that turned out with three Stanley Cups. Thanks for being my friend and very supportive.
"In 1972 I joined another expansion team, the New York Islanders
. Actually, in our first year, Bill Torrey and I remember people calling us the Hapless Islanders and we were the Hapless Islanders. It didn't last long, though. Bill Torrey hired me as he was putting his front office together. Bill gave me a ton of responsibility, he was a great boss, my mentor, he was and is my friend. We would enjoy three Stanley Cups together before I would move on to Detroit and become the general manager in 1982. Bill, thank you for your mentorship and getting me ready to become a general manger in the NHL.
"I grew up in Toronto as a hockey crazy kid with a crazy dream of someway becoming a general manager of an NHL team, probably because I couldn't play. Thanks to Mike Ilitch, his lovely wife Marian, and their family, Chris and Carol, who are here tonight, I was able to realize that dream. Early on we endured some particularly tough years, but you hung tough with me in spite of a lot of criticism at times, and the last 20 years have brought us all a ton of joy. I want to thank Mike, Marian and your family for putting a lot of faith in me and hanging in there with me.
"In 1985, after a terrible season, we brought in a guy by the name of Jacques Demers. He just did a tremendous job for us, taking us from last place in 1985 to the final four against the powerhouse Edmonton Oilers
in back to back seasons. Jacques reinvigorated hockey in Detroit. He was a good coach. He got the players to play hard for him and we had a lot of success. Jacques, thank you, thank you, thank you for getting hockey back on the map in Detroit.
"Franchises like the New York Islanders
of the 1970s and 80s and the Red Wings of the 90s and 2000s succeed because of Hall of Fame players and I have been both lucky and blessed to be involved with many. Denis Potvin
, Michael Bossy
, Bryan Trottier
and Billy Smith
were the glue of those great Islander Stanley Cup teams and that dynasty. Then we go to Detroit, and boy oh boy did we get lucky in Detroit. With our very first pick in our first draft in 1983, fourth overall, we chose Steve Yzerman
. He was the player we built our franchise around. He was a superstar. He remains a close personal friend of mine. He was the heart of our team for a remarkable 22 seasons. Now, as the new general manager in Tampa Bay with the Lightning, we can already see the wonderful work that Steve Yzerman
has begun with that franchise.
"Let me express my gratitude to another wonderful player who has been so ingtegreal to our success and that's Nicklas Lidstrom
. He is the best defenseman in Detroit Red Wings
history and one of the very best in the NHL's 93 seasons. We had other huge contributors to our Stanley Cups, Brendan Shanahan
, Dominik Hasek
, Luc Robitaille
, Brett hUll
just to namea few. All superstars and all came to us late in their careers to help us win several Stanley Cups. Thanks guys.
Finally, I want to pay tribute to a very special person we don't ever want to forget and his name is Vladimir Konstatinov. We know of the tragic accident he faced. He was and is a warrior, a great friend and a cherished member of our Red Wing family. I just enjoy so much going up to Mike and Marian's box and Konstantinov comes up and sits there and cheers with our team. We don't want to forget him. He is a wonderful guy.
"If my 44 years in the NHL demonstrates anything it is you should never give up. Failure is not necessarily final. My long, sometime turbulent journey to Hockeytown is proof of that."