Skip to Main Content

Polano, former Red Wings coach, NHL executive, dies at 78

Helped Fedorov sign with Detroit, build 1997 Cup champions @NHLdotcom

Nick Polano, the first coach hired by the Detroit Red Wings after Mike Ilitch bought the team in 1982, died Thursday at age 78.

Polano, born March 25, 1941, in Sudbury, Ontario, played 15 seasons as a minor league defenseman before retiring in 1974. After becoming a minor league coach and an assistant with the Buffalo Sabres, he was hired to coach the Red Wings by general manager Jim Devellano, who was Ilitch's first hire.

Polano coached the Red Wings from 1982-83 through 1984-85, making the Stanley Cup Playoffs in his final two seasons, the first time in 19 years they made the playoffs in consecutive seasons. He was Steve Yzerman's first NHL coach after Detroit selected the center with the No. 4 pick in the 1983 NHL Draft.

"[Nick] played an important role in Red Wings history during his time with the club, and his many contributions helped propel the franchise into a perennial Stanley Cup contender," Red Wings CEO Christopher Ilitch said. "On behalf of the Detroit Red Wings, Marian Ilitch and myself, we would like to extend our deepest condolences to his family and friends during this difficult time."

Polano was 79-127-34 (ties) in three seasons before moving into the front office as an assistant GM under Devellano in 1985. He helped center Sergei Fedorov (1990) and defenseman Vladimir Konstantinov (1991) leave Russia and sign with Detroit. They, with Yzerman, were part of the 1996-97 team that won the Stanley Cup to end Detroit's 42-year championship drought.

Polano remained with the Red Wings through 1992 before joining the Calgary Flames as director of pro scouting and director of player personnel. He was hired by the Ottawa Senators as a pro scout in 2002.

Photo courtesy: Detroit Red Wings

View More