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Detroit's Holland: 'I love being a Red Wing'

Wings general manager remains friends with Tampa Bay's Yzerman

by Dana Wakiji @Dwakiji /

DETROIT -- With all that executive vice president and general manager Ken Holland has achieved in his career, nothing can faze him at this point.

Neither the fact that Holland has just one year remaining on the two-year contract extension he signed last year nor the rumors that Steve Yzerman will return to Detroit to run the team is occupying his mind.

"Let me just put it this way: I'm going to manage the Detroit Red Wings 'til I'm not managing the Detroit Red Wings," Holland said after the team photo and locker clean-out Monday at Little Caesars Arena. "And at that point in time, I will then assess what I'm going to do."

Holland said he still talks to Yzerman, who stepped away from his general manager duties but remains the senior advisor to Tampa Bay Lightning general manager Julien BriseBois until July 1, and they have even discussed the rumors.

"We laugh about it," Holland said. "I'd be living in a cave if I didn't know. I don't quite live in social media, but I'm aware of all the rumors and everything out there."

Tweet from @DetroitRedWings: Ken Holland on #RedWings locker clean out day.Full video:

But Holland reminded the roomful of reporters just how far back he and Yzerman go, including when they roomed together at the 2014 Olympics in Sochi, Russia, and how the two negotiated Yzerman's last few player contracts without any agent.

"Obviously hired him when he retired to become part of the Red Wing management team," Holland said. "We're friends. And we're associates and we're friends. I was a part of something special. Winning Stanley Cups, a team on the ice that had high-profile players, the building was full. And we had massive disappointments. And we had four massive highs. You build relationships and then Steve comes in and you work with him. I got that relationship with (Dallas Stars general manager) Jimmy Nill, I got it with Steve Yzerman, I got it with (Toronto Maple Leafs coach) Mike Babcock. You build relationships that go for the rest of your life."

Holland said the friendships he forged with Yzerman, Nill and Babcock are like those that people make in high school and then can easily reignite a decade later.

"You don't miss a beat. We don't miss a beat," Holland said. "Steve Yzerman and Ken Holland don't miss a beat. Jim Nill and Ken Holland don't miss a beat. Mike Babcock and Ken Holland don't miss a beat. So you guys can write whatever you want but those guys are all friends of mine. They're friends of mine. I'm going to be the manager of this team 'til I'm not manager of the team and then you can ask the question."

As close as they might be, Holland laughed when he was asked if he had any insight into Yzerman's plans for his future.

"That's the beauty of Steve," Holland said. "You dealt with him when he was a player. You guys talked to him. That's the beauty of Steve."

Holland said his own immediate future involves a quick trip to Toronto for Tuesday's draft lottery, then watching some junior hockey playoffs, checking out the Grand Rapids Griffins in the AHL's Calder Cup playoffs, heading to Sweden for the men's world U18 championships, then returning to Detroit for the year-end scouting meetings.

"Hopefully we're going to get lucky in the lottery but we're adding a really good player," Holland said. "We're headed in the right direction and tomorrow is going to be an exciting night. I'm excited. I'm going to sit there and every Red Wing fan is going to have their fingers crossed that tomorrow night is our night to get lucky in Lotto."

Regardless of what happens in the draft lottery, Holland said he is completely committed to restoring the Wings to glory.

"I've been a Red Wing since 1983 when Jim Devellano signed me as a minor-league goaltender and I played in Adirondack '83, '84, '85 and in '85 I became a scout," Holland said. "I'm 63 years old. I've been a Red Wing for 36 years. I've been a Red Wing for well over half my life. I love the Red Wings, I love living in Michigan, I love the fans, I love the people, I love the owners. I love being a Red Wing. I love the history. And I will manage this team every day until I'm not the manager and somebody else is in charge.

"We're going through tough times. We're living the rebuild. I know what a rebuild is like. I was part of the Red Wings in '85 and I see other teams. Rebuilds aren't fun. I'm trying to make sure that this rebuild is done right and it's done as short as possible. I want the Red Wings to win another Stanley Cup, to be a Cup contender. I know how hard it is to win a Cup.

"First order of business is you've got to build a team that's good enough to win it. Then the experience, the luck with injuries, the wrong people, the match-ups, all those things. So I'm overseeing as the general manager, whether I'm here a long, long time or a short period of time, I'm doing what I believe is in the best interest of this franchise, of this fan base, of all those players, to try to build this team into a Cup contender. That's what I get up every day and that's my challenge. That's my goal because I love being a Red Wing."

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