Sportsnet’s Mark Spector managed to pull of something almost impossible–he managed to score an interview with both Ken Holland, who gives media members his phone number and answers every call, and he managed to score an interview with Steve Yzerman, who communicates with the media on his terms. Both interviews combine for a fine profile of Ken Holland, who is going to be inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame this upcoming weekend:
“I learned a lot from Kenny, even before I retired,” Yzerman corrected over the phone from Detroit. “Talking about the league, players, signings… I always talked about things with him, and the four years after I retired, we talked about contracts, how he managed situations, how he handled things. The logic behind the decisions that he had to make. It was a tremendous education. Kenny was very, very selfless. To this day I talk to him about things. He hasn’t changed a bit. He is very, very humble.”
We’ve met a lot of GMs over the years. Personable ones who will call a scribe back or sit in the seats of a practice rink and kibitz over coffee. And more private ones who keep you at a distance, seeing no value in a relationship with someone that ranks below them on hockey’s off-ice ladder.
Then there is Holland, who will take 82 pre-game suppers at the press meal, an in-arena dinner put on for scouts, media and support staff. In Edmonton, Holland keeps a table for him and his staff. But it is right there among the rest of that night’s game staff and the media. Same food, same folks, watching the same Eastern Conference games on the same TVs as everyone else.
Where you can go a season or two without ever seeing Oilers owner Daryl Katz, Holland is around every night, as approachable at home as he is on the road.
“You’d have to ask him why he always calls you back or whatever,” Yzerman said. “But I think he goes into the press room to talk hockey with other managers, scouts, media people… At the end of the day he just enjoys talking about what’s going on around the league with other teams and players. It’s why he enjoys managing — he enjoys talking to people about hockey.”
Continued; this isn’t to say that Steve Yzerman is any less personable than Holland, either. He’s just a quiet human being.