Two stories about Ken Holland’s induction into the Hockey Hall of Fame’s Tim Campbell penned a fine profile of former Red Wings and current Edmonton Oilers GM Ken Holland ahead of this weekend’s Hockey Hall of Fame induction for the 65-year-old Holland…

Holland was 19 when he was selected No. 188 by the Toronto Maple Leafs in the 1975 NHL Draft. He played nine pro seasons in the Hartford Whalers and Detroit organizations and got into four NHL games, one with the Whalers in 1980 and three with the Red Wings in 1984.

He needed that strength of belief to carry on after playing his first NHL game, against the Rangers at Madison Square Garden on Nov. 16, 1980, a day of career highs and lows. Rangers forward Anders Hedberg scored three goals on him, one in each period, and the Whalers lost 7-3.

“After the first period it’s 1-0 for the Rangers and I made some saves and I felt good,” Holland said. “I’m sitting in the locker room in the intermission thinking to myself, ‘Ken, you finally made it.’ I felt like I’m an NHL goalie. In the second period, the Rangers get 21 shots and score four goals. And it’s 5-1 for the Rangers after two periods and I remember sitting in the locker room thinking to myself, ‘Ken, you’re never going to be in the NHL ever again, so really savor and enjoy the third period.'”

Whalers goalie John Garrett, Hartford’s backup that night, remembered thinking Holland had been thrown to the wolves in a back-to-back situation. Hartford, which was 21-41 with 18 ties that season, lost 8-4 at home to the Washington Capitals the previous day.

“Every time one went in, he’d look over with kind of a forlorn look,” Garrett said. “Really, he was incredible, but we weren’t very good. They thought it was the goaltending, but Turk Broda in his prime wouldn’t have helped that team.”

Holland’s induction into the Hall of Fame will come one day before the 41st anniversary of that game.

“From that game and now you’re asking me about going into the Hockey Hall of Fame, there are a lot of emotions while I’m remembering all the people that contributed,” he said. “So many people involved on and off the ice that it doesn’t happen without all those people. I could go on and on and on with names. In order to be a Builder you have to have a lot of talented people around you on and off the ice in order to do that. So I’m not tricked into thinking I’m smarter than everybody else. I’m just a little guy from Vernon, B.C., that chased his passion and had a lot of people along the way that believed in me and gave me an opportunity. And you’ve got to have some luck along the way.”

And former Red Wings assistant GM and current Dallas Stars GM Jim Nill penned a tribute to his colleague:

I had taken a similar career path as Ken, as a player, scout, assistant general manager and really learned so much from him, how he interacted with the Ilitch family, [Red Wings executives] Jim Devellano, Scotty Bowman; an impressive team of Hall of Famers in Detroit. Where I am today is because of that learning experience under him. 

My respect for and connection with Ken today is much the same as it was all those years.

Are we competitive? Do we want to win, to beat each other in the trenches? Of course. But respect is one of the greatest things about our sport. When the game is over, you’re still best of friends. Those are the best of times, when you play somebody you respect, and whether one side or the other wins, there are handshakes after and a respect that goes with it. Ken and I, because of our friendship, respect that as much as anyone and that will never change. 

Many of his colleagues and friends know it, but Ken’s passion isn’t limited to hockey. He also has a true love for golf, which he can back up with a very respectful low handicap. Everyone has a release to get away from the everyday pressures we all face. Ken’s is the game of golf. Whether it is organizing a trip to Ireland and Scotland, or a quick game on a local course, Ken’s eyes light up during every match. He is famous for the ‘4-to-5 games’ within the game that he plays hole by hole, and his pencil is always sharp. 

Because he’s such a people person and has such a zeal for life, nobody loves a laugh better than Ken, and there are few who can tell a story better.

And though I mention it last, Ken is passionate about his family. This is no easy business raising a family. He was a minor-league goalie. He paid his dues. He was a scout, always on the road, more dues paid. That’s not easy on families, but here he is, surround by his lovely wife, Cindi, their family, and friends and on the verge of being inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame. And that’s a great story in itself.

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George Malik

My name is George Malik, and I'm the Malik Report's editor/blogger/poster. I have been blogging about the Red Wings since 2006, when MLive hired me to work their SlapShots blog, and I joined Kukla's Korner in 2011 as The Malik Report. I'm starting The Malik Report as a stand-alone site, hoping that having my readers fund the website is indeed the way to go to build a better community and create better content.