The Athletic’s Max Bultman and Daniel Nugent-Bowman spoke with several of current and former Red Wings executives regarding Ken Holland’s building of his “Harvard of Hockey’s” worth of front office talent with the Detroit Red Wings, and a certain GM who doesn’t talk to the media that often was willing to discuss his former mentor:
Yzerman decided he wanted to get into the team-building business. And he was prepared to pay his dues — riding in the car with Nill, Holland and Martin to games, driving to Grand Rapids or Ontario.
“I asked him a thousand questions,” Yzerman said. “… Prior to going into management, we all have all the answers to everything, and we have the solution to everything. And then I got to sit there firsthand and say ‘Hey, why don’t we do this? Or why don’t we do (that)?’ And he would explain the reasons — and some of them were very obvious — which I wouldn’t look at as a player.”
Just as he had done with Nill and Martin, Holland wanted to help these former players — even with a whole host of responsibilities already on his plate.
“Looking back, as a manager, sometimes you just want to focus on your team, whether it’s going really good or really bad, or it’s the trade deadline,” Yzerman said. “And he never, ever, was too busy to spend time with us.”
The end result has been an executive tree that now stretches across the league, made up of people from all different backgrounds, but who all took something away from working with him.
“I learned an incredible amount from him,” Yzerman said. “And I really appreciate how generous he was with his time and including me in everything that he was doing. I learned a lot. It was invaluable for me.”