Devellano has now spent 43 years in the NHL, including the last 29 with the Red Wings. After starting out as an amateur scout with the St. Louis Blues, he then went to the New York Islanders in the 1980’s, winning three Stanley Cups–two as a scout and one as assistant general manager. From there, he went to Detroit, the team which his name has now become synonymous with.
He has helped to orchestrate the Red Wings rise to greatness over the last several years, that has seen another four Stanley Cups (bringing his total to seven) along with six Finals appearances and 15 Division Championships.
But perhaps his most shining achievement was being inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame this past June in the builders category, forever sealing his name amongst the greats of hockey.
Devellano is also the Vice President of the MLB’s Detroit Tigers, but at the end of our interview, he made it clear that hockey is his favorite sport. In this phone conversation, we discussed what is going on in the NHL now, his career in hockey, the HHOF induction, and much more! Below is our conversation:
GC: What is your immediate reaction to Ilya Kovalchuk signing a 17 year/$102 million deal with the Devils, and then it being rejected by the NHL?
JD: I don’t believe that the Devils broke any rules that I know of. It seems to me that the contract is legal, and I don’t know what rules they broke.
GC: Do you think the NHL may finally be putting their foot down because they let other contracts slide, such as the Hossa deal and others?
JD: I don’t think that the comparisons are really accurate because Hossa was 12 years and not 17, and Zetterberg was 12 too, and that’s a big difference. 17 years is the longest ever, only above Rick Dipietro’s contract which was 15 years. You know of Rick Dipietro?
GC: Oh yes, as a Rangers fan I am very aware.
JD: There, so you know, he has 11 years left to run, but 17 years is a big difference. I really can’t comment on the NHL’s thoughts because I don’t know what they are and I don’t know how the arbitrator is going to rule, and you know what? Neither does anybody else. But I still don’t see how they’ve broken any rules.
GC: Former Red Wing Steve Yzerman who is currently GM of the Tampa Bay Lightning has made a lot of moves to improve that team. What is your opinion of him?
JD: That’s my opinion, you’ve pretty much summed it up. He’s done a lot to improve the team and they are better now with him than they were before him.
GC: Now to your career, can you tell us the first hockey related jobs you had, and how you were able to work your way up to the top?
JD: That’s a long question, because I would need a half hour to talk about it. (laughs)
GC: If you could just summarize for our readers.
JD: Well, the most important parts would be 43 years in the NHL; 10 years with the New York Islanders, three Stanley Cups while I was there, 29 years with the Detroit Red Wings, four Stanley Cups while I’m here. I would say those are the most important. (laughs)
GC: Can you tell us what your job entails? Like what your daily routine would be?
JD: Oh God, it’s all over the map. It’s really hard to tell you and I don’t think it would be very interesting. (laughs)
GC: My readers aren’t picky. They would be interested.
JD: Well, I work in conjunction with the ownership of the Red Wings and with our hockey staff, including the General Manager and the scouts.
GC: What was your first reaction upon hearing you would be inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame?
JD: I was thrilled. For somebody like myself, it’s really the pinnacle. It doesn’t get any better than that. In my hockey career there are a few things I cherish the most, my seven Stanley Cups and certainly getting into the Hall of Fame.
GC: And how do you feel about that, being involved in so many championships? You have to be on the upper tier on the amount of Cups won.
JD: Oh I’m on the upper tier, but not at the top. I feel blessed and I feel somewhat lucky.
GC: In winning your first Cups as a scout, I have to ask, how fun was it to essentially be paid to watch hockey and critique players?
JD: It was fun but a lot of hard work; driving thousands of miles in my car and flying all over North America. It was fun because I enjoyed it, but it was hard work. I made sure I was in a different city every night watching hockey teams and trying to find players, and also trying to do a good job at the draft.
GC: You also serve as Vice President of the Detroit Tigers, but what do you like more, hockey or baseball?
GC: That’s great. I’ll leave it as one word– no bones about it. People will know you’re a hockey guy.
JD: Absolutely. There is no doubt about it.
GC: If you could pick any player in the NHL to build your team around, who would it be and why?
JD: Sidney Crosby because of his youth, ability to lead, and great talents. He’s a great young player that has already won a Stanley Cup and lead Canada to a Gold Medal. Pittsburgh has also made the finals twice with him, the first time when we beat them out, and then they beat us the second time around. He’s a bright young superstar.
GC: One last question, if you had to choose a goaltender to have on your team who would it be?
JD: I would have to think of a younger goaltender, because I would want to say Brodeur but that’s not applicable now because he is approaching 40. So I would have to think of a good, young goaltender and I’m just not sure who it would be. A name doesn’t pop out at me.
GC: Well, my readers are Rangers fans so is there any chance it would be Henrik Lundqvist?
JD: I don’t think so.
GC: What’s your opinion on Lundqvist?
JD: Oh he’s fine, but you have to win playoff rounds to be great. You can’t dump that all on his shoulders, and I’m not trying to do that, but you have to win playoff games to get the proper praise, as the best way to put it, like the Brodeur’s have done and even Chris Osgood for what he has done over the years.
GC: I want to thank you so much for taking the time to do the interview.
JD: Thank you very much.
Jimmy Devellano is the co-author of “The Road to Hockeytown: Jimmy Devellano’s Forty Years in the NHL” which is available on Amazon. I highly suggest that you check it out.