“I got restless sooner than I thought.”
With one answer as to why he’d leave a comfortable position with the only NHL team he’d ever worked for in the Detroit Red Wings after being kicked upstairs so Steve Yzerman could take his spot as GM, Ken Holland immediately struck a connection with fans of his new team, the Edmonton Oilers, today.
Holland, 63, got restless within a couple of weeks of the end of his 22-year tenure calling the shots in Detroit, so he signed on here as GM and POHO. Oilers’ fans, meanwhile, have been tossing and turning while waiting more than patiently for reasons to cheer rather than jeer for their team for all but one of the last 13 seasons.
We obviously won’t know for some time how that will play out because talk is cheap, even from somebody as accomplished as Holland. Plus there’s much to do to clean up the mess left behind by Peter Chiarelli. That said, I’m guessing Holland’s restlessness, that competitive fire still burning in his belly, strikes a chord here. That, if nothing else, isn’t a bad place to start.
TAKING IT ON
As you’d expect, this morning’s unveiling of Holland was short on details. We know Ken Hitchcock won’t return as head coach, but is under contract, so there’s that. We know that Holland would like to keep interim GM Keith Gretzky in the fold in some capacity, but that remains to be seen. There’s a hockey operations department to re-jig, including coaching and scouting staffs. There’s obviously plenty up in the air.
What Holland didn’t leave in doubt is that he is far from ready to rest on his considerable legacy in Detroit – three Stanley Cups, 10 divisional titles and playoff berths in 19 of his 22 years as boss – by riding out his career out of the spotlight in the kind of cushy senior VP job he was offered under Yzerman. He’s not ready to go out that way.
While Holland obviously has more years as a GM behind him than in front of him, it seems to me the unquestionably difficult task of providing results fans around here have long been promised might provide the kind of jolt that turns back the clock a bit. He’s made a career of winning and he’s not ready to stop now.
“We moved to Detroit in 1994,” Holland said. “We’ve lived in Detroit for 25 years. “When Steve (Yzerman) took over, the Ilitchs, Chris and Mrs. Ilitch, offered me an incredible opportunity to remain in the organization. Steve wanted me to stay with him as a senior vice-president and pitch in. Life could have been good.
“Like I said, when I went to the World Under-18’s and I was watching for the draft, I started to realize I was getting a little more restless quicker than I thought. I talked to Bob (Nicholson) a few days ago and it all came down . . .”
THE WAY I SEE IT
I get it why some long-suffering fans of the Oilers reacted negatively when news about Holland potentially getting the job began trickling out. Much of Holland’s success – two of his Stanley Cups – came before the salary cap era. The Red Wings have missed the playoffs the last three years. Holland was dubbed by those who wanted a fresher face or a rising star from the AGM ranks as yesterday’s news.
I’m not going to tell Oilers’ fans who feel that way that they’re wrong because I don’t know for sure, and there’s been more than enough talk already without actions to back it up. What I will say is I’m willing to wait and see how the restlessness Holland talked about today translates into results tomorrow and beyond.
As somebody who thought the Oilers would never get a shot at hiring Holland, that he’d ride off into the sunset secure in the city where he forged what will be a Hall of Fame career, all I know is he chose to leave a place where “life could have been good” for Edmonton. Holland still wants to win, so here he is.
Restless works for me.
HOCKEY HELPS THE HOMELESS
Last year, the fifth edition of Hockey Helps the Homeless in Edmonton had a record year by raising $200,000 to assist the Mustard Seed and Jasper Place Wellness Centre in helping the homeless and those living in poverty.
With the event fast approaching May 10 at the Terwillegar Rec Centre, we’re hoping citizens of Oilersnation step up to help, as they always do, to make HHTH the biggest success yet. Last year’s response was fantastic, thanks in large part to the 10th anniversary Oilersnation party that raised $5,000 for HHTH, with every penny staying right here in Edmonton.
In these final days leading up to the tournament, we’re hoping to sell as many $1,000 pennant sponsorships, and $100 Mega-Raffle tickets as we can. If you own a small business or want a keepsake for the games room at home, pennant sponsorships are perfect – you get a pennant with your company logo signed by our pros. With the Mega-Raffle, just 100 tickets are printed. The winner gets a Theatre Suite for 10 guests, food and a bar tab at an Oilers game next season hosted by Ron and Linda Low. Good times.
You can check out the website, purchase pennant sponsorships and Mega-Raffle tickets or donate here.