Monday, May 12, 2014


The Road to Hockeytown with Jimmy D.


To say that Jimmy Devellano is a sports fan would be a gross understatement. He lives and breathes sports virtually 24 hours a day. He has executive roles with the Detroit Red Wings and the Detroit Tigers, and he follows other sports and teams as well.


Jimmy grew up in Toronto, and spent his week in school as a kid, anticipating his next trip to Maple Leaf Gardens. He attended as many games as he possibly could, soaking up the atmosphere, and all the aspects of the game. Little did he know at that time that he would become the most important decision-maker in the Red Wing organization, and that he would one day possess enough sports rings to cover both hands, and then some.


He has seven Stanley Cup rings: three with the Islanders, and four with the Red Wings. In 1979-80, the Islanders won their first of three consecutive Cups, with Al Arbour behind the bench, and Bill Torrey as the General Manager. Devellano was the Director of Scouting.  His four championships with the Wings came when he was Senior Vice President. His other rings in the drawer come from winning the Calder Cup (Adirondack), the Adams Cup (Fort Worth and Indianapolis), and the Riley Cup (Toledo Storm). He has one baseball ring, as the VP of the Tigers when they won the American League title in 2006.


Remarkably, Jimmy quit school after he had completed Grade Nine in 1959. Through the early Sixties, he went to almost every Toronto Maple Leaf game. He really enjoyed the work of “Punch” Imlach, the Leaf coach. He witnessed the Leaf triumph in 1967. Some of you remember that as Canada’s Centennial year. Others remember that as the last year that the Leafs won the Cup. Jimmy also involved himself in the game by coaching and watching hockey at all levels.


He spent almost ten years as a civil servant in Toronto, working for the Unemployment Insurance Commission. I told him that I remembered the occasion when they moved their headquarters to Belleville. He chuckled when I told him that. “That’s when I decided to quit, and involve myself in hockey on a full time basis.” In 1967 he wrote a letter to Lynn Patrick, the G. M. of the Blues, and he offered his services to the Blues as a scout, and indicated that he did not expect any wages. He heard back from Patrick, and the rest in history.


In the book, he takes the reader through his times of triumph with the Islanders and with the Red Wings. He was introduced as the General Manager of the Red Wings in 1982, succeeding Jimmy Skinner. The following year, Jimmy went to the NHL draft with the fourth pick. It looked as if the Wings would miss out on the top three players: Sylvain Turgeon, Pat Lafontaine, and a kid from the Peterborough Petes. The Minnesota North Stars had the first pick and they chose…….Brian Lawton, from an American High School. That left the door open for Jimmy to pick that kid from the Petes: Steve Yzerman. A wise selection for his first draft pick.


Yzerman stayed in Detroit 22 years, He served as captain longer than any other player in history, and is a member of the Hall of Fame. He has left Detroit to serve as the GM of the Tampa Bay Lightning.


Devellano went on to wheel and deal, adding enough pieces to put together the Stanley Cup teams in Motor City.


In fact, his book is entitled, “The road to Hockeytown-Jimmy Devellano’s Forty Years in the NHL”. For all of you Wings fans, it is a must. One of my friends in Fort Myers, Jerry Lewis, could not put the book down. “I really enjoyed that trip once again,” he told me. “It was fun to get a different perspective on the team.” Jerry has been involved in sport all his life, and still plays competitive baseball in a seniors’ loop. In a recent tournament, he face Bill “Space Man” Lee!


I am going to drop off my copy of Devellano’s book at the Wellington Library tomorrow. It will be there for all of you Red Wing fans until the NHL starts up again in the fall. You need something to keep your interest while others watch their favourite teams. Well, that is stretching it a bit. As the playoffs wind down, there are many of you basking in disappointment.







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