September 10, 2008

The Road To Hockeytown: Jimmy Devellano's 40 Years In Hockey

When you think of the great managers and administrators of the past 40 years, you think of names like Scotty Bowman, Glen Sather, Bill Torrey, Lou Lamoreillo and Harry Sinden.

But not everyone immediately thinks of Jimmy Devellano. But you should.

Devellano is currently the senior vice president of the Detroit Red Wings, an organization he joined 27 years ago. In that time he was quietly instrumental in turning the "Dead Wings" into the top team in hockey for the better part of the past decade and a half, winning Stanley Cups in 1997, 1998, 2002 and 2008.

Before that he was the assistant general manager and director of scouting with the New York Islanders during their dynasty years, winning Stanley Cups in 1980, 1981, and 1982.

He's been a part of 7 Stanley Cup championships, and 14 professional sports championships. Needless to say, being a major piece of two dynasty Stanley Cup teams means Jimmy D has plenty of stories to tell. He does just that in his autobiography The Road to Hockeytown: Jimmy Devellano's Forty Years in the NHL, published by Wiley.

Buy at | - -|

The best part of his memoirs of course is commentary on his decisions in the past. The very first thing I did was crack open the index and searched for certain events. I wanted to read Devellano's insider opinions on the likes Steve Yzerman, Scotty Bowman, Sergei Fedorov, Bob Probert, Bryan Trottier, Mike Bossy and Denis Potvin. Often the talk of the lesser-likes like Ray Staszak and Jean Potvin are every bit as interesting.

With one of the lengthiest careers in hockey history to talk about, I guess it is not surprising that he often glosses over building blocks of the past with little or no mention. After all, it's tough to cover 40 years less than 300 pages.

Devellano tells his story through busy broadcaster Roger Lajoie. Though this is Lajoie's first book, he does a great job writing in Jimmy D's voice. But ultimately the book is rather pedestrian, through no real fault of either Devellano or Lajoie. This is a typical plague of most sports autobiographies.

That's why I prefer biographies or authorized biographies. At least that way the text is often a little more hard hitting or tell-it-as-it-is. At times these humdrum autobiographies come across as too much self tooting. That is not necessarily what is intended, just a possible interpretation.

Unless you have an interest in the1980s Islanders or the 1990s to present Red Wings, you might have to be a pretty hardcore hockey fan to find this book of much interest. Why else would anyone pick up this book with the old guy with the comb-over?

But there are some interesting stories told here by Devellano.

I'm not sure what I found more fascinating - Devellano's insatiable appetite for hockey, or his luck in landing a NHL job. Even when he was working as a civil servant in Ottawa and dreaming of being the next Punch Imlach, hockey was a 24/7, 365 day addiction for this guy. He's equally determined to start working in the league, and accomplishes just that by writing a letter to the St. Louis Blues. He started out as a volunteer scout, but soon enough he was a 5 year employee of the Blues with a reputation for his eye for talent. Even when he gets released from the Blues he gets back into the league basically while walking down a Montreal street.

It's a real important lesson of the book. You work hard, and you meet the right people, and you will go far in whatever your undertaking is. You have to put yourself out there, stay determined, and not be afraid to make your own luck.

The book ends with an interesting and valuable chapter called "From Where I Stand." Here Devellano gives his opinion on everything from the current state of the NHL to expansion to marketing the game to shootouts to player agents to what it takes to be a successful manager in the NHL. Jimmy Devellano has lived and breathed the NHL for the past 40 years. He has some solid and simple words of wisdom that should be mandatory reading for a lot of NHL managers and administrators. Hockey is a better game and business because of Jimmy Devellano's contributions.

I would not recommend The Road to Hockeytown for everyone, but it is an interesting read for Islanders and Red Wings fans, and for those who are looking for an inside look in the National Hockey League world of scouting and managing.


  © Blogger templates Newspaper III by 2008

Back to TOP