General manager Ken Holland is one reason Detroit is again in
the driver's seat
In late February the pressure was mounting on second-year
Detroit general manager Ken Holland. The Red Wings were barely
over .500 and seemed unlikely to win a third straight Stanley
Cup, in part because Holland's off-season signing of free-agent
defenseman Uwe Krupp had failed. (Krupp played just 22 games
this season because of a back ailment.) Holland was responsible
for doing something drastic to revive Detroit. The trade
deadline was a month away.
Then, on Feb. 21 Holland's mother, Lee, called and told him he
had better come home to Vernon, B.C. "My father had fallen,"
says Ken, 43. "He just had a broken arm, but because of his
condition we knew it was serious." Ken's father, Rienie, was
suffering from Parkinson's disease, and the broken bone began a
series of complications that caused his body to fail. For three
days, from 8 a.m. until past midnight, Ken sat with his younger
siblings, Diane and Dennis, by Rienie's bed at the hospital in
Vernon. At 2 a.m. on Feb. 26, Rienie died. "That week was the
first time I can remember Ken putting something before hockey,"
says his wife, Cindi, who has been married to Ken since 1980.
On March 2 Ken delivered the eulogy at Rienie's funeral. Three
days later he was with the Red Wings on a road trip. He turned
his cell phone back on; the trade deadline was 18 days away.
"While I was with my father, there was no hockey in my life,"
says Holland. "I needed to grieve and to sort things through.
When I came back, life was marching on. I had to march on too."
On March 23, in the most significant cluster of trades by any
team this season, Detroit acquired winger Wendel Clark and
goalie Bill Ranford from the Lightning and, more important,
landed hard-hitting defensemen Chris Chelios (from the
Blackhawks) and Ulf Samuelsson (Rangers), who transformed the
Wings' defense from suspect to fearsome. The Red Wings responded
by winning nine of their final 12 regular-season games and
sweeping the Ducks in the first round of the playoffs. "Even if
we don't win another game, I feel the trades were right," said
Holland last week. "We're back in the picture. We were kind of
Hired as a western Canada scout in the autumn of '85 by Jimmy
Devellano, the former general manager who is now the team's vice
president, Holland became Detroit's chief scout within five
years. Under Holland the Wings drafted such essential players as
goalie Chris Osgood and forwards Slava Kozlov, Martin Lapointe,
Darren McCarty and Keith Primeau, the last of whom was traded
for star wing Brendan Shanahan.
In 1994 Holland was named assistant general manager, and when he
succeeded Devellano as general manager in the summer of '97, he
immediately made a gutsy move by trading Cup-winning goalie Mike
Vernon, who was 34, to the Sharks to make room for the
24-year-old Osgood. Osgood rewarded Holland by winning the Cup
last year. "Trading Vernon was very hard," says Holland. "After
that, it's been smooth sailing."
THE POSTSEASON IS JUST A DREAM
The Ducks, Oilers and Senators endured first-round sweeps, but
at least their players felt the warmth of the postseason
spotlight. For Islanders right wing Ziggy Palffy, a three-time
40-goal scorer, this has been another cold spring. Palffy has
played 331 regular-season games without appearing in the Stanley
Cup playoffs, the most among active players. "I'm not having
fun, and I want to be in the playoffs," Palffy said when New
York's season ended last month. "I've been here five years;
that's a long time."
Given the Islanders' poor management Palffy could be in for five
more long years. That's how much time he needs to reach the
standard set by forward Guy Charron, who played for four teams
between 1969-70 and 1980-81 and holds the NHL record for having
played in the most games (734) without setting a skate onto
In the meantime Palffy began competing last weekend for the
Czechs at the world championships in Norway, where he might have
done some commiserating with Canucks defenseman Bryan McCabe,
who was playing for Canada. McCabe has appeared in 315 NHL games
without reaching the postseason and is the only other active
playoff virgin to have played more than 300 matches.
A GENTLEMAN PREFERS BLOND
Maple Leafs defenseman Dimitri Yushkevich has been losing his
hair for some time, and when he dyed his rapidly receding black
mane blond before the playoffs, many observers wondered if he
was losing his mind as well. Because Yushkevich, 27, is a
soft-spoken family man from Yaroslavl, Russia, his new hairstyle
would have seemed more fitting on, say, his 22-year-old tattooed
teammate, Bryan Berard. "I felt it was important to get
something new in my life," Yushkevich says.
Apparently he was also thinking of his heirs. Dimitri and his
wife, Oksana, have two-year-old triplets (Abegail, Julia and
Dimitri Jr.) who have fair locks, and he says he grew weary of
people asking, "Why are your kids blond?" Apparently the little
Yushkeviches were as unnerved as anyone at his fresh look. Often
when Dimitri comes home with the facial bruises common to his
trade, the triplets gather around and say, "Daddy, boo-boo,"
while pointing at his cuts. When he walked in after the dye job,
the kids aimed their fingers at his scalp and said, "Daddy,
COLOR PHOTO: DAVID E. KLUTHO By trading for Samuelsson (in red), Holland put new fight in the Wings' defense.
COLOR PHOTO: JOHN IACONO
This Date in Playoff History
MAY 10, 1979/BRUINS VS. CANADIENS
In Game 7 of the Stanley Cup semifinals, Boston led Montreal 4-3
with 2:34 remaining in the third period when it was penalized
for having too many men on the ice. Guy Lafleur scored for the
Canadiens on the ensuing power play to send the game into
overtime, and then Montreal's Yvon Lambert netted the series
winner at 9:33 of sudden death (above). The victory propelled
the Canadiens to the finals, where they beat the New York
Rangers for their fourth straight championship.