By Mark Wilson
February 4, 2015

A father and his teenage son came up to me at a Red Wings game back in November.

We were talking on the Joe Louis Arena concourse when the teen asked if the Wings had ever had a general manager other than Ken Holland.

He didn’t ask WHO the GM was prior to Ken; he asked IF there ever was one.

His own dad busted in with, “Of course they’ve had other GM’s but for the life of me I can’t remember who he replaced.”

I still have some semblance of a brain and told both that technically Scotty Bowman was GM when he got to Detroit replacing Coach/GM Bryan Murray. Holland simply took over the duty from Scotty and VP Jimmy Devellano.

“Ah yes, right,” said the father.

We looked at each other as if to acknowledge that Holland had been here a helluva long time.

20 years has gone by since Kenny grabbed the job of “assistant” general manager under Bowman.

He pretty much did everything in the front office while Scotty coached the Wings on the ice. Scotty would approve trades and signings but for the most part, Holland was chief cook and bottle washer at JLA.

It wasn’t until 1997 that he officially got the title.

Other than Lou Lamoriello in New Jersey, Holland is right up there in time of service with one NHL franchise. “Lou Lam” has run the Devils since 1987.

And he’s run them very well I might add, showing off three Stanley Cups.

Holland has been a part of FOUR.

Including an NHL career that spanned all of FOUR games in goal for the old Hartford Whalers and Wings (3 in Detroit and 1 in Hartford), Holland has been around pro hockey for close to 40 years.

Ken’s been a Red Wing since 1983.

If you’re interested, Holland went 0-2-1 in those four games as a goalie. His goals against average was 4.95.

He picked the right part of the game to be in when he went upstairs!

Actually, that isn’t fair. Holland was a very good goaltender for many moons; just not at the NHL level.

Having some fun with ya, Ken!

But seriously, he did pick pick the right aspect.

He’s been a terrific manager and administrator.

There is NO WAY the Wings win four Cups without his guidance.

Holland has scouted like its nobodies business to find draft picks in the nookiest of crannies around the globe. He initially scouted Western Canada but moved to director of scouting in short order.

He helped paved the way for the “Russian Five” under Murray.

Don’t forget! The Wings have been so good; they haven’t exactly had a bounty of top notch draft choices over the years.

Hell, make that DECADES now.

When Martin Lapointe was picked tenth overall in 1991, who would have thunk that Marty would be the LAST top ten pick for the Wings all the way up to this past June?

Top TEN.

In 1990, Detroit had the third overall choice and selected Keith Primeau. They passed on BOTH Mike Ricci and Jaromir Jagr to grab Primeau.

Jagr is playing to this day. He has over 700 goals.


You have to go back to 1986 to find the last time the Wings had the number ONE overall draft pick.

They took Joe Murphy that year.

Murph, out of Michigan State, was the first U.S. college player taken tops in an NHL meat market.

The controversy in ’86 centered around Jimmy Carson.

Carson was a Detroit native and most hockey fans thought the Wings would go for the local kid over the MSU kid since Murphy hailed from London, Ontario Canada.

Both players had ok careers and Carson ended up in Hockeytown when he was traded by Edmonton to the Wings for… Joe Murphy.

Petr Klima and Adam Graves were also in that deal but it’s more fun to say it was Carson for Murphy.

Each scored well over 200 career goals and Murph won a Cup with the Oilers.

Carson was back in a Wings alumni sweater for the Winter Classic last New Year’s Day.

They weren’t great… but not bad.

Holland has never had the luxury of picking first under his watch.

Not even close.

Oh sure, he’s spent plenty of Mike Ilitch’s money building a champion following the back to back Stanley Cups in 1997-98.

Bringing in Hall of Fame players like Brett Hull, Luc Robitalle and Dominik Hasek helped Detroit win another in 2002.

Chris Osgood’s return in 2005-06 spurred the Wings to the 2008 Cup.

At each turn over the past two decades, Holland has found a way to keep the Wings relevant and winning.

Detroit’s streak of playoff appearances continues and with the start this season, looks like it will be 24 straight years of playoff action.

1989-90 was the last time the Red Wings missed out.


Incorporated in 1905, no city grew faster in the United States than Las Vegas, Nevada. It is the largest city in the USA created after 1900.

There are now about two million people in Clark County.

Determined not to let the crash of 2006 derail what the city has become worldwide, Vegas is back and thriving in the tourism business. Casino hotels are flourishing again and new ones are being planned and built.

Just this past August, the new SLS opened.

It was the old Sahara which closed in May of 2011. Jessica Hall and I did our Vegas radio show from the property that final weekend.

Three years later, a brand spanking new version welcomed tourists from all over to the north end of the Las Vegas Strip.

Movin and shakin once again in Sin City.

Ask residents of the town what they’d like the most and most will tell you they’d like a professional sports team.

For the past decade they HAVE had hockey.

The Las Vegas Wranglers were part of the East Coast Hockey League.

I say “were” because they are taking this season off.

Yes, it’s funny that Las Vegas was in the ECHL.

It is kind of like the New Jersey Institute of Technology basketball team, the one that just pulled the MAJOR UPSET of Michigan, being a part of the Great West Conference.

You take any league you can get.

Wranglers hockey played a full schedule with home games at the Orleans Arena; a smaller facility located as part of the Orleans Hotel and Casino off the strip.

They have some ardent fans.

I’ve been to a few games and they are DYING for an NHL team.

Every so often over the years they’ve been teased by various proposals.

New arena plans have been in the works since the 1970’s.

When the Thomas and Mack Center was built for the University of Nevada Las Vegas right off Tropicana, there was hope a pro team would join the Running Rebels basketball squad.

No such luck.

And LUCK is what Vegas is famous for and what they need in this venture.

A proposed “Silver State Arena” has been talked about a lot since the Fontainebleau Resort Hotel started going up in 2007. Arena plans had the edifice next to the hotel.

Sadly, the Fontainebleau went up 68 stories and was nearly completed when work stopped due to the crash. Carl Icahn bought it out of bankruptcy but eventually decided not to finish the project.

We used to drive by on Vegas Boulevard, look up and wonder if the two big cranes on top would topple down on us just as we were at the stop light.

The cranes were finally removed.

Now, the entire building is going to come down.

Plans for the Silver State Arena are still in place next to the creepy Fontainebleau.

Who knows NOW if it will ever happen?

One thing that IS happening is a new arena being built behind New York, New York.

THAT project is underway and it’s going to be spectacular.

Off the Rue de Monte Carlo Drive, the vision is an entire entertainment complex (because Vegas simply doesn’t have enough of them!) leading all the way to the new arena.

It will look very much like the new “District Detroit” being built to house the new Wings’ arena.

Only Vegas will be done SO MUCH faster.

They do things a lot quicker in the Mojave Desert.

Back in ’11, then-mayor Oscar Goodman was giving up his seat due to term limits.

Running for the office was Clark County Commissioner Chris Giunchigliani (pronounced June-kill-ee-ah-knee) and Goodman’s own wife, Carolyn.

I talked to both during the campaign and when the subject of pro sports teams came up, Giunchigliani was luke warm while Carolyn Goodman was all over it.

“I am going to make it my goal during my administration to bring a pro team to Southern Nevada,” Goodman told me.

Her husband liked to two-fist some martinis and hang with Vegas showgirls as mayor.

His wife wanted the NBA and/or NHL.

David Stern was always definitive in his disdain for an NBA team in Las Vegas.

When the All-Star weekend took place there in 2007 it was seen as not so much a dress rehearsal but a concession.

It ranks as one of the biggest non-holiday weekends on the Vegas Strip.

Granted, having a team there playing 41 games won’t have the same star-studded feel as the lone All-Star weekend but ’07 showed that the NBA could roll into town and the world wouldn’t end.

New comish Adam Silver has been more open than Stern to the idea of the NBA in Vegas.

Stern’s former protégé Gary Bettman, commissioner of the NHL now since 1993, has always had an affinity for the lights and glitz of the Mojave.

A few years back, he moved the NHL’s award show to Sin City.

I saw him at the Wynn Hotel and Casino checking in at a wee hour of the morning back in 2010.

“So, when we bringing hockey to town, sir?” I asked him near the front desk.

Bettman couldn’t have been nicer, especially at 3 AM, and responded with a, “Oh, we’ll see about that.”

Then laughter.

MGM’s Grand Garden Arena hosted an NHL exhibition as recently as 2013 when the LA Kings and New York Rangers played there.

Once again, the earth kept spinning on its axis.

We all KNOW that hockey in the desert is an idea whose time has come.

Just to address the gambling aspect; forget about it.

It’s as easy as taking any games involving a Las Vegas team off the boards.

You won’t be able to bet on the Vegas “Whatevers.”

There. Done. That was rough.

UNLV already plays hockey in Vegas.

Unlike their division one basketball brother powerhouse that plays at Thomas and Mack, the hockey team is a club sport without scholarships or support from the university. They play at small Sobe Arena on North Rancho Drive attached to the Fiesta Rancho Hotel and Casino.

Not a big deal, the Rebels hockey club plays and acts like Red Berenson’s Michigan hockey team.

Only to about a crowd of 60 or so.

I am sure they ALL want the NHL.

The Maloof family, with deep pockets and the original owners of the Palms Hotel and Casino, are ALL in.

They have made the bid to own the Vegas franchise.

Bettman wants to expand and add another four cities.

I can hear the OUTRAGE already.

“The league is already watered down! There isn’t enough talent around the globe to support FOUR MORE TEAMS!”


The same thing was said at EVERY expansion. Yet, the NHL motors right along and I don’t see any franchise looking to secede from the league.

We’ve heard at various times about Pittsburgh or Buffalo being close to extinction but they’re all still playing.

Atlanta has lost TWO teams but they found new homes; first in Calgary and then back to Winnipeg.

Vegas, Seattle, Quebec and a second group in the Toronto area is not that complicated.

Hamilton has been itching for an NHL team and they should get one.

It would be cool to have the old Quebec Nordiques back.


Oh, absolutely.

How about a sweet natural rival for the Vancouver Canucks? That should have happened long ago. Seattle wants the NHL and the NBA back. They deserve it.

Las Vegas?

Bring in Holland.

If ever a guy exists who could show the Maloofs the way to hockey heaven, its Ken Holland.

Get him now. Lock him up. Pay him more than the Wings could.

That new arena is underway behind New York, New York. The plan is for a 2016 opening. When they get to work on a building in that city, it’s katy bar the door; full steam ahead.

Weather is on their side when it comes to construction.

We don’t have that here in Detroit.

I’ve been in Las Vegas during the hottest day ever recorded, 117 degrees.

Guess what?

No humidity, it wasn’t that bad. I swear!

Blast furnace? Sure. But, it’s supposed to be hot in the summer time.

The biggest myth about Southern Nevada is that it is ALWAYS hot there.

Far from it.

It gets downright COLD in the winter.

Vegas gets some snow; mostly flurries but snow nonetheless. Mount Charleston, some great skiing up there, is a short drive up Kyle Canyon Road.

From October until May, it can be cold any time.

Days are nice and pleasant and nights a little chilly. Go there sometime off-season and see for yourself.

Of course, you have to LEAVE the casino to find out and I DARE you not to bring a heavy jacket.

Holland would dig it there.

So would his wife Cindi and the four kids.

Just a few months ago, Kenny signed a new contract with the Ilitch’s. It’s a four year extension that takes him through 2018.

You’d say why bother promoting Holland when he is signed, sealed and delivered as Wings’ GM into the time when the “District Detroit” rink is up and running.

Because when it comes to wanting someone, the Maloofs rarely take NO for an answer.

I am sure that Holland’s would not be the first contract broken by the Maloofs.

Ken would be good for the league too.

He’d be a stabilizing force to the project in the desert and bring credibility and cache to NHL Las Vegas.

Plus, he doesn’t have to be hired right away.

As much as Mayor Goodman wants hockey along The Strip ASAP, this is still going to take some time.

With a proposed $400 million expansion fee, I am sure Bettman would like it sooner than later as well.

$400 million.

There’s your bottom line as to why the league wants to expand. It has always been their best way to new revenue. TV money has a limit in hockey but expanding is free cash quickly.

Four teams at $400-mil equals a cool $1.6 BILLION.

With a “B.”

Not having to lift a finger, they get a billion and a half dollars AND with even more revenue generated when the four teams are operational.

Who better to oversee the Vegas project and all that money than… Ken Holland.

I am sure Ken wants to be politically correct with the Ilitch’s and honor that extension he signed mere months ago.

Big deal.

A change of scenery might be nice.

Holland has been the only front office voice younger Wings’ fans have heard.

Like the guy and his son I saw at JLA.

You could be over 30 now and not recall Bryan Murray. You certainly don’t remember Jacques Demers. Jimmy Devellano has been around the entire time but more a behind the scenes guy in recent memory.

Devellano’s role with the Ilitch’s has been sketchy but we also know he has involvement with the Tigers.

Jimmy is only 71. He could return to his former role as GM.

All I am saying is… Holland would be a perfect fit in Las Vegas.

He’s a lot more gregarious and personable than people give him credit for. He’d be able to adjust to the lifestyle in Southern Nevada and be a great spokesman for “Desert Hockey.”

No matter who runs it, NHL Las Vegas is going to happen. The ice train has left the station and no amount of Nevada heat is going to stop it. If you’re looking for a conductor, he can be found about 25-hundred miles to the northeast and he is FAR from a gamble.

Ken Holland is just the man to roll those dice.