Ken Holland won’t get credit from the goaltending union, but he actually started making himself look big back in Senior Pups at Vernon Civic Arena.
I would be shooting a ball around in the corner of the rink with buddies (back when kids were allowed to have harmless fun in arenas) waiting for my ice time.
I would always stop to watch Holland in net making save after save on his knees. His goalie stick was flat on the ice, and since very few kids could raise the puck, Ken looked like the next Roger Crozier.
Holland progressed to net detective status with the Vernon Vikings of the BCJHL and on to the Medicine Hat Tigers of the WHL. His story has been well documented on these sports pages. How he was 24 hours away from coming home to an Electrolux vacuum sales job, his dear mom Lee had lined up, when he made the Tigers’ roster a few months before his 19th birthday.
Holland patrolled the crease for two years with the Tigers and spent eight years in the minors with teams like the Binghamton Dusters, Springfield Indians and Adirondack Red Wings.
He got in one game with the NHL Hartford Whalers in the 1980-81 season. Let in seven goals in 60 minutes.
The Red Wings gave him three games in the ‘83-84 season and Holland allowed 10 goals. His NHL career GAA is 4.11 and his save percentage is .811 so he leaves Vernon summer resident Chris Osgood in charge of the Red Wings’ goaltenders.
I once wrote in this space: “Holland is a numbers whiz and former talent-hound, he has deftly been the Detroit pit boss at the entry draft the past 12 summers.”
Holland spent just 20 nights a winter at his Medicine Hat home as he scouted hockey games from Selkirk to Prince George for more than a decade, eventually taking over as director of scouting for seven years, three as assistant GM as well.
In July, 1997, he was promoted to his current position of GM, executive vice-president and alternate governor. He has been a Red Wing company man for almost 30 years, enjoying four Stanley Cup wins while being called the most successful GM in hockey.
Both Ken and his younger brother Dennis, who was a superstar in the WHL with Portland and played nine years minor pro before coaching in the ECHL, learned how to organize things through their father, Rienie.
“He had a real passion for life,” Ken told me back in 1999. “He loved to organize, whether it was car pools, lining up exhibition games, he loved being around minor sports and he was a great father. Other than when he was called out by Hydro to work, he was there. He was always there for us.”
Ken said his father quit playing slo-pitch with Hydro and parked his bowling ball so he could devote more time to Ken’s athletics.
“One of the reasons I’m the general manager of the Detroit Red Wings is because I used to watch him around the house setting up schedules and organizing parks. That was his passion. He loved the administration.”
You wanna see a unique piece of abstract art? Check out a golf scorecard Ken has in his hands next time you see him on a course. There are more numbers and names neatly written than on a TSE Index chart.
Holland and fellow Red Wings alumni Brent Gilchrist and Eddie Johnstone all got their start in Vernon minor hockey, and will enter the Okanagan Sports Hall of Fame together next Friday.
Holland, who jumpstarted a minor hockey scholarship in his dad’s name years ago, donated $5,000 of his own cash this year to help pay a private group instruct our young goalies. He enters the shrine in the builder’s category along with Kokanee Swim Club founder Keith Brewis.
Jackie Little, who has won a zillion amateur golf titles, and Brad Kuhn’s 2000 world junior championship curling team, are other athletes being honoured. All these extraordinary people have given back to their community in some way. If you can get away for the $25 luncheon at the Schubert Centre, please do. They deserve your recognition.