Even on vacation, Ken Holland can’t stop being a manager.
He’s a detail kind of guy. He probably took attendance at family dinners. May have even tracked his four kids’ allowances, ensuring the money was being used wisely.
Holland made sure everybody was happy at his annual Golf Derby at Predator Ridge. He shook hands with everybody on the first tee and put himself last, along with partner Tyler Wright, of the Columbus Blue Jackets’ staff.
Born and raised in Vernon, Holland still calls Vernon home despite only spending a month at his Coldstream place each year. The general manager of the Detroit Red Wings cherishes his tournament.
“Yah, it’s the 12th annual,” he said before teeing off two weekends ago. “A lot of friends, a lot of people from hockey. For me and my competitive juices, it’s great because we get to feel like we’re golfers for the weekend.”
His kids – now aged 22-30 – are all doing their own thing but they all try and visit grandma Lee when Ken’s in town, trying to recover from a long season.
“Middle of July until the end of August is slow in our industry. Most teams spend their money in the early few days of July, and if you don’t spend your money, then the players are picked over.
“We like our team. We added a couple of defencemen, we added a back-up goalie. I think a lot of our team is really coming into their prime. We’ve got an older component to our team, but that’s by design.”
Ty Conklin is the goalie Ken mentioned, while Ian White and Mike Commodore are the d-men Detroit signed.
Holland used to list four or five teams who had a serious chance at winning the Cup. In today’s game, he feels all 16 playoff teams have a shot.
“I’ve always said the playoffs really begin October the fourth because in order to win the Stanley Cup, you have to get into the playoffs. If you look at the races every year, it’s down to a few points. You need to get out of the gate. I always use U.S. Thanksgiving, in late November, when everybody has played 25 games (as a gauge). You can play pretty well and lose four in a row, it’s so fine.
“It’s a great league and it’s wide open. Eight first-round match-ups and four went to Game 7 and two went to overtime, and the two teams that went to the Stanley Cup finals, were in overtime in Round 1. They were one shot away from being eliminated. So it’s great for the fans.”
A numbers whiz and talent-hound, Holland has worked almost 30 years for the Wings, starting as a scout. He turns 56 in November and he’s not thinking early retirement.
“I became manager in ‘97 and I’ve been a manager for 14 years. Proud of things we’ve accomplished, but trying to figure out a way to win one more Cup and it’s hard to do. I work with great people, great owners and it’s a great city. It’s more challenging all the time, with the cap, and parity. It’s not only the cap; there’s no expansion teams. Eight years ago, teams were four or five years into their existence. Everybody’s an established franchise. Everybody has 27-year-old players that are in their prime so there’s no expansion teams.”
Holland played for the BCJHL Vernon Vikings before spending two solid years with the WHL Medicine Hat Tigers, Vernon’s parent team back in the day. A goalie, he was drafted in the 12th round by the Leafs and played four NHL games.
On Winnipeg’s return to the NHL, Holland said: “They sold out, what 13,000 tickets in seven, eight minutes. It’s great for Winnipeg, great for Canada and great for our sport. Anytime you can take a team to a city which has incredible passion, that’s what it’s all about.”