Every time he scored a goal in the driveway of his 23rd Street home as a kid, Vernon’s Dennis Holland would raise his arms in the air, imagining he’d just won the Stanley Cup.
Now, that dream is three wins away from becoming reality.
Holland, 51, is an 18-year scout for the NHL’s Dallas Stars, who won Game 1 of the 2020 Cup final Saturday, Sept. 19, 4-1 over the Tampa Bay Lightning (T-Bay won Game 2 Monday, 3-2, series tied 1-1). He will get his first Stanley Cup ring if the Stars go on to win the Cup for the second time in franchise history.
“I’ve dreamed of winning the Stanley Cup, I betcha, 10,000 times,” said Holland, who has been in Vernon for the Stars’ Cup run. He has not been in the Stars’ bubble in Edmonton during the Cup tournament. “But you get to this point (the final), you can smell it. The Cup is six inches from your reach but it’s also 10 miles from your reach. That’s a good team we’re playing.”
Should the Stars win the Cup, Holland likely won’t be there to celebrate with the organization, though he said he’s contemplated driving to Edmonton if the Stars come within a game of winning it all.
If he does get his name on the legendary trophy, Holland will join older brother Ken on the coveted Holy Grail of Hockey. Ken Holland, now the president of the Edmonton Oilers, won the Cup four times with the Detroit Red Wings.
“I’ve had a brief conversation with him after each stop (of the playoffs),” said Holland. “I’ve seen Stanley Cup victories and, through his eyes, what this opportunity is like.”
Holland said watching his team in the final is exciting, yet nerve-wracking.
“I enjoy things once the game is over,” laughed Holland. “Those 60 minutes, you spend watching the team trying to dump pucks in, dump pucks out and hope for the best. Our goalie (Anton Khudobin) has been great.”
Holland played minor hockey in Vernon, and spent one full season with the B.C. Junior Hockey League’s Vernon Lakers in 1985-86, scoring 43 goals and adding 65 assists for 105 points.
The following season, Holland jumped to the Western Hockey League’s Portland Winter Hawks and became a legend in Oregon. In three full seasons, Holland scored 176 regular-season goals, added 248 assists for 424 career points.
The Red Wings selected Holland in the third round of the 1987 NHL Entry Draft, but he never played a game in the NHL, spending his nine-year professional career between the minor leagues and playing in Europe.
Holland has had a hand in drafting some of Dallas’ current star players like captain Jamie Benn, forwards Roope Hintz and Denis Gurianov, and defencemen Jamie (Big Rig) Oleksiak, Esa Lindell and John Klingberg.
“What’s been very cool is watching these kids develop,” said Holland. “I remember talking to them when they were 18- or 19-years-old, then fast forward and watching them compete in the NHL. I remember seven, eight, nine years earlier their vision of becoming NHL players and now here they are.”
In a normal year, all members of the Stanley Cup championship team get a day with the Stanley Cup, but it’s not known at this point if that will happen due to COVID.
There’s also a Vernon connection with the Lightning. Former NHL player Stacy Roest is Tampa Bay’s assistant general manager who has been in the Lightning bubble.
“We’ve got a friendly rivalry going over this series,” said Holland.