Weddings, golf for Wings’ GM

Ken Holland gave away his oldest daughter, Julie, Saturday in Vernon.

Red Wings' GM Ken Holland.

Red Wings' GM Ken Holland.

Ken Holland gave away his oldest daughter, Julie, Saturday in Vernon. He got a son-in-law in return which means the Detroit Red Wings’ GM may have actually broke even in the deal.

Hardly like a guy many consider the shrewdest GM in the NHL. But weddings are something new to the Vernon-born and raised Holland, who credits his wife Cindi for being the wedding planner.

“I just sign cheques,” laughed Holland, moments after donating a Pavel Datsyuk jersey to the Vernon Square Safeway store for their October Breast Cancer fundraiser.

Holland has won four Stanley Cups with the Wings, including three as GM. Julie’s wedding ranks right up there with the Cups.

“Your kids getting born is first. We have four children and this is our first wedding. Our oldest son, Brad, is getting married Aug. 24 so it’s an exciting summer and I’m sure it will be emotional the day of the wedding.”

After a family and friends gathering out at Kalamalka Lake today, Ken will pack his golf clubs for a annual trek to Bandon Dunes, an amazing Oregon resort with five world-class courses.

“You get to play 36 holes a day for four or five days. I love to compete. Once you go to training camp in September, it’s hockey every day for up to nine, 10 months.

“Our down time in our industry is from mid to late July until mid to late August so it’s a chance for everybody in our industry to get their batteries re-charged. One of the things I like to do is golf, I like the competition and I like the camaraderie.”

Last weekend, he held his annual three-day Holland Derby up at Predator Ridge. New chief Detroit scout Jeff Finley and Vernon accountant Dave Willis carded a 21-under to win by four strokes.

Before coming home to Vernon for a rest, Holland took care of business in HockeyTown, surprisingly signing Daniel Afredsson and also inking former first-rounder Stephen Weiss to a team which blew a 3-1 playoff series lead to the Cup champion Blackhawks.

Holland reached out to a few agents and players in early July, including J.P. Barry, who represents Alfredsson.

“For the first time in his career, J.P. Barry said Alfredsson was having serious conversations about leaving Ottawa, and if he did leave, we were one of the teams he would consider going to so I asked if Daniel would be interested in going on a conference call with Mike Babcock and I, and we set it up for the next day. We talked for about 45 minutes.

“Obviously, we talked about the Detroit program, our goals, our expectations, and later that day, I got a call that he was seriously considering leaving and it was basically Boston or us. There’s a lot of excitement, especially amongst our Swedes. Daniel Alfredsson has a lot of respect in our game, a lot of respect with the Swedish players.

“He’s a 200-foot player. He plays offence, he plays defence, he competes. Obviously, we’re bringing in a captain, we’re bringing a leader into our locker room.”

Wings’ captain and superstar Henrik Zetterberg called Holland to express happiness over the signing.

Detroit got out of the gate slowly in the compressed season and after getting blown out 6-0 by St. Louis opening night, many had them missing the playoffs for the first time in a zillion years.

Holland said his core group pushed the youthful Wings and several kids had breakout years, including d-men Jakub Kindl, Brendan Smith and Jonathan Ericsson. Forwards Gustav Nyquist and Joakim Andersson also made strides and Justin Abdekader and Damien Brunner were stellar. And goalie Jimmy Howard reached all-star status.

“As we go into next year, we need Darren Helm to get healthy. He’s a very important part of our team. We’ve added Stephen Weiss, we’ve added Daniel Alfredsson and we lost Valterri Filppula, who’s a really good two-way player. But we’re hoping with Zetterberg, Datsyuk, Franzen, Weiss, Alfredsson and Abdelkader, we can have the makings of two lines that can score.

“Last year, we were probably counting on one line and if Zetterberg and Datsyuk didn’t do it, we didn’t have that consistent second line scoring. So hopefully, we can get more secondary scoring and with the development of our kids, we’re optimistic going into the 2013-2014 season.”

The Wings’ AHL affiliate, the Grand Rapids Griffins, won the Calder Cup with the likes of Czech world junior goalie Petr Mrazek and young guns Landon Ferraro and Riley Sheahan. Holland doesn’t see any superstars on the way, but guys with the chance to be solid NHLers.

Also in the mix are second-round 2011 draft Ryan Sproul of the Soo Greyhounds, Xavier Ouellett of Team Canada juniors and WCHA d-man of the year Nick Jensen.

The Wings are competing while rebuilding behind the scenes. And Vernon men are go-to-guys in the process with Holland’s summer resident neighbour Tyler Wright just signed as Detroit’s new director of amateur scouting after years with Columbus Blue Jackets. Wright replaces Joe McDonnell, who left for Dallas to join longtime Wings’ assistant GM Jim Nill, now the Stars’ GM.

Vernon minor hockey grad Jeff Finley moves up to chief amateur scout, while Holland’s former Vernon junior teammate Marty Stein will now scout full-time after retiring from teaching. And Vernon summer houser Chris Osgood remains as a goaltending development coach.

“When somebody leaves, it’s a chance for somebody else to have bigger responsibility and grow. I think that’s how you create good people. For the most part, it’s done internally,. We reached out and went outside the organization to add Andrew Nixon, a full-time scout, and Tyler Wright.”

Holland also has retired and cherished Wings Kris Draper and Chris Chelios in the office. He expects to give them more duties next season.

The Wings will dress just one d-man in their 30s after a season where they finished fifth in goals against. Holland wants more of a transition game for additional offence. Smith, who posted 52 points in his last year of college at Wisconsin, will soon get the green light to produce points.

“We’re overhauling it now. I wish we had Nick Lidstrom back, but we had 20 incredible years with Nick Lidstrom and again, it’s somebody else’s time.”