Ken Holland remembers the first time he met Steve Yzerman: It was at training camp with the Detroit Red Wings in 1983, a few months after Yzerman had been drafted by Jimmy Devellano.
“There’s this player out there, I wasn’t sure how to pronounce his name,” Holland said earlier this month. “There was a Y and a Z. I learned how to say his name.
“Steve and I were together for 25 years in the Wings organization, were together with Canada’s Olympic team. We roomed together in Sochi — we slept in single beds four feet apart. I’m glad to see how well he’s doing. I look forward to when the Oilers play the Wings, but I’m glad when the games are over.”
CAPTAIN CONSOLATION : Wings were bummed when they drafted Steve Yzerman in 1983
CAPTAIN EMOTIONAL: Dylan Larkin back after tough week dealing with family emergency
Tuesday will mark the second time Holland will be at Little Caesars Arena to watch his Edmonton Oilers (9-1-0) play the Wings (6-5-2). Holland left the Wings organization in May 2019, less than a month after Holland had stepped aside so Yzerman could succeed him as general manager of the Wings.
“I was a Red Wing for 36 years,” Holland said. “I’m glad we’re in the Western Conference, so it’s only twice a year. I still have a lot of ties to the organization — Steve, the Ilitches, Jimmy D. was my mentor. I have lots of good memories.
“I pay attention to all the teams, but particular attention to the Wings. I’m glad to see them doing well.”
Holland played briefly in the organization before being hired as a scout and working his way up to being named GM in July 1997. He won four Stanley Cups with the Wings, and on the strength of that was named to the Hockey Hall of Fame as a builder in 2020. The pandemic delayed the induction ceremony until Nov .
It is a far different Wings team that takes on the Oilers than the one Yzerman inherited in April 2019. Among those no longer on the roster are: Justin Abdelkader, Jimmy Howard, Trevor Daley, Mike Green, Frans Nielsen, Andreas Athanasiou and Anthony Mantha. Tyler Bertuzzi and Dylan Larkin (both drafted by Holland) are among the more veteran forwards and rookies Lucas Raymond and Moritz Seider (both drafted by Yzerman) are among the team’s leading scorers.
“Seider and Raymond have created a lot of optimism,” Holland said. “I was happy to see Joe Veleno battling for a spot.”
(Veleno was assigned to the Grand Rapids Griffins Sunday, but remained in Detroit).
The Wings have built a two-game winning streak against Buffalo and Vegas, but the Oilers boast the top two scorers in the NHL in Leon Draisaitl (23 points) and Connor McDavid (22 points). McDavid, especially, has a skill set that enables him to blow through an entire five-man unit to score. The Wings are 1-1 against the Oilers with Yzerman and Holland at the respective helms.
Contact Helene St. James at email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter @helenestjames. Read more on the Detroit Red Wings and sign up for our Red Wings newsletter. Her book, The Big 50: The Detroit Red Wings is available from Amazon, Barnes & Noble and Triumph Books. Personalized copies available via her e-mail.