Team captain. Assistant head coach. Head coach. Athletic director. Commissioner. President. CEO. General Manager. Legend. And now Builder.
These are many of the titles you can ascribe to Lou Lamoriello. Tomorrow, he joins players Steve Yzerman, Brett Hull, Luc Robitaille, and Brian Leetch to be inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame.
There's plenty out there to learn why Lou is being honored even as he continues to be the President, CEO, and General Manager of the New Jersey Devils. Legends of Hockey, the official Hockey Hall of Fame site, has this biography of Lou as well as pictoral evidence that he had smiled in the past. NHL.com has two articles by Shawn P. Roarks: this one focusing on his building of the 1996 USA team that won the World Cup of Hockey; and this one highlighting why this induction is long deserved.
Rich Chere's article about Lou and his "visonary" ways in today's Star Ledger is a must-read - if only for the in-depth details on how he negotiated Slava Fetisov to come to North America and play for the Devils.
There could be entire books written about Lou's impacts on the game - he's been involved in so many ways. And he may not even be done yet.
He rose up the ranks at Providence College, eventually becoming A.D. and helped found the Hockey East conference. The championship is named after Lou in honor of his work and more details are found at the Hockey East website. He negotiated and when he brought over Slava Fetisov and Sergei Starikov, opening up the league to Russian players. Lou was given faith and confidence by then Devils owner, the late Dr. John McMullen, and over time, he built up a mediocre team then happy to make it to the playoffs into highly successful team from season to season - capped off with three Stanley Cups in the last 15 years. In fact, the Devils have been the second most successful team in the NHL in the last 15 years; with the only one major constant across all those seasons with direct control over the team's fortunes - Lou.
It's a long deserved induction. Of course, with the induction coming, the big question is how? What makes Lou so successful as a manager of teams? A question asked both in a media conference call for his induction (compiled here by Chris Botta at NHL Fanhouse) and again on the NHL Hour in this past Thursday (go to Download Central at NHL Network Online for the show) . In both cases, Lou gave about the same answer and it's particularly insightful:
"You have to have a philosophy that you believe in yourself and practice on a daily basis. Competence, loyalty and work ethic are vital. Find the people who believe in what you believe and have those characteristics. Get strong people. Don't let the media and fans distract you from the information you have. You just hope that you don't make more mistakes than things you get right. Stay the course."
If you have what Lou wants, then it doesn't matter if you're an American player who came from the NCAA, a player who didn't develop until after a few pro years in Europe, a former draft pick that wasn't signed, a Canadian who have went through juniors, a Russian player, or a player from anywhere else that came out of any system in the world. It doesn't matter if you're 5'7" or 5'11" or 6'4" or 6'5" - as long as you play big, play with heart, and play with a purpose. Lou will have a use for you in New Jersey and you will find success in New Jersey.
In a results-oriented business, Lou has been exemplary and they speak for themselves. And the loyalty in return is incredible. Here's some examples: David Conte, the long-time Devils director of scouting, has remained with the organization when he could have easily (and still could) been a GM elsewhere. Pat Burns remains with the organization even while surviving cancer on special assignment. Larry Robinson, once fired and once left the head coaching position due to illness, remains on staff as a special assignment coach. Jacques Lemaire came back to New Jersey largely because of Lou. It even works with some Devils players - Brian Rolston turned down many offers to come back to New Jersey a few years back. Bobby Holik left the Devils on bad terms after an arbitration - and had no issues coming back before retiring. John MacLean played for the Sharks, Rangers and the Stars prior to ending his playing career, and yet where did he go afterewards? New Jersey, of course, as now he is a coach (possibly) rising up in the ranks in the organization.
Lou got and continue to has strong people. He is confident in his own path and knows when to make the tough decisions and moves on even if they don't turn out so well. You can't really argue with the results or expect much better than what Lou has done. And the most amazing part is that he's not done yet - he continues to do this to this very day. Even on the NHL Hour, when Gary Bettman asked how he felt about the induction - Lou immediately responded that he'd feel better if his team won on the weekend (which they did). Again, it all goes back to results - completely in line with his philosophies.
It's not boilerplate, Lou lives that quote in his job.
Lou was a big factor in the growth of college hockey in this country. Lou made an impact in bringing over Russian players at a time when it simply wasn't done for one reason or another. Lou has built winners in New Jersey and at the international level with the 1996 USA World Cup team. Lou has made an impact on the game itself as a member of the NHL Board of Governors, overseeing changes to the game as well as the settlement in the 2005-06 lockout leading to the hard salary cap that now governs the NHL.
And he's not done yet. Who knows what he'll have a role in next that has a major impact on the game? Even tomorrow maybe before or after Monday's ceremonies, it should surprise no one if Lou finds a way to get some work done or make a decision. After all, he's got a team to run, there are injuries, there's a game on Wednesday, and so forth. But he'll appreciate the moment just as we all appreciate his contributions. He deserves the honor, as we continue to trust in Lou.