From NYHJ: Hall of a run for Lamoriello
by David Kolb/Correspondent
The New Jersey Devils have drunk from the Stanley Cup on three different occasions.
On June 9, 2003, the night the Devils won their third Stanley Cup, GM and president Lou Lamoriello’s actions provided a snapshot of what has made him great — and, as of last month, a U.S. Hockey Hall of Famer.
Lamoriello stood outside the dressing room and, as each player came off the ice after celebrating with the Cup, he hugged each one, then went to his office upstairs at the Continental Airlines Arena.
He shunned the limelight.
Let it all be for players, were his thoughts as he headed up to his office, as he put it, “to prepare for next season.”
It’s that kind of work ethic that’s elevated Lamoriello to unprecedented heights in the realm of USA Hockey. And, on Oct. 15, he was recognized for his accomplishments, and inducted into the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame at a sold-out ceremony at the Plaza of the Americas in Dallas.
The Devils endured much roster turnover between Cup No. 1 in 1995, to the second victory in 2000, and the third in 2003.
The team had three different bench bosses for their three Cups — Jacques Lemaire in 1995, Larry Robinson in 2000 and Pat Burns in 2003. Yet greeting the players and coaches as they would exit the ice and begin their Cup celebration on all three occasions was their constant — Lamoriello.
“The most enjoyment you get is seeing success that players have when they pay the price and make the sacrifices that are necessary to win,” Lamoriello said. “I’ve always said the greatest satisfaction you can get is looking in the faces and seeing that it was all worth it. Especially in a team sport where you need and care for each other.”
All his accomplishments at the NHL level with the Devils only tell part of Lamoriello’s story.
He coached in college at Providence then took over as that school’s athletic director in the early 1980s. While holding that post, he played a key role in the founding, development and continued success of the Hockey East conference. The champion’s trophy bears his name.
His time in Providence began as a student, and he played both hockey and baseball, captaining both teams as a senior in 1963.
It was as that school’s AD where Lamoriello’s acumen for hiring coaches first surfaced. He hired a young Rick Pitino to coach the men’s basketball team and, before long, Pitino led the Friars to the Final Four in 1987.
His hockey accomplishments dating back to his pre-Devils days continue to be both impressive and underappreciated. After helping form Hockey East, he became its first commissioner.
In April 1987, the Devils’ late owner, Dr. John McMullen, hired Lamoriello from the college ranks to serve as the team president. The move was certainly out of the box; however, it was one made by McMullen with the hope of reversing his franchise’s fortunes, after failing to qualify for the Stanley Cup playoffs in each of the five previous seasons.
“The toughest decision I ever made was leaving coaching to become (Providence) athletic director, but when Dr. McMullen approached me, I knew it was time,” said Lamoriello. “I had overseen 24 sports and we had a lot of success with the basketball program and hockey program reaching the Final Four. I was coming into a (Devils) organization that hadn’t won or hadn’t had success to a certain degree.”
Lamoriello’s first move as president was a surprising one — naming himself the club’s general manager. Twenty-five years later, he still occupies both roles, and it would be a tough debate to find anyone better than him at either position.
His philosophy always was, and still is, simple: “No one is more important than the logo,” he summed up. “My philosophy has always been to respect teammates. In order to have success, you need each other. You need your trainers, your equipment people and your scouts. To me, that’s what a team is all about, philosophically, and that’s what the Devils are all about.”
The Devils would earn their first winning season in Lamoriello’s inaugural one as boss. They would improve as that season moved along and it culminated in a scintillating 6-0-1 run, thrusting them in position to make the playoffs on the last night of the regular season with a win in Chicago.
The game was intense and eventually moved into overtime, tied at 3-3. John MacLean scored the overtime goal that sent the Devils into the playoffs, moving ahead of their escalating cross-town rivals, the New York Rangers, for the final playoff spot.
After the goal, an exuberant Lamoriello joined the team on the ice in celebration, uncharacteristically showing outward emotion, high-fiving coach Jim Schoenfeld.
The team, led by Sean Burke in goal, MacLean and Patrik Sundstrom providing scoring punch, and Ken Daneyko backboning the ‘D,’ eventually would advance to the Wales Conference finals. The season would serve as the Devils’ first of what would amount to many franchise highlight moments, which now includes three Stanley Cup wins and five finals appearances.
Lamoriello has demonstrated like success in the international realm, serving as an influential figure in the growth of hockey in the U.S. Most notably, he helped orchestrate one of the country’s greatest moments as GM, when Team USA defeated Canada to win the World Cup of Hockey in 1996.
In 2009, Lamoriello entered the Hockey Hall of Fame in the Builder category, but the Devils’ GM is proud of his body of work amassed to help his own country as well.
“It’s very humbling,” said Lamoriello of his U.S. Hall of Fame induction. “But it’s a reflection of the people and players at Providence, the U.S. sports festivals, Olympics, World Cup and the Devils. All those people are responsible for whatever recognition is given me.”
This article originally appeared in the November 2012 issue of New York Hockey Journal.