A passion for the game of hockey took Jim Devellano from being fan to one of the most decorated executives in the industry, and now, to the Hockey Hall of Fame.
Born and raised in Toronto, Jim was working in a government job and coaching youngsters' hockey teams when he decided he'd try to parlay his love for the game into a full-time career. With little more on his resume than the fact he watched a number of junior games in the Ontario Hockey Association during his frequent business trips, Devellano was able to convince the newly-created St. Louis Blues to hire him on spec as an amateur scout. Astute and knowledgeable in spite of his lack of experience, he was hired on and stayed with the Blues for five seasons.
When the expansion New York Islanders were added to the NHL in 1972-73, Devellano was hired as the franchise's Eastern Scout. In 1974, he was promoted to Head Scout. The Islanders expanded Jim's roles, giving him responsibilities with their minor league affiliates. In 1978, Devellano was part of Fort Worth's Adams Cup championship in the Central Hockey League. The next season, he was named General Manager of the Islanders' farm team in Indianapolis and was named Minor League Executive of the Year by The Hockey News.
In 1980, the New York Islanders won the first of their four consecutive Stanley Cup championships. Jim was a member of the Islanders' family for the first three of those victories, first as a scout and as of 1981, as Assistant General Manager and Director of Scouting. In 1982, he also oversaw the activities of the Islanders' CHL squad in Indianapolis.
When Mike Ilitch purchased the Detroit Red Wings in June 1982, he hired Jim Devellano as the team's General Manager. The Red Wings struggled at the time, but most point to Devellano as one of the reasons the fortunes of the franchise were reversed. Clever acquisitions and prudent drafting helped turn the Wings from after-rans into one of the dominant dynasties in NHL history. Since joining Detroit, the team has won the Presidents' Trophy for finishing first overall during the regular season six times (1995, 1996, 2002, 2004, 2006 and 2008), has captured fifteen division championships (1988, 1989, 19992, 1994, 1995, 1996, 1999, 2001, 2003, 2004, 2006, 2007, 2008 and 2009), has won the Western Conference championship nine times (1994, 1995, 1996, 2002, 2004, 2006, 2007, 2008 and 2009) and, most important of all, the Detroit Red Wings have won the Stanley Cup championship on four occasions (1997, 1998, 2002 and 2008). But in addition, overseeing the Red Wings' minor league affiliates, Devellano can also add three Calder Cup championships with the American Hockey League Adirondack Red Wings (1986, 1989 and 1992) and one East Coast Hockey League championship with Toledo.
Jim Devellano served as the Red Wings' General Manager until July 1990, when he was appointed Senior Vice President of the Red Wings. His tenure with the franchise is second only to Jack Adams, who served the Red Wings as coach and General Manager for 35 years.
Besides the accomplishments indicated by the silverware earned, Jim can be very proud of a number of other coups. He was one of the first NHL General Managers to assemble a strong European scouting staff, a move that paid extraordinary dividends for Detroit by securing such talent as Pavel Datsyuk, Sergei Fedorov, Johan Franzen, Tomas Holmstrom, Vladimir Konstantinov, Niklas Kronwall, Nicklas Lidstrom and Henrik Zetterberg. In 1980, he campaigned aggressively and succeeded in having the NHL move the annual Entry Draft from a hotel ballroom to NHL arenas. On June 13, 1987, he persuaded the NHL to hold the Entry Draft ion the United States for the first time, locating the event at Detroit's Joe Louis Arena. He was a leading proponent of instituting a new overtime format beginning in 1999-00 that saw teams play with four skaters apiece during a five-minute overtime, with an additional point to the winning team.
Recognized for his contributions to the game, Devellano was inducted into the Michigan Sports Hall of Fame in 2006 and into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 2010.