Mention the name Ken Holland and most hockey fans will identify the highly successful general manager of the Detroit Red Wings. Many people are not aware that Holland was, in fact, a professional hockey player himself at one time. The diminutive Holland was a goaltender, but his exploits in management far exceeded his accomplishments as a player.
Selected in the 13th round of the 1975 NHL Amateur Draft, 188th overall by the Toronto Maple Leafs, it was apparent that the chances of Ken Holland making it as an NHL goaltender were slim at best, and he never did see any playing time with the Leafs. He had played two years of major junior hockey with the New Westminster Bruins.
Holland turned pro in 1976, playing 48 games with the Binghamton Dusters of the NAHL. He returned for a second and third season with the club in the AHL, playing in 41 and 39 games, respectively, before moving on to the Springfield Indians in 1979-80.
As a member of the AHL's Binghamton Whalers in 1980-81, Holland was called up to play one game with the NHL's Hartford Whalers where he was shelled for seven goals against in a loss. Holland spent two more years with Binghamton before moving on to the Red Wings' organization, playing 42 games with the AHL's Adirondack club. During that year, Holland was called up to Detroit and played in three games, marking the end of his four-game NHL career. He retired as a player following the 1984-85 season in Adirondack.
Holland knew he wanted to remain close to hockey and his first assignment was as the western scout for the Red Wings in 1985. From there he held various positions within the organization, before being named general manager in the summer of 1997.
Holland of course has gone on to become one of the top managers in the NHL, having led the Red Wings to a Stanley Cup title in his first year at the helm in 1998. Prior to that he held various positions with the team for over ten years. Known as one of the most dynamic managers in the game, Holland is also one of the busiest and most aggressive, having made numerous personnel changes to the club in an effort to get that extra advantage for the run to the Stanley Cup. He gained immediate notoriety and respect around the league when he managed to acquire Chris Chelios, Ulf Samuelsson, Wendel Clark, and Bill Ranford--all within a span of 24 hours--at the trade deadline on March 23, 1998. Although the Wings came up short of winning their third Cup in a row, Holland earned praise for his excellent wheeling and dealing and was recognized as a force to reckon with for future transactions.
Many credit Holland with being the glue that has made the Red Wings perennial Stanley Cup contenders with his deft handling of contracts for the likes of star players Steve Yzerman, Brendan Shanahan, Niklas Lidstrom, and Darren McCarty. The signing of star goaltender Dominik Hasek in the summer of 2001 just added to his long list of successful signings. With the addition of Hasek the Wings went on to capture their third Stanley Cup in six years and are poised to repeat once again in 2003, after Holland inked free agent Curtis Joseph.