When you know, you know.
And at the end of the 2018-19 season, his 22nd as general manager of the Detroit Red Wings, Ken Holland knew it was time for a change.
The veteran NHL executive, who was officially introduced as GM of the Edmonton Oilers on Tuesday, described his thought process during those final days as the leader of the Red Wings in an appearance on Prime Time Sports on Wednesday:
“I knew it was time. I knew it was time for a change in leadership, I knew it was going to be great for the organization, great for the fans, great for our owners. It was time for Steve Yzerman to come home,” said Holland. “I realized it was my time to step aside and I feel good that my last move as the general manager of the Detroit Red Wings was to hand the keys to Steve Yzerman, who I have the greatest respect for and have a great friendship [with]. And whatever status I’ve got in this industry, he’s a massive part of it.”
What he didn’t know at the time of Yzerman’s official homecoming press conference, during which Holland was announced as a senior vice-president of the club, was that a much bigger change would soon be coming his way.
“I was a Red Wing, in my mind, for sure through the press conference.” said Holland, adding that he had no interest in leaving his longtime Hockeytown home at the time of the leadership change and that “it was going to take a lot to get me out of Detroit.”
In the end, he said his decision to join Edmonton was less about Bob Nicholson’s pitch to join the Oilers and more about his own drive to write a new chapter in his management career — a realization that came during the under-18 world championships while scouting players alongside Yzerman.
“I started to realize that the fire was still burning. I do enjoy the everyday challenge of running an NHL team,” he said. “Ultimately, when I talked to Bob Nicholson — and we talked a lot — I realized that the fire still burned and I wanted to be an NHL general manager and I wanted to try to make a difference somewhere else.”
Listen to the full interview: