The death of New York Yankees owner George Steinbrenner is one that reaches across all parts of the sports world, even into the realm of hockey. About the one thing that NHL owners ever took away from Steinbrenner when is their ability to fire head coaches at will. While you could argue that Steinbrenner’s presence and ability to use league economics to his advantage aren’t things that completely crossed over into the NHL, his partnership with one large figure in the NHL, Devils general manager Lou Lamoriello, had a profound effect on him as the NHL’s Mike Morreale finds out.
“(The relationship) was an exceptional one,” Lamoriello said. “I really knew of him and only met him on isolated occasions prior to being involved with the YankeeNets when we were all one group — the Devils, the Nets and the Yankees.
“For whatever reason, we became fairly close and spent considerable time (together) at different times. He was the sole individual responsible for me taking over the Nets when that transpired. His support throughout all of those years was just exceptional. He had me become part of the Yankee family. I still am to this day on their board.”
While your minds are all blown at the fact that Lou Lamoriello works with the New York Yankees in his own way, there’s something about Steinbrenner that Lamoriello took particular pride in. Given some of the quotes that he’s thrown out there lately, it comes as no surprise.
“He was never afraid to say what he thought, which is what I admired about him,” Lamoriello said. “He was committed to the organization, he was committed to the logo and he had strong beliefs. He followed through the best he could.”
Lamoriello fondly recalls Steinbrenner sitting comfortably in his office during the Devils’ Cup-clinching Game 7 of the 2003 Stanley Cup Final against the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim.
“He watched the final Stanley Cup game in my office because he didn’t want to go in the crowd,” Lamoriello recalled. “He went to a few games, and he was there that seventh game. He did things like that because he wanted to.”
George Steinbrenner the hockey fan. Just imagine Big Stein sitting in on an NHL Board of Governors meeting if he ever got into it so much he bought a team. It’s about the only thing that would be even more entertaining than a Brian Burke press conference.