Today in Hockey History: July 12

On this date, the Detroit Red Wings made an addition to their front office that helped change the direction of the franchise. Also, Canada started to build their roster for some of the most memorable hockey games ever played.

Red Wings Change Leadership

On July 12, 1982, the Red Wings named Jim Devellano as their new general manager, replacing Jimmy Skinner. The move came just three weeks after Mike Illitch purchased the team from the Norris family.

Before beginning his long-term relationship with Michigan sports, Devellano cut his teeth with the New York Islanders. He played a big role in building their early 1980s dynasty by having his hand in the drafting of such players like Denis Potvin, Bryan Trottier, Mike Bossy and Clark Gillies. He even had a part in hiring head coach Al Arbour.

Islanders Dynasty
Devellano helped build the Islanders dynasty. (THW Archives)

Devellano served as general manager from 1982 until 1990. He was promoted to vice president during Bryan Murray’s tenure as general manager before returning to the role between 1994 and 1997. He laid down the foundation for the Red Wings’ long-term success and becoming a model franchise in the league.

He was instrumental in bringing the “Russian Five” to Detroit. He drafted stars Sergei Fedorov, Vladimir Konstantinov, and Vyacheslav Kozlov while they were still playing Kontinental Hockey League (KHL) in Russia. He then added Slava Fetisov and Igor Larionov via trades. After winning the Stanley Cup in 1997, he was promoted to senior vice president and Ken Holland took over the general manager role.

Sergei Fedorov Detroit Red Wings
Fedorov was part of the famous “Russian Five.” (THW Archives)

Devellano still holds his senior vice president position with the team. He also spent time in the Detroit Tigers’ front office, also owned by the Illitch family. In 2016, he became part-owner of the Saginaw Spirit in the Ontario Hockey League (OHL), along with former Red Wings goaltender Chris Osgood. He has been a part of 15 championships in various professional leagues during his career, including seven Stanley Cups.

Summit Series Gets Off the Ground

One of the most memorable series of exhibition games ever played occurred in September 1972 when Canada and the Soviet Union met in an eight-game series known as the Summit Series. The rosters of both teams included numerous Hall of Famers and some of the greatest players to ever lace up a pair of skates.

The Summit Series was officially announced in April of 1972. On July 12, 1972, Team Canada invites 35 NHL players to their tryout camp. The initial roster includes three goaltenders, 12 defensemen and 20 forwards.

Paul Henderson Bobby Clarke 1972 Summit Series
The Summit Series in 1972 was legendary. (Photo by Denis Brodeur/NHLI via Getty Images)

Bobby Orr, Gerry Cheevers, Bobby Hull, Derek Sanderson and J.C. Tremblay were all invited them to camp, but none of them play in the series. Orr withdrew because of knee surgery. League President Clarence Campbell declared that only players with valid NHL contracts can play in the series. When Cheevers, Hull, Sanderson and Tremblay all sign with the World Hockey Association (WHA), they were all removed from the roster.

Odds & Ends

The Toronto Maple Leafs signed free-agent forward Steve Thomas on July 12, 1998. The Maple Leafs signed Thomas, an undrafted free-agent, back in 1994. The Stockport, England native played his first three NHL seasons in Toronto. After scoring a career-high 35 goals in 1986-87, he was traded to the Chicago Blackhawks, with Rick Vaive and Bob McGill, for Al Secord and Ed Olczyk.

He returned to the Maple Leafs 12 years later making stops with the Islanders and New Jersey Devils in between. His second stint with the team lasts three seasons where he scored 62 goals and 170 points. He returned to Chicago by signing with the Blackhawks as a free agent in 2001.

On July 12, 2000, the New York Rangers named Ron Low as their new head coach, along with Ted Green and Walt Kyle as his assistants. Low previously had a five-season run as head coach of the Edmonton Oilers. He went 69-81-14 in his two seasons behind the Rangers’ bench before getting fired in 2002 and replaced by Trottier.

The Phoenix Coyotes signed free-agent forward Tony Amonte on July 12, 2002. This ended Amonte’s time with the Blackhawks, which lasted nine seasons. If you blinked, you may have missed his tenure with the Coyotes.

He scored 13 goals and 36 points in 59 games. He was traded to the Philadelphia Flyers, on March 10, 2003, Guillaume Lefebvre, a second and third-round draft picks. The second-round pick, in the 2004 NHL Entry Draft, was eventually traded to the Rangers, who used it to draft Brandon Dubinsky.

Happy Birthday to You

July 12 is the birth date of 20 current and former NHL players. The most notable of the group include Gilles Meloche (70), Dave Semenko (63), Dan Boyle (44), Peter Schaefer (43), Mark Borowiecki (31), Jonas Brodin (27) and Samuel Morin (25).