Who else replays those 1990s and 2000s Detroit Red Wings moments whenever you see the front office staff either step to the podium, take in a hockey game from the stands or a suite, take questions from the media, or talk about scouting?
These days, with Steve Yzerman as general manager, Pat Verbeek as assistant general manager, Kris Draper as director of amateur scouting, Kirk Maltby (yes, that Kirk Maltby) as a pro scout, Niklas Kronwall in charge of European player development, Jiri Fischer as associate director of player personnel, and Dan Cleary as assistant director of player development, it’s like the golden era of Hockeytown all over again. Hey, hey, suit these guys up!
They all know what it takes to win, given their history of winning with the Red Wings organization from their playing days to their front office careers.
There’s also Mark Howe, with his decades-long experience as director of pro scouting, who carries on the Howe legacy with the organization, and the list goes on.
The fact of the matter is that if Detroit wants to return to their contending days, they’ve got almost the whole teams from the ’90s and ’00s era to learn and draw from. These former players knew how to win in the regular season, get into the playoffs, and sustain that success season after season. That kind of winning experience doesn’t grow on trees.
These guys know what they’re doing. Here’s a look at the many staff members of Hocketown’s front office and their title according to the Red Wings’ Hockey Operations page. In parenthesis, I’ve noted how many Stanley Cups they won as players.
Like the team on the ice, these former Red Wings players are working as a team in the offices at Little Caesar’s Arena, trying to make the team better as a whole.
Steve Yzerman – General Manager (3)
Your Red Wings captain for so many years is now captaining the whole ship as general manager.
“Stevie Y” did a phenomenal job building the Tampa Bay Lightning. The Lightning are the defending champions, coming off back-to-back Stanley Cups. Although Yzerman wasn’t technically on their staff then, it’s pretty obvious that he had a major role to play in helping the team eventually get to where they are today.
So far, Yzerman is off to a good start with his former team in the front office. With three Stanley Cups in the red and white as a player, can you see him winning as much, if not more, as GM? Why not?
Pat Verbeek – Assistant General Manager (1 with the Dallas Stars)
The Red Wings tweeted in August that “Pat Verbeek will assume general manager duties of the AHL’s Grand Rapids Griffins. Verbeek will also continue in his role as assistant general manager of the Red Wings.”
“I’m excited about the opportunity in a sense that it’s a very important job for our organization right now…I know it’s going to be a huge challenge. When you want to get your organization going in the right way you have to develop players, so I’m taking this as a very important role in helping the Detroit Red Wings get back to where we need to be – in the playoffs and winning the Stanley Cup.”– Pat Verbeek (from, “Pat Verbeek excited to oversee development of Red Wings prospects as Griffins GM,” MLive, 8/20/21)
Kris Draper – Director of Amateur Scouting (4)
Watching Kris Draper talk about scouting, as a Red Wings fan, you can tell the scouting department is in good hands. From his playing days until now, it’s all about winning for “Drapes.”
Drapes and the team are just hoping to get today’s team to hold up that Cup and be able to have moments like this as he leads the charge in finding the top talent to eventually make Hocketytown a championship city once again. Draper won the Cup four times during his Red Wings career.
Kirk Maltby – Pro Scout (4)
If there’s anybody who suited up for the red and white in the franchise’s history, Maltby would definitely be qualified to be able to evaluate talent at the pro level to find winners.
Maltby won. A lot. Four times to be exact. He and Draper each bring that four Cup résumé to the front office staff.
Niklas Kronwall – European Player Development (1)
Named by THW as one of the Red Wings’ top-five defensemen of all time, Kronwall brings the knowledge and experience to the table that should help them develop their defensive game.
Kronwall won the Cup with Detroit in 2008. According to the Red Wings’ website, Kronwall “transition(ed) to a front-office role for the 2019-20 season as advisor to the general manager…to work closely…with all areas of Detroit’s hockey operations staff, offering insight an analysis gained through his decorated 15-season NHL career.”
Jiri Fischer – Associate Director of Player Personnel (1)
Similar to Kronwall, Fischer’s helping out in the player personnel department as associate director.
This is Fischer’s “13th season working in the Red Wings front office…In his current role, Fischer splits his time between North America and Europe to scout potential free-agent acquisitions playing in the college hockey ranks and high European professional leagues.”
This is such an important role for someone who’s overcome hardships, as players can look up to him in how to handle adversity. Not only did he win a Cup with the Red Wings in 2002, but he also survived a scare on the ice as MLive mentioned it was a “cardiac arrest on Nov. 21, 2005, against Nashville.” THW’s Devin Little reflected on that moment here.
Fischer told Scott Burnside in a 2006 ESPN piece: “There must be a reason why I’m still here.” And we’re thankful he is. The Red Wings community has been grateful to see him in the front office for more than a decade.
Dan Cleary – Assistant Director of Player Development (1)
Another role that is crucial to a team’s success is player development. You need people who can help train young players to not only make them better but who can help them contribute to the team.
Cleary, according to the Red Wings, “works closely with director of player development Shawn Horcoff to evaluate, coach and mentor Detroit’s prospects playing in major junior leagues and collegiate teams throughout North America, as well as Europe and the Red Wings’ developmental affiliates in Grand Rapids (American Hockey League) and Toledo (ECHL).”
“All these experiences can help me relate to players…That’s how I go about it. That’s how I think about it.”Dan Cleary via SportsNet’s Daniel Nugent-Bowman
Obviously, the front office staff is made up of a lot more who add different perspectives, experience, and depth. Just like any good team, any good office, any good workspace should have. We just highlighted a few in this list, as you probably remember when they took to the ice not in a business suit but suiting up with the winged wheel jerseys.
Do you have any favorite memories of any of these players when they did suit up and play on the ice or any favorite memories so far of them with the Red Wings’ front office staff? Are there any on the list you didn’t know were on the front office staff previous to this?
I’d love to know. Just throw in a comment below!
Count ’em. You saw the list. Fifteen total Stanley Cups just among the Red Wings’ front office personnel (including Verbeek’s one with the Stars). As these former players won Cup after Cup, it just seems like it’s a matter of time before they help the current roster at least get to the playoffs and hopefully experience what they’ve gone through: winning a Stanley Cup.
This just goes to show that you never know how exactly your experience, even in your profession, could help you in the future. So keep at it, Hockeytown. It’s a blue-collar-type city, state, and team (even if you’re in a white-collar job, you have that factory-type grit and hustle to never give up and give it your all). You embody what these guys did on the ice and are probably bringing a similar attitude to their jobs, just as you bring to yours.
Charlie Lapastora covers his hometown team (hey hey, Hockeytown!) the Detroit Red Wings with The Hockey Writers. Charlie is a sports/news multimedia journalist who’s reported, written, produced, anchored, shot video/edited on different NBC, ABC, and FOX shows in multiple TV markets, along with digital & new media companies. He has traveled the country telling national sports, news, feature, and original stories on a cable news network, airing on top 10 TV markets, Sirius XM satellite radio, and digital platforms. Stories he’s covered have been featured on CNN, ABC’s Good Morning America, Fox News, & NBC’s The Today Show. Charlie also has reported on NHL, NFL, NBA, MLB, and NCAA teams, has worked in professional sports, and was the sports host of a digital news show started by Ryan Seacrest and Wanda Syke’s producer.
Charlie is passionate about his faith and being a husband to whom he calls the G.O.A.T. of women. You can follow their married life, travels, and adventures together here. Charlie loves his family, reppin’ his home state of Michigan and Detroit teams (yes, including the Red Wings & Lions), finding a good cup of coffee, and how sports brings people together. He’s traveled the world leading and coaching sports camps.
Charlie is also the host of the ‘authentically’ podcast where he features guests of diverse backgrounds and vocations to share their stories, all the while keeping it real in a world of ‘highlight reels’ scrolling on social media, telling stories with integrity and passion.