NEWARK, N.J. – They are like the generals of the Stanley Cup, watching their armies go into battle.
But rival general managers Dean Lombardi and Lou Lamoriello have a special bond.
Lombardi, now president and general manger of the Los Angeles Kings, reached out to New Jersey’s Lamoriello for advice after being named general manager of the struggling San Jose Sharks in 1996.
“I remember that day like it was yesterday,” recalled Lombardi. “I make no bones about it. I’ll never forget it.”
Lombardi, who acknowledged he was “pretty scared” in taking over the Sharks, spent three hours with Lamoriello, who opened up about his organizational chart and values.
“Not one iota about the team,” Lombardi recalled. “It was all about infrastructure and establishing a culture.”
Lamoriello, who missed his ride home to allow their meeting to go longer, even gave Lombardi a collection of quotes to refer to during tough times.
“I’ve still got it,” Lombardi said.
The quotes were all about “believing in yourself and doing things right as opposed to what perception says,” said Lombardi, who declined to be more specific in deference to Lamoriello.
The 54-year-old Los Angeles GM says the meeting with Lamoriello was a key moment in his career.
“I guess it’s critical moments in people’s lives, when you say ‘OK name the top five people that have influenced you or helped your career,’ he’s clearly one of them.
“But I think he’s on a lot of people’s lists, quite frankly.”
Lombardi joined the Kings in April 2006 after 13 seasons in San Jose, including seven as general manager, and a stint scouting with the Philadelphia Flyers.
He says Lamoriello, a fellow New England native, remains a mentor.
“He’s done it throughout my career. I don’t know, it’s like having a Godfather. He sees you’re going though a little thing and boom, here comes the call.
“He’s not going to tell you what to do, but just keep believing in yourself. It’s pretty powerful stuff.”
The 69-year-old Lamoriello, is in his 23rd NHL season as the Devils president, CEO and general manager, says he was just responding to what he called a “sincere and genuine” request from Lombardi to meet.
They also had a mutual friend in Jack Ferreira, who gave Lombardi his first NHL executive job as his assistant general manager in Minnesota. Lamoriello and Ferreira date back to their Providence days.
Lamoriello, a Hockey Hall of Famer as a builder, says he would open his door to any new GM.
Asked what his advice might be, he replied: “I don’t have any advice to anyone other than surround yourself with the best possible people you can get.
“And try to get people that might know more than you. Get them, don’t be insecure. Respect it and don’t allow yourself to get caught up (that) it’s you. It’s the people around you.”