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Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Italian GM's like to stick together

Kings' Lombardi owes Jersey's Lamoriello

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HACKENSACK, N.J -- If Devils general manager Lou Lamoriello had his way, no one would know about the time he put aside everything one afternoon to help a young GM that was looking for a little advice.

Los Angeles Kings GM Dean Lombardi will never forget it, though, or stop being grateful, even now as their teams are about to face off for their sport's biggest prize.

"I think he gets mad at me when I tell the story," Lombardi said by phone Sunday from his office in El Segundo, Calif. "On the other hand, I'm so appreciative I can remember that day like it was yesterday."

Lombardi, 54, can't help thinking about it now as his Kings get ready to take on Lamoriello's Devils in the Stanley Cup Finals, beginning Wednesday night at Prudential Center. He was just 38 when he took over the San Jose Sharks following a disastrous 1995-96 season in which they went 20-55-7 and finished last in the Western Conference.

"I was taking over a franchise that had basically imploded and I've got to admit that at the time it was a little scary," Lombardi said.

Lamoriello had already guided the Devils to their first Stanley Cup in 1995. Lombardi knew him through former Sharks GM Jack Ferreira, a Providence man like Lamoriello, and his father-in-law Bob Pulford, the former GM of the Chicago Blackhawks.

He's still not sure exactly why he took the bold step of asking Lamoriello, a fellow New Englander and 2009 Hockey Hall of Fame inductee, for help or why he was so accommodating.

"You just get the sense that if he sees somebody who really wants to work and do the right thing, he'll reach out," said Lombardi, a Holyoke, Mass. native. "It's kind of strange. It's kind that godfather mentality. Who knows? Maybe it's because we're both Italian."

Lamoriello, who calls Lombardi, "a good friend," also remembers the day. There was no thought of saying no.

"If someone seeks out help, you're not dealing with a competitive situation because you know what you're doing," Lamoriello said. "It's just they're asking you some honest questions, whether it's philosophically or whether it's structure or whatever it is. If they're good people and they're honest and they're sincere, I've had a lot of people help me a long the way..."

Lamoriello opened up and essentially showed Lombardi the blueprint for his organization -- how it was structured, his player depth chart, everything. But there was a deeper message.

"If you had to capsulize everything he put up there, there's such an emphasis on every part of your franchise doing things right and it's about each other," Lombardi said. "And, if you get outside those values, you're not going to be successful because your players aren't going to conduct themselves that way."

Lamoriello said Lombardi was not the first or last that he's helped in this manner. Others provided him with similar guidance when he was getting started as a GM.

Just don't ask him who.

"Everybody talks to people," Lamoriello said.

-- The Record (Hackensack, N.J.)

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition May 28, 2012 C3

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