Devellano has a long and impressive resume' that includes 13 professional championship rings at various levels of hockey, and one as Vice President for the 2006 American League Champion Detroit Tigers. He has been in hockey for 45 years with 30 years of service in the Wings organization and is credited with transforming the "Dead Wings" to "Hockeytown" during his tenure. Very few, if any, hockey men are more respected than him, and during his interview with Scott Harrigan he was pretty candid despite the gag-order insisted upon by NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman.
Whenever Devellano speaks, anyone with any interest in hockey should take notice. And notice they did as the major media outlets are grabbing one answer from the interview and seem to be running inflammatory headlines.
CBSsportsline uses this in the title to the article: Red Wings VP refers to players as 'cattle,' says the owners 'own the ranch.'
Yahoo's Puck Daddy also headlines with, Red Wings VP Jim Devellano calls players 'cattle,' torches Flyers for Shea Weber signing. Greg Wyshinski's article mainly focuses on many other aspects but the 'cattle' part is in the headline without a direct reference
John Vogl of the Sabres Edge starts out his blog, Red Wings executive refers to players as 'cattle' at the owner's ranch with, "Mooooo-ve over Gary Bettman. NHL players have a new league executive to target." Gotta love Vogl using with the Moooo reference.
And it's pretty convenient for them to leave out a very important part of Devellano's quote. This is the full quote:
"The owners can basically be viewed as the Ranch, and the players, and me included, are the cattle."
Ya see that bolded and underlined part? Yeah, he includes himself as part of the 'cattle' on the ranch.
Regardless, Bettman had his gag order and today the NHL fined the Detroit Red Wings for Devellano's remarks saying, "The Detroit Red Wings’ organization and the League agree that the comments made by Mr. Devellano are neither appropriate, nor authorized, nor permissible under the League's By-Laws. Such comments are neither constructive nor helpful to the negotiations."
Once you get over the cattle thing, Devellano has some pretty interesting insight into various aspects of the NHL.
On Gary Bettman and the owners: "I think it should be clear up front that Gary Bettman works for the owners, not the players. The owners direct him on what to do...these owners aren't dumb guys and they are very aggressive men who run multi-million and multi-billion dollar companies. They want results and don't want to hear excuses and complaints as to what their employees may want."
On why Bettman is generally hated: "I think he is battling what many people battle once they get in someones "doghouse"...in his early years as commissioner, he may of come across as arrogant and condescending, but probably not intentionally. And early on I would say he dressed down a few guys (reporters) and got their backs up [and it became personal.] . If he does one interview with a guy and if that reporter felt slighted, he'll continue to write about it for months after the initial interview. Well, you do that a thousand times from city to city and you can see how it would spread."
On Ron McClean of Hockey Night In Canada: "He always asks agitated and sometimes exaggerated questions, not for the fans, or to get an answer, but to make what he thinks is good, bloody TV! So he thinks he's above the show, the game, and a lot of times has his own agenda...a lot of these guys in the media today are looking out for their own popularity and to hell with the real story."
On the Shea Weber offer sheet: "They (Philadelphia) operated within the CBA and it's totally legit to do. Having said that, I will tell you there is an unwritten rule that you don't do that, but they did, and just like everything else in life, some people are great to deal with, some aren't. If you are asking me if it's right, I would say there is, again, an unwritten rule...we all know it in the NHL, but not everyone follows it."
The set-up for as well as the 'cattle' quote: "There is just too much cost involved in running and owning a team. It's very complicated and way too much for the average Joe to understand, but having said that, I will tell you this: The owners can basically be viewed as the Ranch, and the players, and me included, are the cattle. The owners own the Ranch and allow the players to eat there. That's the way its always been and that the way it will be forever."
On how hockey related revenues should be split: "Let the players take 43% and let the owners take 57%. Just reverse it from where it is now and let the owners run the rest of their business and manage their expenses."
On the relationship between billionaire owners and millionaire players: "Yes, they are billionaires. Good on them, they deserve it, but they also make their employees millionaires. Not a bad trade off for a guy like Lucic getting what, 6 million dollars a year? I mean good on him too, but he should be grateful. Understand though that these players want for nothing...its first class this, first class that, meal allowances, travel money on the road, the whole shebang."
On what hockey fans should do during the lockout: "Fans of the game should go see their AHL, ECHL or other minor pro team, or more importantly, to the best of your ability, support your local junior and minor hockey teams. Show these kids how much you really care for hockey. The NHL situation will get sorted out, but its complicated - I'm in the middle of it and its complicated for me too - and may take some time. Until then, go out and enjoy the game at the grass roots level and have some fun."