Western Conference Final has Detroit-area flavor
The Dallas Stars and Vegas Golden Knights, who will meet in the Stanley Cup Playoffs’ Western Conference Final beginning Sunday (8 p.m., NBC, CBC), both feature individuals with deep roots in the metropolitan Detroit area hockey scene in their management teams.
Dallas general manager is Jim Nill worked for the Red Wings organization from 1994 to 2013, serving as the assistant GM to Ken Holland for most of that time. Nill left to become the Stars’ GM in 2013.
Also, Dallas CEO and Alternate Governor Jim Lites is a native of Pentwater, MI., and was Detroit’s chief operating officer from 1982-1993. His most prominent role was engineering the defections of Red Wings European draft choices Petr Klima from the former Czechoslavakia, now the Czech Republic, and Sergei Fedorov, Vladimir Konstantinov and Vyacheslav Kozlov from Russia. Lites was also the COO of Olympia Arenas, Inc., in Detroit and was formerly married to Lisa Ilitch, the daughter of Mike and Marian Ilitch.
Vegas coach Pete DeBoer began his coaching career with the then-Detroit Junior Red Wings of the Ontario Hockey League in 1994-95, as an assistant coach to current Winnipeg Jets bench boss Paul Maurice. DeBoer became the team’s head coach the following season and was in that position for six seasons as the franchise moved and changed names twice, finally becoming the Plymouth Whalers. DeBoer departed after the 2000-01 season to become the head coach of the OHL’s Kitchener Rangers.
DeBoer was hired as the Golden Knights coach in January, replacing former Red Wings player Gerard Gallant, who was fired.
Vegas defeated the Vancouver Canucks 3-0 on Friday night in Edmonton at the Rogers Place in Game 7 of the second-round series. The Golden Knights led the series three games-to-one, but the Canucks won Games 5 and 6 to tie the series.
The Stars also won their Game 7 of the second round on Friday in Edmonton, a 5-4 overtime thriller to eliminate the Colorado Avalanche. Rookie Joel Kiviranta, in the lineup only because veteran University of Michigan alum Andrew Cogliano was injured, got his first career hat trick, including the game winner 7:24 into overtime.
Kirivanta’s second goal came with 3:30 left in regulation and tied the game 4-4 only 10 seconds after Colorado had taken a 4-3 lead.
The Stars also led three games-to-one.
Both Dallas and Vegas also have players with local ties.
In addition to Cogliano, the Stars feature Tyler Seguin, who played with the Plymouth Whalers. Meanwhile, the Golden Knights have veteran defenseman Alec Martinez, who is from Rochester Hills; U-M alums Max Pacioretty and defenseman Jon Merrill, and former Red Wing Tomas Nosek.