When Jim Devellano was the Detroit Red Wings’ general manager, he collected big name players like they were trading cards. Reggie Leach. Brad Park. Darryl Sittler. Borje Salming. That was just a few. His list was long.
“Mike Ilitch and I understood we were in the entertainment business,” Devellano said. “I was big on that. I signed all kinds of guys at the end. Anything to be able to make a big announcement, to shake things up. Some were OK and some were not. You had to sell tickets.”
Jim Devellano, still with the Red Wings organization as a senior vice president, was just trying to keep fans and media interested until he could build through the draft.
Recently, Devellano told Detroit Hockey Now that even tried to lure Mike Bossy out of retirement.
“He had retired because of a bad back,” Devellano said. “His career was cut short.”
Bossy retired at age 30, after being limited to 67 games in 1986-87. He scored 50 or more goals for nine consecutive seasons before being limited to 38 in his final season.
According to Devellano, he saw Bossy a year or two later when he was working for Quebec Nordiques’ television. That’s when he hatched the idea of signing him.
Devellano Offered Bossy Big Money
The idea of landing Bossy intrigued Devellano because Bossy had a scoring touch you can’t teach. He knew Bossy well from their days together with the Islanders. Devellano was Bill Torrey’s right-hand man when the Red Wings hired them. Devellano built a strong reputation as a scout because the Islanders had drafted players such as Bossy, Bryan Trotter, Denis Potvin, Bobby Nystrom, etc.
“(Bossy) had been out for more than a year and I thought his back would be better,” Devellano recalled.
His sales pitch was enticing.
“I said: “Mike, I will give you a lot of money just to get you on our power play,” Devellano said.
He offered him more money than he earned when he was playing with the Islanders.
“He said, “I’d like to Jimmy but I just can’t,” Devellano said.
His back hadn’t healed enough to allow him to play.
On the same day Devellano told this story, it was reported that Mike Bossy had been diagnosed with Stage 4 lung cancer. Devellano said he planned to call Bossy.