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The ultimate builder: Lou Lamoriello set to enter Hockey Hall of Fame

New Jersey Devils' CEO/President/general manager/coach Lou Lamoriello directs players during NHL playoff action in this May 13, 2006 file photo in East Rutherford, N.J. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP, Mel Evans

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New Jersey Devils' CEO/President/general manager/coach Lou Lamoriello directs players during NHL playoff action in this May 13, 2006 file photo in East Rutherford, N.J. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP, Mel Evans

Lou Lamoriello doesn't waver when asked what it takes to turn an NHL franchise into a winner.

After spending two-plus decades building the New Jersey Devils into a first-class organization, Lamoriello has developed a pretty good idea of how to get it done.

"I think first of all there has to be a philosophy which you believe in yourself and not only preach, but practice," Lamiorello said Friday on a conference call. "I think what we have tried to do is put a foundation together and stay on track with it. Competency has to be there, loyalty, and I believe you have to have a work ethic to go along with those three things.

"And then just get people who want to do the things that are necessary to have success unselfishly."

Lamoriello is one of hockey's top executives and will be recognized for his achievements on Monday, when he's enshrined in the Hockey Hall of Fame. He's being inducted as a builder in one of the strongest classes the Hall has ever seen - it also includes Steve Yzerman, Luc Robitaille, Brett Hull and Brian Leetch.

Those four former players are entering the Hall in their first year of eligibility and probably expected a call when the selection committee made its choices back in June.

That wasn't the case for Lamoriello, who was in a meeting with former player Slava Fetisov and found it strange when he noticed he'd missed a call from Hockey Hall of Fame chairman Bill Hay.

"It was something I wasn't even thinking of in any way," said Lamoriello. "I wasn't even aware that the selection committee was in process at that time."

A quick look at his resume indicates it was only a matter of time before he received a call from the Hall.

Lamoriello successfully ran the hockey program at Providence College - coaching such players as Ron Wilson, Brian Burke and Bob Nicholson - before joining the Devils as president in 1987. He took over the GM duties a year later and has seen the team make the playoffs in all but two seasons since.

New Jersey has won three Stanley Cups during Lamoriello's tenure, losing another in the seventh game. He was also the architect of the 1996 American team that upset Canada to win the World Cup of Hockey.

Interestingly, some of his fondest memories come from things others would overlook: John MacLean's goal to send the Devils to the playoffs in 1988, witnessing Scott Stevens get inducted to the Hall of Fame last November, and watching countless players develop and have successful careers.

Of course, the championships stand out most.

"There is nothing (better than) winning the Stanley Cup when you're involved with hockey," said Lamoriello.

Even though his career is being honoured now, he's still working as hard as ever to try and reach that goal.

Lamoriello is the NHL's longest-serving GM and has had a front row seat for plenty of changes in the game. While he believes the core fundamentals of the job remain the same, he thinks it's tougher than ever to be successful.

"The biggest challenge is the collective bargaining agreement today, where free agency is at such an early age," said Lamoriello. "The decisions that you're making can be very short-term for success. The challenge is trying to keep success sustained over a period of time. ...

"Bad decisions today will stick with you through this new system for a long period of time."

Fortunately, he hasn't made very many of those during his career.

Lamoriello credits some of his own success to not being afraid to make mistakes and believes an organization will only be strong if it is filled with people who are willing to put the interests of the team ahead of their own.

"There is a reason for a logo in a team sport in front and the name in back," he said.

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