Under Lamoriello's management, the Devils, who had been barely competitive for their first five years in New Jersey, became one of the most successful teams in the NHL. The Devils made the Stanley Cup playoffs all but three times between 1988 and 2012, qualified for five Stanley Cup Finals (in 1995, 2000, 2001, 2003 and 2012) and won the Stanley Cup three times (in 1995, 2000 and 2003). Lamoriello also served as general manager for Team USA in the 1996 World Cup of Hockey, in which the U.S. won the gold medal, as well as for the 1998 Winter Olympics in Nagano. Lamoriello also played a key role in negotiating the settlement of the 2004–05 NHL lockout to resume play for the 2005–06 season.
In 2009, Lamoriello was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in the builders category, while in 2012, Lamoriello was inducted into the United States Hockey Hall of Fame.
Lamoriello was born in Johnston, Rhode Island. After attending La Salle Academy in Providence, Rhode Island, Lamoriello graduated from Providence College in 1963. He received varsity letters in baseball and hockey and served each team as captain during his senior year.
Lamoriello was a math teacher at Johnston High School in Johnston, Rhode Island, for several years ending in the early 1970s.
Lamoriello became head coach of the Providence College Friars men's ice hockey team in 1968 and became athletic director in July 1982. During the 1982–83 season, the Friars were 33–10–0, the best record in the nation that year, and appeared in the Frozen Four for the first time since 1964. Lamoriello resigned as head coach in 1983. As athletic director, he hired Rick Pitino as the head coach of the men's basketball team; Pitino would go on to take Providence to the Final Four in 1987.
In July 1983, Lamoriello joined his fellow athletic directors at Boston College, Boston University, the University of New Hampshire and Northeastern University in forming the Hockey East Association. He helped produce an interlocking schedule agreement with the Western Collegiate Hockey Association (WCHA) and negotiate the first television package in college ice hockey.
Lamoriello was the first commissioner of Hockey East. The conference's executive committee voted on March 7, 1988, to name the conference championship trophy in his honor, as the Lamoriello Trophy. A permanent trophy was commissioned and was presented at the 1999 championship.
On April 30, 1987, Lamoriello resigned as Hockey East commissioner and as athletic director at Providence to become president of the NHL's New Jersey Devils.
In April 1987, then-owner of the Devils, John McMullen, appointed Lamoriello president of the club. Lamoriello named himself general manager just before the start of the 1987–88 season, a move that surprised many NHL observers. He had never played, coached or managed in the NHL, and was virtually unknown outside the American college hockey community.
Over the next 28 years, Lamoriello presided over one of the most successful rebuilding projects in North American professional sports history. In his first season as GM, the Devils notched their first winning season in franchise history (dating back to their time as the Kansas City Scouts [1974–76] and Colorado Rockies [1976–82]) and reached the Wales Conference Finals. The Devils made the playoffs in all but five of his 27 seasons as GM, and appeared in the Stanley Cup Finals in 1995 (won), 2000 (won), 2001 (lost), 2003 (won) and 2012 (lost). After YankeeNets bought the Devils in 2000, Lamoriello was named chairman and CEO of the Devils, as well as vice-chairman and CEO of the then co-owned New Jersey Nets. He dropped the chairmanship of the Devils and resigned his posts on the Nets after Jeffrey Vanderbeek bought the Devils from YankeeNets 2004. For the most part, McMullen, Vanderbeek and current owner Joshua Harris left the Devils' operations in Lamoriello's hands.
In 1992, Lamoriello was awarded the Lester Patrick Trophy for outstanding service to hockey in the United States. He also served as general manager for Team USA in the 1996 World Cup of Hockey (in which the U.S. won the gold medal) and the 1998 Winter Olympics.
Lamoriello is well known in NHL circles for his hard-nosed approach to contract negotiations. Pat Verbeek, Kirk Muller and Bill Guerin, among others, have been traded out of town after losing contract negotiations. He nearly traded Ken Daneyko, the Devils' all-time leader in games played, in 1989. According to Daneyko, Lamoriello believes in paying a third-line player as much as a first-line player if he feels they have the same value to the team.
Lamoriello, backed by Scouting Director David Conte, is known as a master drafter, showing consistent shrewdness in identifying and signing top talent that other teams were passing over. For example, superstar goaltender Martin Brodeur was a 20th overall pick, while Czech star left winger Patrik Eliáš was drafted 51st. Players drafted in the first 20 picks have been the rare exception rather than the rule. "He hasn't been able to money-whip everybody the way the Yankees do, outspending the world every year. Lamoriello has done what he has done mostly by being smart and tough and holding the whole thing together by himself sometimes," says sports journalist Mike Lupica.
Lamoriello said he studied the game for a long time before starting to manage at the NHL level. The former high school math teacher says that during his two-decade long tenure at Providence College, and later when commissioner of Hockey East, he followed professional hockey closely. When he started with the Devils in 1987, he says he took what he considered to be the best parts of the great teams — the Green Bay Packers, the New York Yankees and the Montreal Canadiens — and using his analytical background, applied them to managing the Devils.
“Lou’s a model for our business. This is not just the best run franchise in the NHL, it’s the best-run franchise in pro sports,” says long-time NHL executive and current Calgary Flames President of Hockey Operations Brian Burke.
Lamoriello has been lauded by NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman for his key role in bringing Soviet hockey stars, such as Viacheslav Fetisov and Sergei Starikov, to the NHL in the late 1980s. "Clearly he was one of the visionaries that understood there were highly talented hockey players in the former Soviet Union that could have a place in this League," said Bettman. It was one of the reasons cited by Bettman for Lamiorello's 2009 induction into the Hockey Hall of Fame.
Lamoriello has fostered a "unique corporate culture" that has encouraged player loyalty. For example, Martin Brodeur took below market contracts to stay with the Devils for years, while defenseman Ken Daneyko played all 1,283 of his NHL games with the team. "I like to think of my players as a family,": says Lamoriello. "And I like to think the success we’ve had through the years shows that the players value that as much as they do the Stanley Cups, knowing that the two go hand in hand."
When Lamoriello is asked the key to his success, he says it has been his systematic approach to player development. "It’s the team character this squad has... that you build on. I don’t ever use the word 'rebuild.' Based on my college background, I like to look at my roster as my seniors, juniors, sophomores and freshmen and gauge their development and roster turnover based on players going from one of those classes into the next. You have to build your staff and encourage them to be creative and realistic in their approach—and (not) be afraid to make a mistake. We stress that in drafting, player development, and coaching. You grow from your mistakes. I know I have."
When others are asked what makes Lamoriello successful, his dedication and singular focus on winning are mentioned again and again. Despite public disagreements, both superstar Claude Lemieux and former Assistant Coach John MacLean returned to the organization because of Lamioriello’s "dedication to winning." Veteran Devils defenseman Ken Daneyko says Lamoriello key factors in success are "his winning attitude, discipline and dedication. Nobody works harder."
On May 4, 2015, the Devils announced Lamoriello had handed his general manager post to Ray Shero, though he would remain as team president.
On July 23, 2015, Lamoriello resigned from the New Jersey Devils to accept the general manager position with the Toronto Maple Leafs. Lamoriello now works under Maple Leafs president Brendan Shanahan, who was the first player Lamoriello drafted as an NHL GM in the 1987 NHL Draft.
On December 19, 2005, following the surprise resignation of Larry Robinson as Devils head coach, Lamoriello took over the position on an interim basis. The Devils eventually made it the Eastern Conference Semifinals before falling to the Carolina Hurricanes. When asked on television after the Devils' victory over the New York Rangers in the first round of the playoffs if he was interested in becoming head coach permanently, Lamoriello replied, "Absolutely not," eventually hiring Claude Julien as head coach following the season.
On April 2, 2007, Lamoriello once again took over as interim head coach after firing Julien. The firing took place with three games left in the season, when the Devils had the second-best record in the East and were on their way to setting a franchise record for regular season wins.
On December 27, 2014, Lamoriello announced that he, along with Scott Stevens and Adam Oates, would act as co-head coaches of the Devils following the firing of Peter DeBoer the day prior.
In 1980, Lamoriello was inducted into the Providence College Athletic Hall of Fame.
In 1988, Hockey East named the conference championship trophy in Lamoriello's honour, the Lamoriello Trophy. A permanent trophy was commissioned and was presented at the 1999 championship.
On June 23, 2009, it was announced that Lamoriello would be inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in the builders category. He was honoured during the November 6–9 induction weekend, alongside Brett Hull, Brian Leetch, Luc Robitaille and Steve Yzerman.
Lamoriello has been the general manager for three Stanley Cup championships, in 1995, 2000 and 2003.
Additionally, as a minority owner of Major League Baseball's New York Yankees, Lamoriello has a World Series ring from the Yankees' 2009 World Series championship.
On July 12, 2012, Lamoriello was inducted into the United States Hockey Hall of Fame.
Lou Lamoriello has three adult children: Christopher, Heidi and Tim. Christopher works for the New York Islanders as director of player personnel, previously having worked with the Devils in the scouting department, as the senior vice president of hockey operations, and the general manager of the Albany Devils. Tim is a senior staff attorney for the New York Islanders. His son Chris married Olympic gold medallist Vicki Movsessian.