NEWARK, N.J. (CBSNewYork/AP) — When the New Jersey Devils hired Ray Shero as general manager in May, there was never a thought it would lead to the end Hall of Famer Lou Lamoriello’s nearly three-decade tenure with the club.

Shero came in to replace the 72-year-old Lamoriello as general manager, with Lamoriello set to remain president.

That all ended Thursday, when Lamoriello resigned to take over as the general manager of the Toronto Maple Leafs, ending an era that saw New Jersey win three Stanley Cup titles under Lamoriello.

“When I came in here, this was never on my radar,” Shero said. “Lou and I worked closely together for the last 2 1/2 months. I was more of an extension of Lou. As a sounding board, Lou was invaluable.”

Lamoriello took out a full-page ad in Friday’s Record, thanking fans for their support during his run in the Garden State.

“Dear New Jersey Devils’ Fans: Since I first joined the New Jersey Devils in 1987 your dedication to the organization motivated me to work my hardest – every day, every week, every year,” he wrote. “The nearly three decades I’ve been with the Devils are times I will cherish and never forget. … I will miss you and New Jersey. Though now a rival, the New Jersey Devils have a bright future. Of that you can be assured. I thank you again for your commitment to what we worked to achieve every year for the last 28 seasons.”

“This all happened very quickly,” Devils co-owner Josh Harris said. “It all happened within the last 48 hours. Lou, (co-owner) David (Blitzer) and I sat down for a period of months. People like Ray Shero don’t come along every day. Lou was very helpful in bringing Ray Shero aboard. We all spent a lot of time together. We all thought we were working well together. ”

But Harris realized that Lamoriello couldn’t have been happy with the way the organization was going.

“When you’re used to having absolute control of an organization, then you don’t have it anymore, it had to be difficult for him,” Harris said in a conference call Thursday afternoon. “It’s easy to see why he might consider taking over a great team like Toronto. We’re out to build a winner, an elite hockey team and it has to start with a strong organization in place.”

The Devils have failed to qualify for playoffs the last three years after winning the Eastern Conference title and losing to the Los Angeles Kings in the Stanley Cup Finals in 2012.

“There’s always change with a new leadership,” Harris said. “We have to embrace it and make it a positive thing.”

Lamoriello spent 28 years in charge of the Devils. He spent the second half of last season behind the bench, serving as the interim head coach, along with assistants Scott Stevens and Adam Oates.

“He leaves a lasting legacy with the Devils’ franchise,” Harris said. “We are incredibly optimistic about the future of the Devils’ organization and we would like to thank Lou for that. Lou was a friend. I’ll miss his advice, his counsel and his friendship. We did a lot of work getting ready for today. We’re going to take the high quality that exists with this franchise and keep making it better.”

Harris said that there was no need to hire a replacement for Lamoriello as team president.

“This was more about Lou moving forward,” Shero said. “This was not about me.”

(TM and © Copyright 2015 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2015 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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