Friday, February 8, 2013

Kevin Todd

Despite a strong junior career with Prince Albert, Kevin Todd was never a sure-thing prospect. He was not a great skater. He was small and wiry.

"I was 18, and was injured during my draft year in Prince Albert. Because of being hurt, I dropped down several rounds," Todd said.

The New Jersey Devils picked him 129th overall in 1986. They let him play out his junior eligibility and then apprenticed in the minor leagues for a couple of years.

In Utica of the AHL Todd proved to be an very solid player. Then in 1990-91 he exploded into an AHL superstar, scoring 37 goals, 81 assists and 118 points in 75 games. He would win the John B. Sollenberger Trophy as the AHL's leading scorer as well as Les Cunningham Award as the league's MVP.

After three years pro and just 2 games called up to the Devils, there was no denying Todd his shot at the NHL in 1991-92. He made the most of his chance, playing in 80 games with the Devils and staying in the National Hockey League for most of the remainder of the decade.

The Devils gave Todd a full opportunity to replicate his AHL dominance in his rookie season and Todd came through. 21 goals, 42 assists and 63 points, plus another 3 goals and 5 points in 7 playoff games. He broke Kirk Muller's team record for most points by a rookie.

Unfortunately the story reached it's climax that season. The following year he stumbled out of the gate, scoring just 5 goals and 10 points in 30 games before being traded to Edmonton with Zdeno Ciger for Bernie Nicholls.

Todd finished the year in Edmonton, then moved to Chicago before reinventing himself in Los Angeles. He became a good defensive forward known for his face-off ability. He worked hard along the boards, using his wide stance to maintain his balance to offset his lack of size in these battles. He played admirably in a third line role with the Kings and has been on record saying that that season was his favorite of his career.

Todd finished his career with two seasons down the street in Anaheim. All told, this one time NHL long shot played in 383 NHL games. He scored 70 goals, 133 assists and 203 points. 

Todd extended his career in Switzerland but retired after suffering a neck injury in his first season overseas. 

Todd travelled the world thanks to hockey - from Chicago to Hollywood, from Disneyland to Europe. So where did he set up shop once he hung up his blades? Back in Utica where he may have enjoyed his best hockey days. He opened a successful sports store which he later sold. At last report he opened a laser hair restoration service in the area.

Who does Todd credit for making him into a NHL player - former Utica coach Tommy McVie.

" Tom pushed defense, and I learned about conditioning and personal accountability - which was non-negotiable. Tom taught us the basics of hockey, and was the biggest influence in me making it to the NHL", Todd tells. " I had no clue on how to play defense in my own end, until I came to Utica. I went from a scorer in the minors to a checker in the NHL. He taught me 95% of what I know about hockey".


Sunday, July 29, 2012

Uli Hiemer

Uli Hiemer is a legend in German hockey circles. He also had a good three seasons with the New Jersey Devils but elected to return to Germany to play with Dusseldorfer instead of pursuing a NHL career.

Hiemer played his junior hockey at the same time as NHL veteran Uwe Krupp. Hiemer, two years older, was considered to be a better player at that time. Hiemer was drafted 48th overall by the Colorado Rockies in 1981 while the gigantic Krupp was drafted 223rd overall in 1983.

Hiemer joined the relocated Rockies in New Jersey in 1984 after representing Germany in the Canada Cup tournament. He played in 53 games scoring 5 goals and 29 assists. Three of his goals came against Pittsburgh on Hallowe'en 1984, establishing a franchise record for goals by a defenseman in one game.

Hiemer would struggle along with the rest of the Devils the next two seasons. He played another 90 games but also saw time in the American Hockey League. He became the first German-born player to play regularly in NHL history, but after three years was still having problems adjusting to the more rugged North American style of game.

"Hiemer had a lot of trouble adjusting," recalls his head coach, Doug Carpenter. "European teams don't play as often as we do, and the traveling just doesn't compare. The hockey is played at a different pace, too. All in all, it's quite a shock."

"So what I did," continued Carpenter, "was let Hiemer get his feet wet on our power play. He's good at that, see. And so he gradually got the idea that he could carry the puck and pass it effectively in this league. With that confidence, he was able to take on more and more work."

Hiemer returned to Germany in 1987. In 143 NHL games he scored 19 times and had 73 points. 11 of his 19 goals came on the power play.

In addition to his NHL experience, Hiemer represented Germany in three Olympic tournaments, nine World Championships and one Canada Cup tournament in his 14 years of service with the German national team. He also was a standout with Dusseldorfer upon his return to Germany, scoring over 200 goals in his career in the German leagues.


Saturday, July 28, 2012

Randy Velischek

When you break down Randy's game, you kind of wonder how he managed to play in the NHL for more than 500 games He was at best average at such things as skating skills, shooting and offensive creativity. He wasn't the strongest or most physical d-man though he could hold his own. 

If you look at the sum of his parts, you could call him an overachiever. But what Randy lacked in natural skill, he made up for in great hockey sense and intelligence.  When you combined his average skills with his above average mental understanding of his own game and his desire to be a good hockey player, you had a pretty dependable defenseman in Randy Velischek

Velischek was almost always positionally perfect. He understood what his job was and what the opposing forward was going to do. He was a master of using defensive angles to thwart oncoming forwards. He understood his own limitations at the NHL level and learned to play within them, thus allowing him to succeed and become a nice NHLer for parts of 10 seasons..

Born in Montreal, Randy was drafted by the Minnesota North Stars in 1980 (53rd overall). At the time the Montreal native had just completed his first year at Providence College where he played solidly. But 3 years later Velischek blossomed into a standout prospect as he had an amazing year in his final ECAC season. He had 52 points in 41 games, including 18 goals. He was a All Star and All American and finished 2nd in Hobey Baker Award balloting (behind Harvard's Mark Fusco). He was also a great student as he graduated magna cum laude

Velischek finished his strong year by playing his first 3 NHL games at the end of the season. He also played in 9 playoff games. The rookie didn't pick up a point and was used sparingly, but the experience was great as Randy learned a lot just by practicing with the professionals, and by being a part of the North Stars "Cinderella Run" to the Stanley Cup finals.

Many great things were expected from him after that incredible final season of college hockey, and his promising debut in the NHL. However things did not go according to plan. The North Stars went from a promising young team to a floundering one, due largely to the fact that they didn't develop their players properly.

Randy himself never got a great chance in Minnesota. He lacked the skills to be an offensive d-men that people had perhaps expected him to become. He spent the next two seasons developing solidly defensively but not putting up any significant offensive numbers. As a result the Stars sent him to the minors for a total of 69 games and became disenchanted with him.

The Stars exposed Velischek in the pre-season waiver draft in October 1985 where he was eagerly snatched up by the New Jersey Devils. Lou Lamoriello was the Devil's general manager who picked up Velischek in one of his earliest pickups. Lamoriello, now universally hailed as a hockey genius, was well aware of what Randy could do. The two were together at Providence College  several years earlier.
After one season split between NJ and the minors, Randy become a steady and unheralded defenseman. 

Often paired with Joe Cirella, Velischek was finally being utilized properly and given a chance to thrive. He would develop into what many would call the perfect 5th or 6th defenseman.

Randy spent a total of 5 seasons in NJ before he was shipped to Quebec on August 13, 1990. He was dealt to complete the big Peter Stastny deal earlier in the year. The Nords wanted a veteran d-man to help out their youngsters.

Randy spent a year and a half with the Nords before being sent to the minors. He remained in the minors for 3 years to complete his pro hockey career. He briefly made a 3 game appearance with the Durham Wasps of the British Hockey League in 1995-96 before he was released from his contract so that he could join the New Jersey Devil's media department.


Sunday, March 18, 2012

Grant Marshall

This is Grant Marshall. He was an energetic grinder with good mixture of size, speed and toughness. He was an aggressive forechecker who could surprise with underrated offensive ability.

Marshall would play 10 seasons and 700 games in the NHL, scoring 92 goals and 239 points. He helped Dallas (1999) and New Jersey (2003) win Stanley Cups. All in all, a pretty nice hockey career.

One thing you can be sure of is that Grant Marshall appreciated every moment in the NHL. That's because he almost never made it. On a December night in 1990 the young Ottawa 67s forward lay on the ice, a victim of a nasty hit from behind. His neck was broken, and he was paralyzed.

Everybody thought he was done, of course. How could you not think that. That paralysis proved to be temporary, no small miracle in itself. He hung around the team wearing a halo screwed into his to immoblize his broken vertebrae.

He kept an upbeat attitude, saying in hindsight "When you're a kid you don't know much. You just roll with it." Though no one knew if he would ever play hockey again, he earned so much respect from his teammates and around the hockey world for his contributions to the 67's off the ice.

Well, his teammates mostly showed respect.

"They used to hang jock straps on (the halo)," said Marshall to Ottawa Sun reporter Chris Stevenson.

He was an inspiration to anyone who knew his story. So you can imagine the spark he provided when he returned to the ice in the playoffs in 1991.

"I remember it was the conference finals and we were playing against Eric Lindros," recalled Marshall. "I went out there and tried hitting him. I did a 180-degree face plant and the rest, as they say, is history."

Marshall, who also battled temporary deafness as a kid, never knew how to back down. It would become his trademark throughout his lengthy National Hockey League career.

After being picked in the first round (23rd overall) of the 1992 draft by the Toronto Maple Leafs, he paid his dues in the minors for a couple of years before establishing himself as a regular with the Dallas Stars. He was part of that franchise's growth into a Stanley Cup champion in 1999.

After a couple of years in Columbus, Marshall was acquired by the New Jersey Devils at the trade deadline in 2003. Chipping in nicely with 6 goals in 24 games, Marshall enjoyed a second Stanley Cup championship.

Marshall would play a couple more seasons in New Jersey before exiting the NHL in 2006.

Looking back on his life changing injury, Marshall has taken what he can from the incident."

"I think I'm a better person for it," he said. "There are people who are hurting all the time and can't do anything about it. My family supported me and made my life a hell of a lot easier."

It's a great story about a great guy.


Thursday, November 3, 2011

Paul Gagne

Paul Gagne was a high draft pick of the Colorado Rockies. Selected 19th overall in 1980, Gagne was never able to warrant such a high selection.

A tremendously popular player in New Jersey, Gagne was a capable left winger on some very weak Rockies/New Jersey Devils teams in the early and mid-1980s. However he was never able to demonstrate his offensive prowress he showed in his last year of junior when he scored 48 goals and 101 points in 65 OHA games. Gagne twice posted 20+ goal seasons at the NHL level, but was generally a 15 goal, 15 assist role player who was being asked to fulfill a role of 1st or 2nd line left wing. Blessed with good speed, Gagne was particularly hindered by his lack of size and strength.

On March 25, 1986, in a game against the Winnipeg Jets, Gagne suffered a serious back injury. The injury left Gagne out not only for the rest of the season, but for the next two entire seasons! Gagne attempted a comeback in 1988-89, signing with the Toronto Maple Leafs organization. He had a really good season at the AHL level, posting 33 goals and 74 points in just 56 games. He was also called up to the Leafs for 16 games.

Gagne returned to the minors the next year but a mid season trade saw him end up in the NY Islanders organization. Gagne spent most of the remainder of the season in the Isle's famr team in Springfield of the AHL, but also saw 9 games on Long Island, chipping in one goal.

That goal would prove to be his last NHL goal. At the completion of the 1990 season Gagne left North American hockey and headed to Europe where he njoyed some good seasons in Germany and Switzerland. Gagne stopped playing competitive hockey in Europe in 1996.


Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Joe Cirella

Long time New Jersey Devils defenseman Joe Cirella took a while to find his NHL groove. It did not help that high expectations were heaped upon him back in the 1980s when the Devils were one of the weakest teams in the league.

Cirella was actually drafted 5th overall in 1981 by the Colorado Rockies, and played his rookie season the following season in Denver. In 1982-83 the Rockies packed up and moved to New Jersey, but aside from 2 games Cirella did not. He was returned to junior, where he probably should have played the season before, too. He had only one season of junior behind him, and though he was dominant with the Oshawa Generals (at the end of the millennium he and Bobby Orr were named as the two greatest dmen in Generals history), he was clearly rushed into the National Hockey League and his confidence was shot because of that.

Cirella returned in 1983-84, this time to stay in the NHL for the next 13 years. Much of that time was spent with the Devils, but he also played with the Nordiques, the Rangers, the Panthers and ever so briefly with the Senators.

Cirella offered a big and strong presence in front of his own net and in the corners. He was not afraid to hit hard or to do the dirty work. He was certainly no heavyweight, but he was known to drop the gloves a few times each season.

Defensively he could be caught wandering out of position, and struggled with his back skating at any great speed. As he matured he learned to play within his limitations and offer solid minutes of play. He may be best remembered in New Jersey for playing on a tandem with Randy Velischek.

Skating forward was a strength for Cirella. He had a strong burst of speed off his first couple of strides, and caught the opposition by surprise by carrying the puck out of the New Jersey zone to relieve the pressure. He never had much agility or puck skills to do much more than hit the center line and dump the puck in.

In 828 games Joe Cirella scored 64 goals, 211 assists for 275 points. Most of his offense came from point shots from the blue line, though once in a while he would surprise everyone by jumping into the slot for a one timer.

Joe Cirella was a solid NHL depth defenseman for many years. Had he not been rushed out of junior and had better coaching and support early in his NHL career, he may have come closer to achieving the high expectations placed upon after his amazing junior season and high NHL draft ranking.


Thursday, August 18, 2011

Dave Pichette

Tall and lanky, Dave Pichette was an interesting player. He was an excellent power play pointman, as he showed with the New Jersey Devils in 1984-85 with 17 goals and 57 points. His PP prowess kept him in the league a long time, for a total of 322 games over 7 NHL seasons. He scored 41 goals, 140 assists for 181 points.

But he had several flaws in his game. He was very suspect defensively, often wandering out of position. To make matters worse he was incredibly slow and frail. Essentially, he was a power play specialist who rarely earned his coaches trust in any other aspect of the NHL game.

The closest he came was during that season with the Devils. But the next season he quickly fell back out of favor with coach Doug Carpenter. The Devils were a very bad team back then, and could have really used Pichette's PP ability. Shortly after Christmas that season he suffered a serious concussion thanks to a hit from Chicago's Wayne Presley. Pichette never really came back from that. He was soon out of the NHL altogether, but continued to play in the minor leagues and in Germany.


Saturday, July 30, 2011

Valeri Zelepukin

Valeri Zelepukin was a classic Soviet winger. While he was not the fastest skater on the ice, he had tremendous acceleration to get a quick start on anybody. He also had great balance and agility, allowing him to over come any physical disadvantage. Yet he was a surprisingly gritty player, making him a nice two-way fit in New Jersey.

The left winger had a hard and accurate shot which he was never shy to unleash. His most famous goal had to have been in the 1994 playoffs when he scored with just 7.7 seconds remaining in game 7 against the New York Rangers. The goal forced overtime, but ultimately the Devils would lose that spring. Zelepukin and his teammates managed to overcome heartbreak and celebrate their own Stanley Cup championship in 1995.

Zelepukin actually missed most of that season with a scary eye injury after being hit with a puck in practice. He was never the same player after that. While he remained a solid two way player, his offense dried up. Only now and again would we see glimpses of the dynamic offensive player he promised to be.

Prior to the eye injury some even compared him to the great Peter Stastny. Here's what Stastny, who centered Zelepukin early in his career with New Jersey, had to say about Valeri:

"He creates intricate little plays with the puck, and he creates extra time for people," Stastny said. "You can see he does things that most players have difficulty doing."

Interestingly, Claude Lemieux also played on that line. It made for an interesting mix, according to Stastny.

"I guarantee you that you will see no more full blasts when more and more Europeans like Valery come into the league," Stastny said. "I think that we have some elements on the Devils now to finally make the most of our talent by moving the puck into the offensive zone rather than blasting it around the boards and taking the chance of giving it away."

Before coming to the NHL Zelepukin played in Russia for seven seasons, first with Khimik Voskresensk from 1984-1987, with CSKA Moscow in 1987-1989, and then again with Khimik Voskresensk from 1989-1991. Zelepukin tallied 36 goals in his seven seasons in Russia.

Zelepukin's first games in North America was as part of the Central Army team that played various NHL Teams in 1989. This lead the Devils to select Zelepukin in the 13th round (221st overall) at the 1990 entry draft. Zelepukin made his NHL debut on December 19, 1991.

Zelepukin played seven seasons with the Devils, winning a Stanley Cup in 1995.

Zelepukin was traded to the Edmonton Oilers along with Bill Guerin for Jason Arnott and former Blackhawk Bryan Muir on January 4, 1998. Zelepukin finished the season in Edmonton before being traded to the Philadelphia Flyers for Daniel Leroux on October 5, 1998. Zelepukin played the next two seasons in Philadelphia before signing with the Blackhawks.

Soon enough Zelepukin was demoted to Chicago's farm team, never to be heard from again in NHL circles. He did return to Russia to play in the KHL for four seasons. He retired from hockey in 2006.

In 595 regular season games Valeri Zelepukin scored 117 goals and 177 assists for 294 points. He added 13 goals and 13 assists in 85 playoff games, winning the Stanley Cup in 1995. He was also a part of the Russian Olympic team that won silver in 1998.


Saturday, April 9, 2011

Jan Ludvig

Jan Ludvig's journey to the National Hockey League was not at all standard.

Born in Liberec, Czechoslovakia in 1961, it was not exactly common for young Czechs or Slovaks or other Eastern Bloc kids to be allowed to leave their countries to pursue a life in the political west, until the 1990s. Sporting stars in particular were cracked down upon harshly. However in the early 1980s a few young hockey stars such as the three Stastny brothers (Peter, Anton and Marian) were risking their lives and futures by escaping the grip of their communist country in order to pursue a dream - to play hockey in the best league in the world.

Ludvig left Czechoslovakia in May 1981 by using a tourist via to go to Yugoslavia. He would spend 5 months in an Austrian refugee camp before he was allowed to emigrate to Canada. He ended up in Edmonton, and the 1979 top forward at the European Junior Hockey championships began playing junior hockey in Canada in nearby St. Albert before crossing the Rocky Mountains to play in Kamloops, British Columbia.

Jan defected at an earlier age than most other defectors of the 1980s who left for hockey. Ludvig struggled with the adjustment to a totally different style of life away from the rink. He felt at home while on the ice, and it showed as he turned in 31 goals and 65 points in 37 games as an overage junior.

Jan was never drafted, but instead signed as a free agent with the New Jersey Devils in October 1982, and stuck with the team for most of the season. He struggled as a rookie (scoring 7 goals and 17 points in 51 games) but responded well with a 22 goal, 54 point second year campaign.

Despite some creative talents as a skill player, Jan could never duplicate his sophomore success. He struggled for the following three seasons until a trade took him to Buffalo late in the 1986-87 season.

Jan's time as a Sabre was not particularly great, as knee injuries hobbled him. In each of his only two years in Buffalo he played only 13 games. In that time he scored just 1 goal (oddly enough against his former teammates in New Jersey) and 8 assists. He was forced to retire at the end of the 1988-89 season.

Jan retired with 54 goals, 87 assists and 141 points in his 314 games in the National Hockey League.

Although his hockey career never came close to matching that of the Stastny brothers, Jan, who later scouted for the New Jersey Devils, can be proud of his accomplishments and hopefully say all the troubles were worth it.


Friday, March 25, 2011

Scott Niedermayer

The key component for two Canadian Olympic gold medals seems to be hockey's winningest man: Scott Niedermayer.

Niedermayer captained Team Canada to gold in 2010, and was a top player on their previous gold medal championship in 2002. Niedermayer was inexplicably left off of the 1998 team, and was injured in 2006. Canada did not step on the podium without him.

He was instrumental in Canada's 2010 success, playing his best when his team needed him the most. The veteran was a calming influence and arguably the team's best defenseman in the gold medal game.

Niedermayer does not always get properly credited as one of the all time great blue liners. He has always been recognized as a great skill player, but not necessarily revered as a legend.

That is partially because his quiet, laid back persona off the ice. But on the ice he is a true champion. In addition to the two Olympic gold medals, Niedermayer has also won the Memorial Cup, World Junior and World Championships, a World Cup and four Stanley Cups. All he does is win.

To me, that makes him one of the greatest hockey legends.

The pride of Cranbrook, BC, Niedermayer first became a notable hockey name when he joined the Kamloops Blazers of the WHL and helped them win a Memorial Cup championship in 1992 and help Canada to world junior championships in 1991 and 1992. 

Scouts raved about Niedermayer, especially his effortless, almost artistic skating. It was truly a treat to watch him skate, which is not something you normally say about players. He was the definition of skating agility.  Scouts also liked his offensive instincts. Comparisons to Paul Coffey were inevitable.

The New  Jersey Devils selected Niedermayer with the third overall pick (acquired infamously several months before from Toronto in exchange for Tom Kurvers), directly behind Eric Lindros and Pat Falloon. Alright, no one was going to dislodge Lindros from the top spot that year, but in hindsight who would you rather have? And what was San Jose thinking?!

In the Devils tight, defense first system Niedermayer never really did emerge as a Coffey-like offensive force. Instead he became a great, well rounded defender. He still carried the puck often and occasionally using his wheels for a highlight reel rush.

Niedermayer was somewhat overshadowed in New Jersey by team captain Scott Stevens. Stevens defined New Jersey hockey with his hard hitting, defensive focus. Niedermayer's skill set may have offered the  Devils a nice change up, but he was also a flawless defender and an unnoticed physical player in his own fashion.

All in all Scott Niedermayer was part of 3  Stanley Cup championships in New Jersey. But he left the Devils after the 2005 lockout, heading west to join his brother Rob with the Anaheim Mighty Ducks. He would play 5 seasons in California, posting some of his best offensive seasons thanks to the shackles finally being lifted from his game.

The highlight in Anaheim - and possibly of his whole storied  career - was winning the Stanley Cup in 2007. It may have been the 4th Stanley Cup of his career, but it was brother Rob's first. To win it together with his brother was real special. 

Niedermayer retired in 2010 with one of the most impressive resumes ever completed in hockey. 1263 regular season games; 172 goals, 568 assists for 740 points. Another 25 goals and 98 points in 202 Stanley Cup games. Four times he was named as a year end All Star. He also won a Norris trophy and Conn Smythe trophy. Two Olympic gold medals, the Memorial Cup, World Junior and World Championships, a World Cup and four Stanley Cups. 

Words that describe Scott  Niedermayer - winner; Hall of Famer; greatest hockey legend.


Turner Stevenson

Turner Stevenson is the proud product of Prince George, British Columbia, a hard working, tough as nails northern Canadian town that loves it's hockey. Making him even tougher was the fact that he was born further north in a cold mill town called MacKenzie.

Stevenson patrolled NHL wing with typical PG hard work and hustle, endearing him to fans and teammates alike. He was known to spend every ounce of energy in his 60 second shift.

"At times, we call him 'Crazy Legs,'" said New Jersey defenseman Ken Daneyko, "He's got both legs and arms going in all different directions out there. But, that's because he is working so hard."

Stevenson was an unsung member of the Montreal Canadiens and the New Jersey Devils (and briefly Philadelphia) for a total of 644 NHL games. He scored just 75 goals and 115 assists for 190 points.

The highlight of Stevenson's career had to be the spring of 2003. Playing on a checking line with John Madden and Jay Pandolfo, Stevenson helped the New Jersey Devils capture the Stanley Cup.

He may not have been the biggest name in New Jersey that spring, but his high tempo shifts created chaos on the forecheck andalong the boards and brought praise from his teammates.

"He's a little dangerous out there for both sides," said team captain Scott Stevens. "You just wind him up and let him go and see what happens."


Thursday, March 17, 2011

Bruce Driver

Bruce Driver, once the New Jersey Devils' all-time leader among defensemen in goals and points, announced his retirement from the NHL in 1998 after a 15-year career. Though he spent his final season 3 seasons playing across town with the arch rival New York Rangers, he is best known as a New Jersey Devil.

Driver was originally drafted in 1981 by the Colorado Rockies, who subsequently transplanted to New Jersey. After leaving the University of Wisconsin a year early and after captaining a NCAA championship team, he played for Canada's national team for a season, playing in the 1984 Olympics in Sarajevo. Unfortunately, Canada finished just out of the medals in 4th place.

Soon after Driver turned pro, playing 12 seasons with the Devils and helped the team win its first-ever Stanley Cup in 1995. However, two months after tying for the club lead with a plus-13 rating in the postseason, Driver signed as an unrestricted free agent with the New York Rangers. The Devils felt he was near the end of his career and didn't want to match the contract the Rangers offered.

Driver played 3 seasons in New York, but played a lesser role. He helped to groom younger defensemen who would eventually fill his roster spot. In his final year, Driver played 75 games for the Rangers and had five goals and 15 assists.

Driver quietly established himself as one of the steadiest defensemen of his era. A smooth though not particularly fast skater, Driver was a good puck distributor with a good point shot, quarterbacking the Devils power play for many years. At 6' 0" and 185lbs he certainly wasn't the biggest blueliner, but he was smart positionally and dependable in his own zone.

Driver played in 922 career games, recording 96 goals and 390 assists for 670 points. He had 83 goals and 316 assists for 399 points with the Devils.


Saturday, February 26, 2011

Tom Chorske

When thinking back of Tom Chorske the first thing that immediately comes to mind was his breakaway speed. But the rest of his skill set did not really allow him to take full advantage of his speed. He seemingly had hands of stone when it came to scoring or feathering soft passes. For all the opportunities his speed could create, he rarely finished.

Physically Chorske had good size but was far from a noticeable presence. He was solid when, taking the body cleanly when needed, but he was inconsistent and never vicious. Perhaps this was a product of his college and international training of the day. But his size and speed should have encouraged him to be far more impactful than his temperament allowed.

Chorske was born and raised in Minneapolis, the State of Hockey. He grew up with the game, being named as the top high school play in the whole state (1985) before achieving the state dream - playing for the University of Minnesota Golden Gophers. He earned a full ticket scholarship, studied business and developed into a top NHL prospect.

The Montreal Canadiens had drafted Chorske in the 1st round, 16th overall, in 1986. They were very patient with Chorske, allowing him to go through college as well as joining the United States national team in hopes of playiing in the 1988 Olympics. In what may have been the biggest disappointment of his career, Chorske was the last player cut from the Team USA 1988 Olympic team.

Chorske carried on, returning to school and later turning professional in 1990. After a season in the minors he spent most of the 1990-91 season as a rookie with the Habs, failing to make much of an impact.

Just prior to the 1991-92 season Chorske was involved in a major trade to the New Jersey Devils. Chorske and Stephane Richer were moved to New Jersey for Kirk Muller and Roland Melanson on September 20, 1991.

When healthy Chorske challenged the 20 goal level twice with New Jersey. But his role diminished as time went by. Still, Chorske earned the right to be called a Stanley Cup champion with the Devils in 1995.

Chorske would bounce around the league after that. When all was said and done he had played in 596 regular season games, scoring 115 goals, 122 assists and 237 points.

In retirement Chorske returned to Minnesota and became a senior account executive with Merrill Corp.


Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Randy McKay

The right winger on the hugely popular and even more effective Crash Line with Bobby Holik and Mike Peluso, Randy McKay was a devil of a hockey player.

The scrappy McKay approached every shift with great intensity and tremendous physicality. He was a heavy hitter, astoundingly strong on his skates, and a ferocious fighter. However he earned great respect around the league by never initiating cheap nonsense. But rest assured if the other team dared to do so, he would be there to answer.

McKay may have broken into the league because of his willingness to be physical, but he worked incredibly hard to improve his game in every capacity. His skating was strong enough to allow him to beat many defenders to loose pucks. He had the puck skills to beat a defender one on one, and, though lacking great vision, could make strong passes. But make no mistake, most of his offensive contributions, with or without the puck, by driving the net.

McKay's reputation pretty much summed up the Devil's hockey philosophy of the 1990s. He never cruised through a game, going all out all game long. Hard work and true grit allowed McKay to twice hold the Stanley Cup above his head - in 1995 and 2000.

McKay retired in 2003 and became an assistant coach at his Alma Mater, Michigan Tech.


Friday, February 18, 2011

Tapio Levo

When the Colorado Rockies spent a lot of time and money to bring Tapio Levo to the NHL, many NHL scouts predicted he could be one of the very best European imports in league history. At 26 he was a veteran of European hockey. With his slick mobility and incredible puck skills, many felt that Levo would be as good as Finnish legend and Calgary Flame's all star. Pekka Rautakallio. The Rockies even brought in Veli Pekka Ketola and Jukka Porvari to make him feel at home.

On the ice Levo felt at home. He had an impressive 9 goals and 22 points in just 24 games in his rookie season. The worst part was the 26 year old rookie suffered several various injuries that kept him out of half of the season.

The Rockies moved from Colorado to New Jersey the following year. And Levo moved with them. He managed to stay healthy in 1982-83 and scored 7 goals and 47 points in 73 games with the horrendous Devils team.

Like many Finnish players of the early 1980s, Levo's stay in North America was short. Once his contract expired he bolted back to Europe and escaped the New Jersey swamp lands .He continued to play in his hometown with Assat Pori until the end of the decade.

Levo was inducted into the Finnish Hockey Hall of Fame in 1995.


Monday, February 14, 2011

David Maley

Maley was drafted by the Montreal Canadians in 1982. A second round draft choice (33rd overall), he played his amateur hockey at the University of Wisconsin, near his hometown of Beaver Dam, Wisconsin. He graduated in 1986, joining the Habs during their 1985-86 Stanley Cup-winning season.

The following year, he played 48 games for Montreal before being traded to the New Jersey Devils, where he enjoyed five productive seasons and his best NHL success.

The 1988-89 season, his first with the Devils, he helped the Devils reach the 1988 Wales Conference finals, and he received the team's "Unsung Hero" award. The next year, when he scored eight goals and 17 assists in 67 games, Maley's best statistical season.

A big, aggressive player who played both center and left wing, Maley was defensively sound and excelled in the 4th line, crash and bang role. While not a great fighter, he never failed to show up when a teammate needed him. He was highly thought of by his teammates and other players in the league.

Midway through the 1991-92 season, he was traded to the Edmonton Oilers for a similar though younger player in Troy Mallette. The expansion San Jose Sharks claimed Maley off waivers from the Oilers earlier in 1992,  looking for experience and veteran leadership

He played in 62 games for the Sharks over the next two seasons, notching one goal and six assists. By 1994 Maley was traded to the New York Islanders, with whom he finished his NHL career.

In his career, he finished with 466 NHL games under his belt, scoring 124 points (43 goals, 81 assists), and 1,043 penalty minutes.

Nowadays Maley is living in San Jose where he is the president of the Silver Creek Sportsplex


Kevin Maxwell

Meet Kevin Maxwell - hockey's Mr. Jekyl and Dr. Hyde.

John Mariucci, who scouted Maxwell and convinced the Minnesota North Stars to draft him 63rd overall in 1979, nicknamed Maxwell "Choir Boy" because of his appearance.

"He looks so sweet and innocent when he's off the ice you can just see him singing in a choir at church."

He may have looked that way, but not if you watched him play.

"I guess you could call me a shit disturber" proudly described Maxwell of his own style of play.

"I enjoy mixing it up" continued Maxwell, who was compared to Kenny Linseman. "If I don't play that way, and with emotion, then I might as well not suit up because that is my game."

Kevin, not related to Stars defenseman Bryan Maxwell, first made a name for himself during the playoffs in 1981. After appearing in just 6 NHL regular season games, the tempestuous skater came out of nowhere to play a utility role on the North Stars Cinderella run to the Stanley Cup Finals. In 16 playoff games Maxwell scored 3 goals and 4 assists despite seeing limited ice time. His job was to kill penalties and irritate the other team's top attackers.

Maxwell did that very effectively. In the first round series agains Boston, the Bruins rugged and feared winger Terry O'Reilly came away asking "Who is that little beast?"

Unfortunately for Maxwell and the Stars, a back injury cost him a chance for full duty in the Finals against the New York Islanders, who swept the Stars to earn the Stanley Cup.

Injuries played a big role in Maxwell's career. Just 5'9" and 165lbs, his size made him a questionable prospect to start with. Playing his aggressive style against much bigger players cost him a wide array of injuries - including sprained ankle, torn groin and fractured thumb.

Despite his promising post season, the Stars sold Maxwell to the Colorado Rockies on New Years Eve, 1981. Over the next three years he played in a total of 48 games for the Rockies/New Jersey Devils franchise. Unfortunately for Kevin, most of his time was spent in the minors and on the injured reserve list.

Following his last appearance in the NHL in the 1983-84 season, Kevin continued to play in the minors for 4 years.


Sunday, January 23, 2011

Hector Marini

Hector Marini was the lone representative of the New Jersey Devils at the 1983 NHL All Star game. Every team needed a rep, which always led to controversy. This particular year that meant star wingers like Boston's Rick Middleton or Washington's Mike Gartner stayed home.

Marini was no All Star, but his lone appearance at the annual mid-season classic would have to rank as a career highlight. He almost scored a goal, even.

"I came close to scoring," he remembered. "I was playing on a line with Don Maloney and Darryl Sittler. I shot from the point, and I thought I had scored, but Maloney said he tipped it in. Oh well. Playing in the game was a big thrill. I was a fringe player, and there's no way I'd be selected if they didn't have to take one player from each team."

The Timmins, Ontario born Marini starred with the OHL's Sudbury Wolves in the mid 1970s, earning him the 50th overall draft selection in 1977. The New York Islanders selected the scrappy, hard working forward, but he would only play sparingly with the Islanders. He is better remembered for playing with the New Jersey Devils in 1983 and 1984.

Nicknamed "The Wreaker," Marini wrecked his knee in early 1984, causing him to miss lots of time recuperating. He made it back on the ice, but in the minor leagues.

His career would come to an on December 5th, 1985. The 28 year old was hit in the left eye by a power play point shot. The impact of the puck destroyed the eye's iris, cornea and lens and almost completely severed the retina. Doctors performed emergency after the game, but two days later they removed the eye completely and inserted an artificial one.


Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Tory Crowder

Troy Crowder almost quit on his pro hockey career before it even really began.

He was drafted by the New Jersey Devils 108th overall in 1986 but he didn't pro until the 1988-89 season. Then after just one season in the minors, Crowder quit, as his love for hockey was waning. He was a goon and although he was good at it, he was never really comfortable with that role. He actually wanted to play on defense.

Crowder left the Devils training camp in 1989 citing personal reasons. He went back to his hometown of Sudbury Ontario and worked in a construction and landscaping job for 5 months. Crowder returned to the Devils in February, and after a 3 game conditioning stint in the minors he finished the season with the Devils, as well as seeing action in two post season games.

The 1990-91 season saw Crowder become a bit of a household name, at least for hockey fans. In his first ever NHL fight Crowder tangled with Bob Probert and won the fight, bloodying his legendary opponent in the process. It was a huge deal at the time. Probert was the NHL's unofficial "heavyweight champion" at the time, and perhaps the most feared fighter since the days of John Ferguson. Crowder's victory over "the champ" was however a double edged sword for Troy - on one hand he had made a name for himself and all but assured himself NHL employment for a couple of seasons at least, but on the other hand his label as a goon was clearly cemented on after this incident. Crowder became the target for every NHL goon - every guy wanted a piece of him to make a name for themselves at Crowder's expense. Such is the life of a hockey goon, and Crowder handled himself very well against all comers.

After a 6 goal, 3 assist season with Jersey, Crowder became an restricted free agent. Because of his handling of Probert and subsequent "title defenses," Crowder was one of the most sought after free agents in the summer of 1991. Having a top-notch enforcer is an essential for all teams at that time and a bidding war ensued. And surprise, surprise, who won that bidding war? The Detroit Red Wings. Crowder would join Probert in the Motor City - the ultimate tag team when it came to NHL superstar protection. The Wings had to give the Devils Randy McKay and Dave Barr as compensation.

Crowder's stint in Detroit was short and painful however. He played in just 7 games before suffering a a back injury early in October 1991. The back injury would keep Crowder out of the lineup for the rest of the season. He was close to returning in May of 1992 but suffered a serious re-occurrence with the injury. Troy sat out for the next two full seasons as well. He retired and tried to get on with his life during that time.

However Troy still had that itch to play hockey. And when he finally got the doctor's clearance to play again, he immediately began looking for a team to play with. The Wings wouldn't offer him a contract, not with his poor injury background, but the Los Angeles Kings did.

Crowder, who signed on September 2nd, 1994 as an unrestricted free agent, played two seasons in Los Angeles. He only played in 44 games over those 2 years though. A wrist injury caused him to miss some time during his first year. In his second year he received a 10 game suspension for hitting a linesman. Crowder was involved in a pre-season fight with the Rangers Darren Langdon. The linesmen stepped into breakup the fight but Crowder kept on swinging, a no-no once the linesmen enter the scene. Crowder accidentally hit linesman Brad Lazarowich with his elbow.

The Kings let Crowder go but the Vancouver Canucks offered him a try-out contract in the pre-season of 1996, and eventually signed him to a one year deal. He played in 30 games for the Canucks, missing 20 games due to a rib injury. Also more often than not, he was a healthy scratch.

Crowder was not a very good player, by any stretch of the imagination. He was a good fighter prior to his injury problems, but that's about all he brought to the table. It bothered him that he was never given the opportunity to prove he could really play at the NHL level, but on the other hand he rarely showed his coaches that he could do a whole lot, either.


Thursday, January 6, 2011

Doug Sulliman

One of the greatest lines in the history of hockey came out of the WHA and the city of Winnipeg. Bobby Hull joined European imports Ulf Nilsson and Anders Hedberg on hockey's most exciting line of the 1970s.

Nilsson and Hedberg jumped to the NHL's New York Rangers by the end of the decade. To begin the 1979-80 season, who did they start playing along side? A rookie named Doug Sulliman.

Hopefully nobody actually expected Sulliman to be the next Bobby Hull. History tells us he was not even close. He survived in the NHL as a decidedly average player in almost every regard other than skating speed. He would develop into a 20 goal scorer in the high scoring 80s. A versatile winger who could move around the line up, he could play a third line checking role or moving up to a secondary offensive role.
 After two disappointing seasons in New York the Rangers traded Sulliman as part of a package to acquire Mike Rogers. Although his best statisical season (29 goals and 69 points in 1981-82) came in Hartford, most of Sulliman's best years came with the New Jersey Devils. After a 27 goal, 53 point season in 1986-87 he was honoured as the team's Players’ MVP, Fan Club MVP, Good Guy Award, and was the team’s nominee for the NHL's Masterton Trophy.

Playing on some rather weak teams allowed Sulliman to assume a more offensive role than he probably should have. Sulliman played 631 career NHL games, scoring 160 goals and 168 assists for 328 points.


Wednesday, September 1, 2010

John MacLean

John MacLean was a very good player in many aspects of the game. But first and foremost he was a goal scorer.

Through nineteen NHL seasons, fourteen of which were spent in New Jersey where he is best remembered, MacLean played 1,194 games, scoring 413 goals and adding 429 assists for 842 career points. He was incredibly consistent, reaching the twenty-goal mark eleven times through his illustrious career. He once held New Jersey team records for goals in a season (45) and career goals (347). He would shoot anywhere and anytime, getting away exceptionally heavy and accurate wrist and slapshots with an amazingly quick release. He was especially deadly on the power play, preferring to set up on the right side of the slot.

Of all the goals he scored in New Jersey there will be forever one goal remembered above all others. In a game against Chicago on April 3, 1988, the final game of that regular season, MacLean scored the overtime winning goal that launched the Devils into their very first playoff berth. Here's the video:

It was an amazing moment, especially for long suffering Devils fans and players. The Devils had had basically no success prior to this magical marker. Finally this moment had come, and in such dramatic fashion to boot. The Devils even rode the momentum deep into the playoffs, surprising everybody.

MacLean also was known for his good size and his willingness to initiate physical play. He never had much speed or agility in his skating (especially after losing a season to reconstructive knee surgery in 1991-92), but he had amazing balance, allowing him to win his share of loose pucks in the corners. He was an intensely determined competitor, never betraying the necessary style of play that brought him so much success: shoot and hit.

He was not very creative nor exceptionally spectacular. But he scored some big goals, leaving the Devils owning or sharing franchise records for most career points (701), most career goals (347), most career assists (354), most career power-play goals (92), most career playoff points (75), most career power-play points (197), most career game-winning goals (55), most career hat tricks (6), most goals in a season (45) and most career playoff goals (36)

He will forever be one of the great players in New Jersey Devils history. He had the heart of the lion, and was the soul of Devils.


Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Claude Loiselle

I best remember Claude Loiselle with the New Jersey Devils and later with the Quebec Nordiques. He bounced around late in his career, a utility forward with Toronto and the New York Islanders - the team he grew up idolizing. But he actually got his start with the Detroit Red Wings.

Drafted by out of Windsor 23rd overall in 1981, it took Loiselle a long time to make it to the NHL. Those 1980s Wings teams were pretty weak, but Loiselle could never crack the lineup on a full time basis. He would be moved to New Jersey in exchange for Tim Higgins. It was a great move for Loiselle, as he found a full time job killing penalties for the Devils. He could quit working in the summer time as a carpenter, as his days of minor league pay checks were over.

A decent scorer in junior, Loiselle never had the skills to star in the NHL. What he did have was heart and desire, and the ability to play a bigger, more physical game than his 5'11" 190lbs body suggested.

In many ways the key to Loiselle's game was the very thing that held him back. His skating lacked speed and agility, which hurt him in Detroit. But eventually he developed incredibly strength and balance. While he was not going to win many races, he proved hard to move off of the puck. This really helped him with his hard hitting approach to the game.

He did have a fair ability to anticipate the play, making him a good penalty killer. And, while most of his goals were of the garbage variety, he did have a quick release on his shovel of a shot. Otherwise his skill set was generally average at best.

In 1989 New Jersey traded Loiselle to Quebec in the Walt Poddubny trade. In 1991 the Nords traded Loiselle to Calgary for prospect Bryan Deasley, only to have the trade voided. When Loiselle's plane landed in Alberta he was told the trade was rescinded because Quebec had placed Loiselle on waivers several hours prior to the completion of the trade. Several teams were said to have put in claims for Loiselle - a nice nod to his ability to play in the NHL - with Toronto being awarded Loiselle's rights.

All in all Claude Loiselle played in parts of 13 NHL seasons, all with some of the weakest teams in hockey history. He scored 92 goals and 209 points, adding another 4 goals and 15 points in 41 playoff games. He was a regular player on both the 1988 Devils and 1993 Islanders teams that made suprisingly deep playoff runs.

Ultimately Claude Loiselle was a hard working player who defied the odds. At the same time he was a replaceable utility forward on some bad teams.


Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Bobby Holik

For a long time everyone in hockey thought Bobby Holik was underrated.

He was this hulking, 6'3" 220lb shutdown center, a fantastic faceoff man and one of the best defensive forwards in the game, shutting down the likes of Mark Messier and Eric Lindros. He was a serious hitter, applying bone jarring checks at times. He was a bull in a china shop with the puck, able to drive to the net and apply a bullet of a shot. He was a consistent two way player, better than his annual statistics ever suggested. He was a key player for the New Jersey Devils' Stanley Cup runs in 1995 and 2000.

His status as underrated changed greatly in the summer of 2002, when the New York Rangers grossly overpaid for Holik's services, offering him a $45 million contract over 5 years. $9 million, a whopping $6 million a year increase, for Bobby Holik? For a player who relied on Crash Line teammates Mike Peluso and Randy McKay to light a fire under him? For a player who lacked creativity and vision to ever be more than a third or fourth line defensive stop gap? For a player who in his best years scored 25 goals and 60 points? For a blunt and opinionated aging player who once sprained his ankle playing ping pong?

It's funny how money can make you look differently at a player. Certainly no one would ever blame Holik for taking the contract. He likely never had any offer like that one. And he was one of the most important members of a Devils' near-dynasty that also went to game 7 of the Stanley Cup finals in 2001.

But try as he might, he looked like a fish out of water after he crossed the Hudson and played for the Rangers. After two seasons he would have his contract bought out.

Holik signed with Atlanta for three seasons, where I think he once again returned to an underrated role. He was captain of the Thrashers in 2007-08. The Thrashers have never been a good situation, but Holik's experience and savvy was appreciated by teammates and coaches.

Holik returned to New Jersey for one final season in 2008-09. The 38 year old was a shadow of his former self, like most aged players. But he went out on his own terms.

"The number one reason I'm retiring is to be with my family and see my daughter. That's too much to give up again. The number two reason is that I don't have to retire, so I'm very fortunate."

Holik wanted to just cash in and become a full time husband and father. Family was important to him. He came from a legendary sporting family back in the Czech Republic. His father, Jaroslav, and uncle, Jiri, were both legendary hockey stars in the 1970s and coaches well beyond that. Holik's sister, Andrea, was a professional tennis player who married former NHL defenseman Frantisek Musil.

He played 1,314 regular season games, going 328-421-747 with 1,423 penalty minutes and a plus-115 rating. He played 786 games with New Jersey, seventh all-time, and was 202-270-472, with 883 penalty minutes and plus-134-rating with the Devils. He played 124 playoff games for the Devils, 20-37-57, and 138 games total, 20-39-59.


Bobby Carpenter

Following the United States "Miracle on Ice" victory over the heavily favored Russians at the 1980 Lake Placid Olympics, hockey in the US was about to experience a boom in hockey interest. All the NHL needed was an American superstar to come along quickly to capitalize on the new found popularity.

Enter Bob Carpenter, Sports Illustrated's "Can't Miss Kid."

Prior the 1981 NHL Entry Draft, Sports Illustrated plastered the 18 year old high school kid on the cover of their weekly magazine. Its pretty rare for a hockey player to grace the cover of SI, let alone a high school player. SI exclaimed that Carpenter was going to be America's first truly great hockey player, and called him the "Can't Miss Kid."

Carpenter didn't miss, at least at first. He stumbled during the middle part of his career and towards the end reinvented his game to survive for 18 NHL seasons. While he wasn't even the best American in the league for most of his career, he was a pioneering player who accomplished a number of firsts by an American.

Bob was the first player ever to go from playing hockey at an American high school straight to the NHL. When the Washington Capitals chose him third overall in the 1981 Entry Draft, he became the first American ever to be taken in the first round. He was the first American to reach the magical 50 goal plateau in a season in 1984-85, when he recorded a career-high 53. He retired as one of five American's to play in over 1,000 games.

Carpenter experienced a lot of early success in his career. In fact his first NHL point, an assist, came only 12 seconds into his first game. By the end of the season, Bob had set Capitals rookie records for goals (32) and points (67) while finishing fourth in team scoring. The next two seasons were similar, as he scored 69 points in 1982-83 and 68 points in 1983-84.

1984-85 was the pinnacle of Bob's career when he reached 53 goals. It appeared that Bob had finally taken his game to the next level, a level where an American could start putting up statistics that could compare among the league's elite. Carpenter's 53 goals tied him with Dale Hawerchuk behind John Ogrodnick (55), Mike Bossy (58), Jari Kurri (71) and Wayne Gretzky (73).

However 1985-86 would see Bob's performance fall greatly. He stumbled to just 27 goals and 56 points. He recovered somewhat in the playoffs with 5 goals and 9 points in 9 games, the first really solid playoff performance by Carpenter. However the 1986-87 season saw Carpenter get off to another horrible start, with 5 goals in the Caps first 22 games.

Finally Washington had had enough and traded Carpenter along with a 2nd round pick to the New York Rangers. Broadway, always looking for a big name talent to showoff at Madison Square Gardens, had hoped that Carpenter could return to previous form and gave up Bob Crawford, Kelly Miller and Mide Ridley to get him. It turned out to be a fairly lopsided trade in hindsight. Miller and Ridley went on to become significant pieces of the Capitals for years to come while Carpenter struggled in just 28 games with the Rangers.

2 goals and 10 points later, the Rangers traded Carpenter to Los Angeles in the big Marcel Dionne deal. The Rangers also sent Tom Laidlaw in exchange for Jeff Crossman, a third round pick, and the aging superstar Dionne.

Carpenter's first full season in Tinseltown was also Wayne Gretzky's first season. Carpenter saw a lot of time on Wayne's LW, but failed to put up great numbers. He scored 19 goals and 33 assists for 52 points. However there was always rumors that Gretzky didn't like having Carpenter on his line and that Gretzky wanted Carpenter moved for someone else. Again, these were only rumors and were never substantiated.

Carpenter lasted half way through the 1988-89 seasons before being traded to Boston in exchanged for super-shadow Steve Kasper.. It was a dream come true for the native of Beverly Massachusetts to play in the famous Boston Gardens. Bobby actually rejuvenated his career somewhat while wearing the spoked B crest on his jersey. He scored 25 goals and played a good role in the 1989-90 run to the Stanley Cup finals. The following year almost saw the end of Carpenter's career as he badly shattered his knee cap and sat out most of the season. However Carpenter went through excruciating rehab assignments and returned to the game he loved the next season. He not only returned to the league, he also returned to the 25 goal plateau in just 60 games.

Carpenter became a free agent without compensation after the 1992 season and elected to take his career full circle by returning to Washington, the scenes of some past glories. Bob played in 68 games, scoring 11 goals and 28 points. Following the season, the Capitals cut Carpenter loose for a second time.

Carpenter signed on with the New Jersey Devils where Carpenter met coach Jacques Lemaire. Lemaire turned Carpenter into a defensive, checking oriented center/winger. Carpenter's scoring totals dropped dramatically over the next 6 seasons but he excelled in his new role of shadow and penalty killer. He became known as one of the league's best defensive centers, a role Carpenter cherished.

Carpenter finished with 320 goals and 418 assists in 1,178 games. He also retired with a Stanley Cup ring, as he was a big part of the Devil's 1995 triumph.


Claude Lemieux

No, Claude Lemieux is not related to Mario Lemieux. Although he plays a very different style than Super Mario, this Lemieux was also one of the best hockey players of his time.

Claude Lemieux is one of the peskiest players in NHL history. Some people would say he is one of the dirtiest. He antagonizes the opposition like no other player can. He will do anything to get the opposition off of its game and often draws retaliatory penalties. Then he uses his offensive instincts to bury the other team by netting a big goal to help win the game.

A lot of people don't like Claude Lemieux because of the way he plays. Although he was a selfish player, he is the type of player you love to have on your team, but hate to play against. While he has done some borderline things to help his team win, and some down right nasty things, love him or hate him, you have to respect that this guy will do whatever it takes to win a hockey game. He may lack morals, but he will do the dirty work no one else will.

Bottom line - Claude Lemieux is a winner. In fact he won twice as many Stanley Cups as Mario Lemieux did. He also has a Canada Cup title and a World Junior Hockey gold medal on his resume.

Claude Lemieux was born on July 16, 1965 in Buckingham, Quebec. He was drafted by the Montreal Canadiens as their second choice and the 26th overall pick in the 1983 Entry Draft.

Although he played in a total of 9 games over from 1983-1985, Lemieux made his debut in an NHL starring role late in the 1985-86 season when he was called up along with another rookie, Patrick Roy, for the Stanley Cup playoff run. The two rookies played huge roles in a surprise Stanley Cup championship in 1986. Lemieux scored 10 goals in 20 games in those playoffs. Four of those goals were game winners, including in overtime of game 7 of the Adams division finals against Hartford.

Claude would enjoy 4 more solid campaigns in Montreal. He was a consistent 25-30 goal scorer as well as a defensive forward while of course polishing his reputation as hockey's most abrasive player. He would help return the Habs to the Stanley Cup finals in 1989, only to come up short.

An injury plagued 1989-90 season saw the Habs trade Claude to New Jersey in exchange for Sylvain Turgeon just prior to the start of the 1990-91 season. Lemieux had a terrible time with a groin/abdominal injury, and the Habs felt he may be damaged goods. He also had run ins with coach Pat Burns over incidents both on and off the ice, so Lemieux forced the trade out of Montreal.

The 6'1, 215 pound right winger developed into a better rounded player, especially offensively. He scored 40 goals in his first season with the Devils, and in his five seasons there, he notched 125 goals and another 134 assists. In 1994 Claude helped the Devils to within one game of their first Stanley Cup Finals appearance. But in 1995, things were quite different. Lemieux led the Devils to the Cup Finals with his clutch play, and New Jersey won its first Cup championship. For his gargantuan efforts, Lemieux was awarded the Conn Smythe Trophy, after scoring 13 goals in the playoffs to lead all post season scorers. He had just 6 goals in the lock-out shortened regular season.

The off-season brought contract squabbles with New Jersey management, so "Pepe" was shipped to the New York Islanders for Steve Thomas on October 3, 1995 and then promptly to Colorado by the Islanders for Wendel Clark on the same day in a three way deal. Finding a home on a line with Peter Forsberg and Valeri Kamensky, Claude logged 39 goals and 71 points in 79 games for the Avalanche. More importantly he helped them win the Stanley Cup in their first season in Denver, scoring 4 more game winning goals along the way.

In doing so, he became the fourth player in NHL history to win Stanley Cup with three different teams and the fifth to win it in back-to-back seasons with different teams.

The 1996 championship does come with a black eye, however. Of all the dastardly acts Lemieux committed in his career, none were more infamous than when he hit Detroit's Kris Draper from behind in game 6 of the Western Conference Finals. Draper's face crashed into the boards, leaving him with a fractured upper jaw, a fractured cheekbone, a broken nose, a 30-stitch cut on the inside of his mouth and five displaced teeth. The incident turned boiled over an already heated rivalry. For several years after the fact the incident sparked violent retribution and replies, including a fist fight with Darren McCarty where Lemieux turtled.

Suffering from another abdominal pull, Lemieux struggled to stay in the NHL. He bounced around after leaving Colorado in 1999, most notably returning to New Jersey where he was part of another Stanley Cup championship in 2000, giving him 4 Stanley Cup titles. He ranks 2nd in playoff game winning goals with 19, behind only Wayne Gretzky and Brett Hull and ahead of fellow playoff legends Maurice Richard, Mike Bossy, Glenn Anderson and Joe Sakic.

"I love playoffs. You know what its like when teams play back-to-back games in the regular season, there's usually a lot of intensity and bad feelings grow. In the playoffs it is even more intense," said Lemieux. "The physical side of the game really became more important and I think that is where I have been able to give my team an edge."

He finished his career with 379 goals and 406 assists for 785 points in 1,197 NHL regular-season games. He had 80 goals and 78 assists for 158 points in 233 Stanley Cup playoff games.

After all the sucker punches, slew foots, sticks to the groins and verbal assaults, there is plenty of reason to dislike Claude Lemieux. But you also have to admire what he accomplished and his stature as one of the greatest NHL playoff performers of all time.


Scott Stevens

On February 3, 2006, the New Jersey Devils retired a uniform number for the first time in franchise history: Scott Stevens' #4. As video tributes and teammate reflections were aired over the course of that night's ceremony, many words were brought up which characterized the man: fierce, hard-nosed, intense, intimidating, energetic, respected, competitive, heart-and-soul, a winner, a leader, a work-horse.

He is hockey's ultimate warrior.

Scott Stevens played in 1,635 regular season games and 233 playoff games, both NHL records among defensemen. He skated in thirteen All-Star Games. He captained the Devils to three unforgettable Stanley Cup championships. Simply put, Scotty Stevens was a hockey legend with an on-ice presence unparalleled in NHL history.

Given his remarkable legacy with the Devils, people often forget that he was a veteran of nine seasons coming into New Jersey. Born and bred in Kitchener, Ontario, Stevens was selected fifth overall by the Washington Capitals in the 1982 NHL Draft. During his time in D.C., he enjoyed moderate individual and team success. The Capitals housed one of the deepest defensive corps during the 1980s (think Rod Langway, Kevin Hatcher and Larry Murphy), and so Stevens developed a niche for himself as a classical, rugged, stay-at-home defenseman who specialized in dealing punishing checks and breaking down the opposition's flow. While he had the ability to put up solid offensive numbers, he understood that playing within the system for the greater good of the team took precedence above all else.

Stevens made headlines during the early '90s with his involvement in two massive, high-salary transactions. The first was in July 1990, when, as a restricted free agent, he signed a four-year contract with the St. Louis Blues worth a then-overwhelming $5.145 million. In return, St. Louis had to ship a whopping five first-round draft picks the other way as compensation (two of which ended up being Washington mainstays Sergei Gonchar and Brendan Witt). One year later, in July 1991, with the assistance of an arbitrator, the Blues were forced to ship Stevens to New Jersey as compensation for their signing of Brendan Shanahan. Both transactions created a ripple effect around the league as player salaries spiralled out of control, ultimately culminating in the 1995 NHL Lockout.

Although initially upset about going to New Jersey, Stevens became an instant fan favorite at the Meadowlands. After a single season, he was awarded for his leadership with the team captaincy, a position he would hold for the balance of his career. In 1993-94, Stevens exploded offensively with 78 points and led the league in plus-minus with +53. (It is worth noting that not once in his 22 seasons did he have a plus-minus rating in the red, a truly remarkable feat.)

Stevens is quick to credit the Devils, particularly coaches Larry Robinson and Jacques Lemaire, for developing him into a complete defenseman.

"I'm more knowledgeable, more patient,'' Stevens said. "I've learned a lot here under Jacques and Larry about playing defense and good position. Just goes to show, you never stop learning. I probably played over 10 years, then I came here and was taught a lot of new things.''

In the spring of 1994, Stevens, coupled with an emerging core nucleus of players such as Martin Brodeur and Scott Niedermayer, came within a whisker of reaching the Stanley Cup Finals. The following, lockout-abbreviated season proved to be kinder, as Stevens helped guide the Devils to their first-ever Stanley Cup. Two more Cups would follow, including a Conn Smythe-winning performance for Stevens during their run in 2000.

Asked about the secret to his success over the years, Stevens said, "Every year, I always felt that I had to make the team. I felt every training camp I had to prove myself. I never took anything for granted." In spite of his accomplishments and larger-than-life stature, Stevens always carried with him a blue-collar work ethic, a deep Canadian-rooted humility, and an awe of the game he played.

In New Jersey, Stevens gained league-wide notoriety for his devastating open-ice hits, many of which rendered opponents unconscious. Notable victims of Scott Stevens hits in the past include Slava Kozlov during the 1995 Stanley Cup Finals, Eric Lindros during the 2000 Eastern Conference Finals, and Paul Kariya during the 2003 Stanley Cup Finals. They didn't call him "Captain Crunch" for nothing! (See video below.)

As devastating as his hits were, they were always clean and legal. One NHL broadcast mentioned that only three times in his entire NHL career had Stevens been tagged for elbowing.

"With Scott, you know exactly what you're going to get from him," Lindros said of his longtime nemesis. "There's no question, you're aware of his presence on the ice. He's still definitely a premier defenseman in the league because of the desire he has on the ice. His style out on the ice certainly shows how much he wants to win."

"Playing against Scotty, you had to be alert. It was no secret that he's had some pretty big hits. That's in your mind. You need to have a sense of where he is," added Joe Nieuwendyk.

Stevens' international resume was loaded as well. He represented Canada at the '98 Winter Olympics, the '96 World Cup of Hockey, the '91 Canada Cup, and four World Championships during the '80s. Interestingly, during the '89 World Championships, Stevens took a skate to the face, courtesy of his boyhood idol Borje Salming, which resulted in a gash requiring 88 stitches to seal up. Ever the warrior, Stevens missed a mere game, and, wearing a protective visor, came back to score the game-winning goal against Czechoslovakia, giving Canada the silver medal. This is but one in a vast sea of anecdotes which capture Stevens' love for the game and drive to be on top.

Despite his highly decorated resume, somehow Scott Stevens never won a Norris Trophy as the NHL's best defenseman. It is almost mind-boggling that he was never so recognized.

"I've always said that Scott Stevens should've won a Norris Trophy at some point in his career," former teammate Bobby Holik said. "Well, they don't give out the Norris Trophy in the Playoffs, but I'm his biggest fan. As a hockey player, he's one of a kind."

Somehow I don't think Scott Stevens would trade any of his Stanley Cups or his Conn Smythe Trophy for a Norris Trophy.

Special thanks to Vikash Khanna.


Pat Verbeek

Would you believe me if I told you there was a hockey player who scored 522 career goals, scored nearly 1,100 career points, earned 2,905 penalty minutes, hoisted the Stanley Cup, and has one of the coolest nicknames of all time, but he's not likely to make it to the Hockey Hall of Fame any time soon.

Well that's exactly the situation Pat Verbeek, known to Rangers fans as "The Little Ball of Hate," finds himself in.

No one ever considers Verbeek in the Hall of Fame debates even though he achieved lofty career goal and point scoring levels in a 19 year career. That's partly because he played with a lot of bad teams and partly because the 500 goal plateau has been devalued in recent years.

It is also because never was Verbeek an all star, a trophy winner, or an elite player in any season. What he was was a very durable and consistent performer who always gave his all.

At just 5'9" and 195lbs, Verbeek was a stocky sparkplug who never let his lack of size effect his play in the NHL. In fact, he was one of most ornery and most effective physical players in his era. He was a kamikaze hitter and a real irritant, often drawing many penalties. Though he was rugged and strong, he always played the game on the edge and was prone to taking bad penalties himself.

There was no big secret to Verbeek's finesse game. His shot was the key to his attack, as it was both deadly accurate and quickly released. Almost all of his goals came somewhere near the goal crease. A miniature version of Phil Esposito or Tim Kerr, the pint sized Verbeek was always crashing the crease with great zeal, picking up garbage goal after garbage goal.

Though he had to rely on others to get the puck to him, he was a consistent and reliable scoring threat. Eight times he scored over 30 goals, including 46, 44, 43 and 41 goal seasons.

He was never elegant, but it all adds up to a 522 goal career. But amazingly, Verbeek's career almost ended before it took off.

In the summer of 1985, Verbeek was looking forward to his third NHL season but still had yet to establish himself as a goal scoring threat. His destiny as such seemed almost certainly ruined in a bizarre farming accident. While working a corn-planting machine on his Ontario farm, Verbeek sliced off his thumb and badly lacerated three other fingers. With his brother's help, Verbeek was rushed to the nearest hospital some 20 miles away in Sarnia, but they did not bring the severed portion of the thumb with them. They had to rely on their father to find the thumb and bring it in time for successful 6 hour reattachment surgery. All of this happened in mid May, and through intensive rehabilitation Verbeek was fully recovered by August. He never experienced any detriment to his hockey career.


Aaron Broten

Aaron Broten is one of three hockey playing brothers to come out of Roseau, Minnesota. Aaron is generally regarded as the 2nd best of the trio. Younger brother Paul played 322 games in the league, while older brother Neal is considered by many to be the greatest American player ever, and certainly of his era. All three brothers played at the University of Minnesota and have extensive international hockey accomplishments to add to their NHL resume.

Growing up in the large shadow of brother Neal must not have been easy for Aaron but he quickly established his own sporting recognition. He was a high school standout who was considered to the #1 college recruit in 1978-79. In that time he was also one of the state' s outstanding junior golfers and played on the varsity baseball team.

Aaron joined Neal the University of Minnesota in 1979-80. WIth his brother taking a leave from the University to play in the Olympics, Aaron made a name for himself, seting a school record for most assists (47) by a freshman. In 1980-81 the Broten brothers were reunited at the U, playing on the same line. It was Aaron's star that shone brightest though, as he set school records with 59 assists and 106 points. Like his brother, he would leave school early in order to turn pro at the end of the 1981 college season.

Aaron, too, enjoyed a long career in the NHL, playing 748 games with some of the weakest teams in the leagues. He was a long time member of the Colorado Rockies/New Jersey Devils during the 1980s. Those teams were pretty weak which gave Aaron a good chance at some playing time. Like his brothers Aaron, was small and frail but quick and deft with the puck. More of a playmaker than a goal scorer, Aaron shied away from aggressive play which limited his effectiveness.

It took Aaron a while but he soon established himself as a scoring leader in New Jersey. Playing on a line with Kirk Muller and Pat Verbeek, by 1986-87 he led the team with 79 points, and upped that to 83 in 1987-88. That was the year that the Devils made the playoffs for the the first time in history, and then went on a remarkable run into the final four. Broten was a key player in that, scoring 16 points in 20 games.

Aaron and the Devils took a step backwards the following year, and by midway through the 1989-90 season Aaron was traded for the first time in his career. He was happy with the trade though as he was sent to his hometown Minnesota North Stars where, for the first time since college, he would get a chance to play with his star brother Neal.

The reunion was short lived however. Aaron played 35 games to finish the season but during training camp the following year he was waived to Quebec. His stay was short there too, lasting only 20 games there before being traded to Toronto. His stay with the Leafs was again brief as he was released after 27 games. The Winnipeg Jets gave Aaron a shot halfway through the 1991-92 season, but he was again released and this time unable to find NHL employment.

Aaron opted to retire. He had played in 748 games, scoring 186 goals and compiling 329 assists for 515 points in a respectable career.

However it wasn't the last time Aaron would put on the blades. In 1998-99 Aaron, along with brothers Neal and Paul and former standout Joey Mullen dressed for Team USA in a qualifying tournament in the 1999 World championships. The team was dangerously close to slipping out of the A pool in world hockey championships. Team USA did qualify, edging out Kazakhstan and Austria, thanks to the retired stars.

It was the first time that the brothers had played together on a serious level of hockey. Aaron picked up no points in the 3 games, but he was a veteran presence on the bench blessed with international experience. Aaron had played in as many international events as a NHLer could during the 1980s. He twice played in the World Junior Hockey Championships, played in 5 previous World Hockey Championships and played on two Canada Cup teams.

Aaron, who became a born-again Christian thanks to the influence of New Jersey teammate Chico Resch, returned to Roseau and became an investment advisor. He would also stay involved in hockey, coaching his old high school team and becoming active with Hockey Ministries International.


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