On Oct. 2, 1999, New Jersey Devils’ rookie Scott Gomez made his NHL debut at 20-year-old. He became the first Alaska-born NHL player. At that time Double Jeopardy and American Beauty were the top movies in theaters, and TLC’s Unpretty was the number one song in the United States. His NHL career is a fascinating one, as he saw immense success in his early years, and spent his later years on various teams hoping to find the success he became so accustomed to. Of course, his story began with the Devils.
An Impressive Start in New Jersey
The Devils selected Gomez with their 27th pick in the 1998 NHL Draft. The 5-foot-11 forward had a very successful rookie campaign earning 70 points in 82 games. His impressive season was recognized by the league as he was named a finalist for the Calder Trophy, which is awarded to the player selected as the most proficient in his first year of competition in the NHL. Gomez beat out Brad Stuart and Mike York to take home the honors.
Gomez also won his first Stanley Cup at the conclusion of his first season in New Jersey. It was the second in Devils history, and Gomez along with the other rookies played a big factor in their win. He played 23 postseason games and notched 10 points (4G, 6A).
“He provided an energy to the team,” said Devils/WFAN Play-by-Play Announcer Matt Laughlin. “On the ice certainly determined, but off the ice he was just loving life, and I think that was an important element for this team.”
In the spring of 2003, he would find himself battling for his second Stanley Cup, as the Devils faced the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim. The series took seven games to declare a winner, and it would be Gomez and his teammates who would hoist the Cup at Continental Airlines Arena.
It would be the last time Gomez would celebrate a Stanley Cup victory. He stayed with the Devils for three more seasons and is remembered as a member of the “EGG” line. Gomez along with Patrik Elias and Brian Gionta were an extremely successful trio in the 2003 Stanley Cup Playoffs. Gomez was a top center on the team, and with Gionta’s speed and Elias’ playmaking ability, they were a force to be reckoned with on the ice. During the 2005-06 campaign all three forwards averaged more than a point per game. They remained successful until Gomez moved on from the Devils.
Signing with the New York Rangers and Continuing his Career
To the dismay of fans in New Jersey, in July of 2007 Gomez signed a 7-year contract worth $51.5 million with the New York Rangers. At 27-years-old the Alaska native had two Stanley Cups to his name and was a big grab for the Devils cross-river rivals.
“It’s exciting for me, exciting for my friends and family,” said Gomez of the signing. “To be a New York Ranger playing in Madison Square Garden, the biggest stage there is, I’m pretty excited.”
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He played 158 games with the Rangers notching 128 points. His first game against New Jersey was at Prudential Center on Nov. 14, 2007, and to the surprise of no one, he was booed each time he touched the puck. Devils’ fans only had to see him wear the Rangers’ crest for two seasons, as he was traded to the Montreal Canadiens on June 30, 2009. His time in Montreal did not go exactly as planned. Gomez played three seasons and on Jan. 17, 2013, he was placed on unconditional waivers and was bought out, becoming a free agent.
A Brief Return to New Jersey and Finishing his Career
The then 33-year-old spent a season with the San Jose Sharks and Florida Panthers before returning to New Jersey on Dec. 1, 2014. The signing made sense as the Devils were without Travis Zajac, who was on injured reserve and Adam Henrique, who was battling injury. That season he finished with 34 points in 58 games played.
At the conclusion of the season, general manager Lou Lamoriello decided not to re-sign the veteran center. The St. Louis Blues did, however, offer Gomez a professional tryout ahead of the 2015-16 season. Three months later, news broke that he was released after he was not picked up by any team after being placed on waivers. On Mar. 2, 2016, he signed his last NHL contract with the Ottawa Senators. He played 13 games and registered one assist before announcing his retirement in August 2016.
Over his NHL career, he played 1,079 games for seven different franchises. His best years were with the Devils and during the 2005-06 campaign, he scored a career-high 84 points. Early in his career, he became used to winning and made the Stanley Cup Final three times in his first four seasons playing in the NHL.
Coaching with the New York Islanders
After his retirement, he took a familiar route and made the transition from player to coach. In the spring of 2017, he was named as the assistant coach for the New York Islanders and would join head coach Dough Weight behind the bench.
“Scott brings an immense amount of hockey knowledge to our coaching staff,” said Weight of the hire. “His offensive instincts, expertise on the power play, and the way he could control the game with his skating and smarts are all key elements that we want implemented into our group. He played in the league as recently as the 2015-16 season, so he can relate to today’s NHL player in an effort to bring out the best in each member of the team.”
For two seasons the Islanders’ power play was Gomez’s responsibility. During that time the power play was ranked 29th in the league, and in August 2017, the team announced he would not return. The Islanders made sure to emphasize the former Devils player was not fired.
Giving Devils Fans What They Want
After his coaching career came to an end, Gomez began working on a few projects. On July 30, 2020, he launched a Youtube Show entitled “Scotty’s House”, which focused on his life in Alaska. He also debuted a podcast called “Gomer Time,” which has three episodes, including a 55-minute interview with former Devil Brian Rolston. The two sat down and discussed Rolston’s career as well as their shared time in New Jersey.
In June 2021, he premiered “Scotty Goes,” which is a five-episode series that premiered on all NHL social media platforms. He sat down and interviewed Martin Brodeur and Ken Daneyko, and both are a must-see for Devils fans. His interviews are filled with laughs and never-before-told locker room stories.
Gomez could not have asked for a better start to his NHL career. He played the game he loved at the professional level for 16 seasons and has his name etched onto the Stanley Cup. During one of his interviews, he discussed how it is an adjustment for a hockey player to get used to retirement. It seems that he has found a niche in allowing fans a glimpse into the locker room and the lives of his former teammates. Devils fans should be on the lookout for this next social media project, but in the meantime can enjoy stories of the glory days thanks to the former Stanley Cup champion.
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Kristy has been contributing to The Hockey Writers since March of 2021. She is thrilled to be putting her journalism degree to use and is a credentialed correspondent covering the New Jersey Devils. Kristy is also a member of the Professional Hockey Writers Association. You can follow her journey on Twitter @InStilettos_NHL and Instagram SkatingInStilettos.