The Devils in the Rafters

It’s hard to play in the National Hockey League but it’s even harder to stay there. Playing and winning must be a euphoric feeling but to go a step further and have your jersey retired? The New Jersey Devils announced they would retire Patrik Elias’ jersey making him the fifth Devil to have his number retired. He is joining some great company. Let’s take a look at the Devils in the rafters.

Scott Stevens – AKA Captain Crunch

Scott Stevens President Bush Stanley Cup
Scott Stevens, President George W. Bush (Jennifer Smith via Wikimedia Commons)

Scott Stevens became a Devil as part of an arbitration award when the St. Louis Blues signed Brendan Shanahan. As he was a restricted free agent the Devils had to be compensated. The Blues had already given up their first round picks so other compensation had to be awarded. The Devils ended up winning big time. He joined the team for the 1991-92 season and was named captain the following season and wore the C until he retired.

Stevens captained the Devils to four Stanley Cup Finals appearances in nine years, winning three of them. He set the standard of what it was like to lead by example and play as a team. His passion for the game and standard of play made him loved by Devils fans and hated by rivals.

He had offensive talent but it was his defensive play that gave him his reputation. He was known for his hard body checking that earned him the nickname ‘Captain Crunch’.

After the 1993-94 season, Stevens would become a free agent and the Blues extended him an offer that Devils matched and he stayed in New Jersey. However, the Blues had approached Stevens before the opening of free agency, which was illegal under NHL rules, and they were fined two first round picks plus over $1.4 million.

He stayed on as captain with the Devils with Stanley Cup wins in 1995, 2000 and 2003 while also winning the Conn Smythe award in 2000. He retired from the NHL on September 6, 2005, after playing 1,635 games. Stevens was the first Devils player to have his number retired when the #4 was raised to the rafters on February 3, 2006.

Scott Stevens retirement ceremony 2006
Stevens retirement ceremony 2006 (Cherno77 via Wikimedia Commons)

Mr. Devil – Ken Daneyko

When the Devils relocated from Colorado they selected Ken Daneyko 18th overall in the 1982 NHL Draft. Having solidified himself as a stay at home defensemen, he was a fan favorite because of his grit and determination. Known for missing his front teeth after taking a puck to the mouth, his smile would win fans over worldwide. He earned the nickname “Mr. Devil” because it was the only club he ever played for.  Devils fans would also refer to him as Dano.

After a few seasons in the Western Hockey League and American Hockey League, he played in only 12 games over two seasons with the Devils. Dano earned his chance in the 1985-86 season playing 44 games in the NHL. While not known for his scoring talent, he was not afraid to sacrifice himself in order to keep the puck out of the net. Daneyko would go on to lead the team in all-time penalty minutes with 2,516 in his NHL career.

Ken Daneyko #3 of the New Jersey Devils
Ken Daneyko  of the New Jersey Devils (Al Bello/Getty Images)

In the late 1990s, Daneyko struggled with alcoholism. Former Devils GM Lou Lamoriello and former owner Dr. John Mcmullen stood by him and checked him into rehab. Having completely recovered, he went on to win the Bill Masterson trophy in 2000.

He won three Stanley Cups with the Devils and after the Game 7, Stanley Cup win against the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim Daneyko retired. He would join his former teammate and have his #3 jersey retired by the Devils on February 3, 2006.

Ken Daneyko Scott Stevens
Banners honoring Ken Daneyko and Scott Stevens, (Pacmanghostx via Wikimedia Commons)

Scott Niedermayer – Born to Win

With the third pick of the 1991 NHL entry draft, the Devils selected Scott Niedermayer. He joined the team full-time for the 1992-93 season. In his first year, he amassed 40 points and was named to the NHL All-Rookie Team. He improved to 46 points the following season which ended with an Eastern Conference loss to the New York Rangers.

In the lockout-shortened season of 1994-95, the Devils went on another deep playoff run. This time they reached the Stanley Cup Finals for the first time in team history. They swept the Detroit Red Wings to win the Cup and Niedermayer scored 11 points in 20 games in the playoffs.

Niedermayer with the Ducks(Credit: David M/Flickr)

His most productive season came in the 1997-98 season where he recorded 14 goals and 57 points. Niedermayer played in his first All-Star game and finished the season named to the NHL’s Second All-Star team. He’d go on to win the Stanley Cup two more times in New Jersey and once with the Anaheim Ducks. His last season with the New Jersey Devils was 2003-04.

He signed with the Ducks after the 2004-05 lockout, stating he wanted to play with his brother Rob and try to win another Cup. The Niedermayers won a championship together in 2007 making it four for Scott in what was a truly remarkable story. He also won the Conn Smythe that season.

He retired on June 22, 2010, after playing in 1,263 NHL games and amassing 740 points. The Devils announced his #27 would be raised to the rafters on December 16, 2011. He was also inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in November 2013.

Devils retired numbers (slgckgc/Flickr via Wikimedia Commons)

Martin “Marty” Brodeur – Student of the Game

Martin Brodeur New Jersey Devils (C.P. Storm/flickr via Wikimedia Commons)

Brodeur was the Devils’ first round pick, 20th overall in the 1990 NHL draft. He started the season in the QMJHL but got called up after Devils goalies Chris Terreri and Craig Billington were injured, leaving the unknown rookie to step in. His NHL debut was a win against the Boston Bruins and that was just the beginning.

He played full-time in the NHL in the 1993-94 season and won the Calder Trophy after finishing second in goals against average (GAA) (2.40) and fourth in save percentage (.915). This ultimately secured him the starting job for the Devils.

The following season was the first time the Devils won the Stanley Cup, after which Brodeur was quoted as saying:

“The time from ten minutes left to one minute left was probably the longest nine minutes of my life. But from one to zero was probably the greatest time I’ve ever had. I didn’t want the clock to run out. It was such a great feeling: people crying in the stands, people jumping up and down, people cheering. Guys couldn’t even sit up on the bench. It was probably the best minute of my life.”

Brodeur and the Devils would win their second Stanley Cup in the 1999-00 season. His play in the Eastern Conference Finals against their rivals the Philadelphia Flyers was legendary. The Flyers went up 3-1 and were looking to close out the series at home but Brodeur had other plans. He only gave up one goal in each of the remaining three games. The Devils were back in the Stanley Cup Finals where they won their second Cup in six years.

NJ Devils 1995 Stanley Cup (Markiemark1952 via Wikimedia Commons)

Marty won his third Stanley Cup with the Devils in the 2002-03 season and the first of four Vezina trophies. Aside from his play, Brodeur added both records and NHL rules to his legacy and would go on to put up incredible and record-breaking numbers for the rest of his career.

On June 30, 2013, the Devils traded with the Vancouver Canucks for Cory Schneider. It seemed like the sun was beginning to set for the long-time netminder. They shared the workload that season with Schneider getting the bulk of the starts. When the Devils signed Schneider to a seven-year extension in 2014, Brodeur chose not to re-sign with the club. He became a free agent thereby ending his 21-year tenure with the club.

Marty signed with the St Louis Blues in November 2014 when starting goaltender Brian Elliott was injured. He only played six games for the Blues as he chose to retire on January 27, 2015. He is immortalized with a bronze statue outside the Devils arena while inside they raised #30 to the rafters.

(Ed Mulholland-USA TODAY Sports)

Patrik “Patty” Elias – Mr. Overtime

With the 51st pick in the 1994 draft, the Devils drafted Czech winger Patrik Elias in the second round. He was gifted enough to be a part of many lines for the Devils. The most famous line was known as “The A-Line” made up of Elias, Petr Sykora and Jason Arnott. They were a huge reason for the Devils winning the Stanley Cup in 2000 and getting to the Finals in 2001.

Elias again played a big role in the 2003 winning Cup team on a line with Brian Gionta and Scott Gomez. To Devils fans, this was known as the EGG line. In the final series versus the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim, Elias recorded seven points (3 goals, 4 assists).

New Jersey Devils left wing Patrik Elias
New Jersey Devils left wing Patrik Elias (Ed Mulholland-USA TODAY Sports)

Patty was named the Devils captain in 2006 taking over from the retired Scott Stevens. He only held the title for a year before going back to his alternate role.

On March 17, 2009, became the Devils’ all-time leading scorer. Then in the 2010-11 season, he recorded his 800th career point. The following season, he passed John MacLean as the Devils’ all-time leading scorer with his 348th NHL goal.

Patty continued to put up points until he retired on March 31st, 2017. He finished with 408 goals, 617 assists good for 1,025 points in 1,240 games. The Devils announced he will have his #26 retired on August 3, 2017. On February 24, 2018, he will join the four former teammates who make up the Devils in the rafters.