2006-02-10 / Sports

Stevens Was The Prototypical Devil

By Joe McDonald Sports Columnist


New Jersey Devils’ Scott Stevens reacts during a ceremony retiring his number 4 prior to Devils NHL hockey against the Carolina Hurricanes Friday night, Feb. 3, 2006 in East Rutherford, N.J. (AP Photo/Bill Kostroun)
New Jersey Devils’ Scott Stevens reacts during a ceremony retiring his number 4 prior to Devils NHL hockey against the Carolina Hurricanes Friday night, Feb. 3, 2006 in East Rutherford, N.J. (AP Photo/Bill Kostroun) EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ – With so many great players to go through the Meadowlands over the years, Lou Lamoriello wanted to wait until the right player came along before retiring anyone’s number.

“It was never a thought who was going to be first,” the Devils’ president said. “But whenever we did put that first one up there, it would be someone who was a prototype of what the organization stood for.”

Lamoriello found that individual in Scott Stevens and to honor what the defenseman meant to the organization, his No. 4 was raised to the rafters of the Continental Airlines Arena a week ago.

Who could argue? After coming to New Jersey before the 1991-92 season, the defenseman almost immediately became the symbol of how the Devils played, with hard hits and smart punishing defense.

His 1625 games played are more than any other defenseman and he also has played in the most playoff games from the blue line at 233. Over his 22-year career with Washington, St. Louis and New Jersey, he was named to 13 All-Star teams and won three Stanley Cups.

Oh and he was the unqualified leader of the Devils as well.

Unlike Mark Messier across the river, Stevens lead more quietly. There were never any bold predictions from the defenseman in the paper, nor any emotional cheering from the bench.

“I never had a whole lot to say and when I did, it was from the heart,” Stevens explained. “I always felt to lead by example.”

So it stood to reason Stevens’ ceremony mirrored his career, much like the way the grand party at Madison Square Garden last month mimicked Messier’s. A 36-minute ceremony, was attended by a small group of family and friends, with less fanfare. The day before at his press conference, Stevens said he hoped he wouldn’t get too nervous speaking in front of 19,040 at the Meadowlands.

And he joked about that during his speech, saying, “I think this is the first time I’ve ever felt intimidated on this ice surface.”

But in the end the Devils’ captain did just fine, much like the way he performed so many times before in East Rutherford.

Under the Stevens captaincy, the Devils went from perennial also-ran to world-beaters. Awarded to New Jersey as compensation for St. Louis signing Brendan Shanahan, the future Hall of Famer immediately enjoyed New Jersey and felt “it was going to be special.”

It took him four seasons in Jersey to win his first Stanley Cup in 1995 and he felt it was the atmosphere Lamoriello installed that made the organization so appealing.

“It was a team game here,” Stevens said. “I enjoy winning and this franchise knows how to win. Here is team first and everyone contributes and everyone sacrifices. ”

Stevens went on to hoist the silver chalice two more times in 2000 and 2003, and won the Conn Smythe Trophy for his playoff efforts in 2000.

“All of [the cups] were very special,” Stevens said. “The first one in 1995, I had already been in the league about 14 years, so when it takes that long you start to wonder if it’s ever going to happen.”

Even with those under the belt, the defenseman still is saddened by the tough finals loss to the Colorado Avalanche in 2001.

“That was devastating,” he said. “The Stanley Cup is the toughest trophy to win. It was emotionally draining and it definitely hurt. I have no regrets, but I would have liked to win that one.”

It was a fruitful career and now, as he spends time with his family and a part time instructor for the Devils, he seems be enjoying his life and is satisfied with the decision to retire back in September.

“Obviously, during the lockout year I had time to think about things,” Stevens said. “I felt I really didn’t have anything to prove. I’d won three Stanley Cups. Life’s too short, and I felt it was time to do some of the things I really want to do.”

Joe McDonald is the publisher of NYSports Day. com and the hockey columnist for the Wave of Long Island newspaper. He is a member of the Professional Hockey Writers Association.

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