Devil of a Time Throwback New Jersey overcame a chaotic spring--and defending champion Dallas--to clinch a nail-biter of a Stanley Cup victory

June 19, 2000
June 19, 2000

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June 19, 2000

Devil of a Time Throwback New Jersey overcame a chaotic spring--and defending champion Dallas--to clinch a nail-biter of a Stanley Cup victory

Ken Daneyko had his second Stanley Cup, a cigar that was half a
city block long and his emotions in check after having wept
unashamedly moments earlier as he'd spoken of outgoing New
Jersey Devils owner John McMullen. The one thing Daneyko, a
36-year-old defenseman, didn't have were his two front teeth.
"Anybody got my teeth?" he screamed amid the celebratory din of
the dressing room. "Are my teeth over there?" The only man to
play in all 131 of the Devils' playoff games finally located his
choppers and slipped them into his mouth, a bridge back to the
20th century for the last of the old-time hockey teams.

This is an article from the June 19, 2000 issue Original Layout

New Jersey's Stanley Cup finals victory over the Dallas Stars
stands as a take-your-teeth-out-and-go-to-work triumph of dated
virtues, one that imposed order after a chaotic spring. The
heretofore stolid Devils, in their final incarnation under the
paternalistic, 82-year-old McMullen, suddenly had been winging
it. They were being sold by McMullen, who expressed remorse at
having closed the deal; they were being run by a resolute and
highly organized general manager, Lou Lamoriello, whose
post-McMullen future was an unanswered question; they were being
guided by Larry Robinson, who wasn't sure he wanted to be their
coach when he was asked to take over with eight games remaining
in the regular season; and they were being captained by a
bodychecking assassin, Conn Smythe Trophy-winning defenseman
Scott Stevens, who suffered a pinched nerve in his shoulder in
the opening round that was so severe he struggled to lift the
35-pound Stanley Cup over his head last Saturday night.

The Devils had earned the right to play for the Cup after coming
back from a 3-1 series deficit against the Philadelphia Flyers
in the Eastern Conference finals, something no team had done
that late in the playoffs since the 1967 expansion. They won the
Cup when their goalie, Martin Brodeur, who had lost seven
straight postseason sudden-death games over the last five years,
was masterly in a 2-1 double-overtime road victory in Game 6
that dethroned the Stars. "We did it the hard way," Brodeur
said. "It's so nice to win with all that adversity."

The New Jersey victory doesn't mark the start of a dynasty,
merely the end of an era. McMullen, who couldn't fly to Dallas
for Game 6 because of his sore back, will close his $175 million
deal with YankeeNets--in other words, George Steinbrenner--on
July 12. (For all of McMullen's public remorse, don't feel too
sorry for him. In 1982 he bought the Colorado Rockies for $10
million and moved them to New Jersey.) The last great corner
store in sports, a team that seemed to revel in its anonymity,
will become the property of Big Business Inc. It's inconceivable
that the change in ownership, not to mention winning the Stanley
Cup for the second time in six seasons, will allow the Devils
their previous degree of privacy. "Who knows how it will
change," defenseman Scott Niedermayer said. "With Dr. McMullen
and Lou, it's always been team, team, team. You give up
everything for the team." In an age that celebrates the self and
not the selfless, there might never be a club like McMullen's

There might not be any goaltenders' duels like the two
that closed out the Stanley Cup for quite a while, either. In
Games 5 and 6, Dallas and New Jersey combined for 165 shots in
three hours, 14 minutes and 41 seconds of play. The teams scored
four goals in that time, which made the combined save percentage
of Brodeur and Dallas's Ed Belfour .976, an almost surreal
figure given the gilt-edged scoring chances both the Devils and
the Stars had, especially in Dallas's 1-0 triple-overtime
victory in Game 5 at Continental Airlines Arena.

After that one-hour, 46-minute, 21-second match, New Jersey
center Bobby Holik hopped in his car, drove south on the New
Jersey Turnpike to Exit 11, picked up the Garden State Parkway,
got off near Asbury Park, headed east to the beach, deked and
couldn't put the puck in the Atlantic Ocean. Not really. Holik
headed straight home and fell asleep, an extraordinary feat
considering he'd had at least a half-dozen superb scoring
opportunities that either he squandered or Belfour snuffed. The
sun did rise later that morning. Holik could see it in the
sparkling eyes of his three-year-old daughter, Hannah. "She
walked into the room and woke me," said Holik, who also blew his
defensive-zone coverage when center Mike Modano raced by him to
redirect Brett Hull's pass through Brodeur's pads for the winning
goal. "I got up with her. It was another day. Another chance."
Holik was putting the previous night's match in context.

If the goaltending battle had gone on much longer, the postgame
interviews wouldn't have been conducted by ABC's Brian Engblom
but by Diane Sawyer on Good Morning America. The longest 1-0
match in finals history didn't end until 1:13 a.m. EDT on Friday.
While there might have been more heroic or spectacularly reckless
games in the finals, none had featured better goaltending--Patrick
Roy of the Colorado Avalanche and John Vanbiesbrouck of the
Florida Panthers hadn't faced the same quality of shots in their
triple-OT, 1-0 Game 4 epic in 1996--and none were as
nerve-racking. "[I know our team] was tense," said Robinson, who
was promoted from assistant coach after Robbie Ftorek was fired
on March 23. "You could feel it. Everybody I talked to who was
there said they had never seen a playoff game with so much
tension. My wife still had a headache the next morning."

The Devils were aware the Cup was being stored in a spare
dressing room somewhere in the belly of their arena, and they
reacted like nervous peewee players who know their fathers are in
the stands. Holik's almost tragicomic attempts at ramming a puck
past Belfour overshadowed a darker error by the Devils: Midway
through the second overtime, wing Alexander Mogilny, who scored
76 goals in 1992-93 for the Buffalo Sabres, skated in alone on a
breakaway and took the most pedestrian of shots, a wrister from
25 feet. It was thigh-high, right at Belfour's glove, an effort
worthy of an optional morning skate in January and not a
potential Cup-winning goal in June. Of Belfour's 48 saves, few
were less taxing.

The game turned on Mogilny's middling effort, which seemed to
energize Dallas. The series could have turned, too. The Stars,
who in Game 5 began rotating four sets of wingers with centers
Modano, Joe Nieuwendyk and Guy Carbonneau, grew more confident.
They found their legs. They also found unexpected skating room in
neutral ice. "We had been on our heels the whole series," Stars
coach Ken Hitchcock said the day after Game 5. "This was the
first time we went after it."

Hockey is the most random of sports, a high-speed game of tipped
shots and bouncing pucks and human miscalculations that can't be
micromanaged like football or baseball or basketball, no matter
how hard coaches such as Hitchcock try. As one overtime spilled
into another, the Devils and Stars stopped playing Stanley Cup
hockey and began playing something perhaps even more
extraordinary--unalloyed, unfettered hockey. "At a certain stage
in the series, the game becomes just emotion and enthusiasm,"
Hitchcock said 13 hours after Game 5. "That's where it is now.
You're dealing with straight emotion. I know one thing: We've got
a team that can hardly wait to come to the rink, and that wasn't
the case two days ago."

Last Saturday the Stars came to Reunion Arena in their best duds,
such as they are for superstitious hockey players. Everybody
loves distinctive raiments, especially lucky playoff ones.
Third-string goaltender Marty Turco wore a faux silk
burnt-orange, brown and white shirt with collar points the length
of a beagle's ears. It was a gift from former teammate Brent
Severyn, who had worn it before Dallas's victories in the final
two games of the 1999 Western Conference finals. (Severyn had
dropped off the shirt at Reunion Arena while on assignment for a
local TV station.) For the second straight game, right wing Mike
Keane trotted out his scarlet sport coat, size 42 ugly, that he
had first worn in '93 when he played for the Cup-winning Montreal
Canadiens. The fiery talisman had been to Keane what Kate Smith's
God Bless America had been to the Flyers, only with a better
record: Before Game 6, Keane claimed his teams' playoff mark was
13-0 when he wore that coat, including 12 wins in overtime.

New Jersey's players were unimpressed by the emotion or the
apparent switch in momentum. Scarlet jacket? Frankly, they didn't
give a damn. The Devils had been stunned by the Game 5 loss--"It
was tough to lose after almost six full periods, but we kept
telling each other that we could've won all five games [in the
series]," Daneyko said last Friday--but they channeled their shock
into the single most brutally physical period of the 2000
postseason, a period that lacked only a steel enclosure to be a
Texas death match. Twice the trainers had to be summoned to the
ice, the doctors and a stretcher only once.

Dallas defenseman Darryl Sydor was the first casualty, severely
spraining his left ankle when he missed a check on New Jersey
forward Scott Gomez near the boards and landed awkwardly. He
limped off, luckier than Devils winger Petr Sykora nine minutes
later. Sykora, who was knocked off balance by a stick to the ribs
from Stars defenseman Sylvain Cote, was then crushed by
defenseman Derian Hatcher, who delivered a blow to Sykora's head.
Sykora landed on his back like roadkill. The hit was deemed
legal, his CAT scan was normal--no autopsy, no foul. Sykora
watched the rest of the game from a bed at Baylor University
Medical Center.

If the score was even at one body each, the advantage had swung
to New Jersey. While Robinson could muddle through by throwing
Mogilny on the No. 1 line with Jason Arnott and Patrik Elias and
by juggling his other combinations, Hitchcock was compelled to
give more minutes to each of his five remaining defensemen and
rely more heavily on veterans Cote and Dave Manson, who usually
are his third pair. The loss of Sydor would prove significant, a
cruel blow for the Stars to suffer after he played only 95
seconds--less air time than ABC gave Brodeur's telegenic wife,

Melanie summed up the drama perfectly, alternately hiding behind
a towel when Dallas had a scoring chance and cheering wildly when
fortune turned the Devils' way. In her Devils Stetson she got to
be more of an ABC regular than Regis. The network knew a good
thing. According to Melanie, it offered the Reunion Arena fans in
the row in front of her hats and other gimcracks for not leaping
to their feet and ruining reaction shots of Melanie. AFTRA

Even as compelling a show as this must close. In the second
overtime, with the overburdened Cote playing his 38th shift,
Elias whipped a cross-ice, backhanded pass from the boards that
beat Cote and found Arnott. Arnott had committed a ludicrous
cross-checking penalty to the throat of Dallas wing Blake Sloan
near the end of the first overtime. Until that point referees
Terry Gregson and Bill McCreary seemed inclined to let anything
short of manslaughter go unpunished. Arnott made amends by
flicking the puck into the open corner of the net for the
Cup-winning goal.

New Jersey's dressing-room celebration was tinged with the
bittersweet sense of a time passing. The Stanley Cup, containing
light beer, was passed from lip to lip, and a cell phone was
passed from ear to ear so the Devils could share their joy with
Sykora, who would leave the hospital the next day. As befits the
last old-fashioned team, the tableau was one of inclusion,
embracing not only the players' families but also an absent and
soon-to-be-former owner and the brilliant general manager who
made the late-season switch to Robinson. Lamoriello, who had an
equity interest in the Devils and might walk away with $15
million from the sale, said he would discuss his future with New
Jersey at a later date. Last Saturday night he walked down a
corridor in an aging hockey arena. Domestic champagne was being
consumed on the other side of the door. Lamoriello was drinking
RC Cola.

COLOR PHOTO: PHOTOGRAPH BY DAVE SANDFORD/2000 NHL IMAGES COVER Over and Out! The Devils upend the Stars in an epic Stanley Cup finalCOLOR PHOTO: DAVID E. KLUTHO [T of C]COLOR PHOTO: PHOTOGRAPH BY LOU CAPOZZOLA Shooting star New Jersey's John Madden blasted the shorthanded game-winner past Belfour during the Devils' 3-1 victory in Game 4.COLOR PHOTO: LOU CAPOZZOLA (LEFT) All-out Efforts like this attempt to block Nieuwendyk's rocket in Game 6 made Stevens (4) the playoff MVP; Kirk Muller (22) sent Gomez to a hard landing in Game 4.COLOR PHOTO: DAVID E. KLUTHO [See caption above]COLOR PHOTO: DAVID E. KLUTHO High times Brodeur, who was near perfect in Games 5 and 6, jumped for joy when Arnott's goal gave New Jersey the Cup.
The Devils' win does not mark the start of a dynasty, just the
end of an era.