The New Jersey Devils – Off to the Conference Finals

As some of you may know, I’m a big hockey fan…. and even BIGGER New Jersey Devils fan! No, I’m not from New Jersey (I’m from DC), but I became a fan back in 1993 when I witnessed a Rookie goaltender named Martin Brodeur having a unexpected season bringing the Devils to the brink of their first Stanley Cup appearance. A team that Wayne Gretzky called a “Mickey Mouse Organization,” the New Jersey Devils were managing to silence critics and moved closer and closer to Hockey’s greatest prize — the Stanley Cup. In the conference finals of 1993-94, they faced the New York Rangers, a team that has the same type of clout as the Yankees … big name players, big salaries, perennial contenders, and of course, HUGE egos. No one expected the Devils to win … yet behind this Rookie goaltender, the Devils managed to take it to Game 7 with the Rangers. Mark Messier of the Rangers announced to media that he was “personally guaranteeing a win.” Something that you JUST DON’T DO in sports. Well… the Rangers won…. barely. I watched Brodeur stop a barrage of shots from the Rangers, and only till the 2nd Overtime of Game 7 did the Rangers squeak one through Brodeur. It made me a fan of the underdog.

Fast forward to 2012. I’ve been a major fan of the Devils EVERY year (and turned my old college roommate and Blue Ion co-worker, Craig, into a fan), and the Devils haven’t disappointed. Martin Brodeur in those 21 years ALL as a Devil, has managed to beat EVERY NHL goalie record, surpassing some of the other great goaltenders of the game. He’s won 3 Stanley Cups, 2 Olympic Gold Medals, and about every other award multiple times. Brodeur turned 40 years old on Sunday; the same day as Game 4 of their second-round series against the Philadelphia Flyers. Even Wikipedia’s Featured Article of that day was Martin Brodeur[1]. He pulled out a victory, and in a series that non-fans felt Devils would not stand a chance in, they finished off the Flyers in 5 last night. Of course, this has always been the case in Devil’s history: no respect for a team that continues to prove them wrong[2].

Well, the Devils have looked amazing in the first half of the playoffs so far. If you watched how they controlled EVERY game against the Flyers, it wasn’t ever close. The Devils have a mix of older veterans (like Brodeur, Elias, Sykora), and young talent, and they’ve been exciting to watch. Now, like most hockey players and fans, I have extreme superstitions that are necessary for your team to win[3]. So with that, I won’t let this blog post serve as any premonition or hinderance to them winning the Cup this year. I simply want to show my respect for an amazing player that at age 40, continues to make me excited to sit back and watch… and a team that now has one of the best chances to be raising the Stanley Cup in June.

[1] Imagine pulling up http://en.wikipedia.com and seeing your profile up there:

[2] ESPN is the worst, including so-called “expert” Scott Burnside. Always counting on the more popular teams to win and never giving Devils credit. See the “expert” picks here: http://espn.go.com/nhl/playoffs/2012/story/_/id/7853042/experts-picks

[3] I grow out my “playoff beard” … and trim it up between playoff rounds. I have to wear my Brodeur jersey while watching at home. And I have to neatly fold it after the game.