It’s June 24, 2020. It was 25 years ago today that the New Jersey Devils won their first Stanley Cup. That was on a hot summer night in 1995 at the old Brendan Byrne Arena in East Rutherford.
The ’95 Devils didn’t have the best regular season. However, they gelled at the right time during a shortened 48-game season. Former architect Lou Lamoriello made two crucial moves that put them over the top by adding former Stars Neal Broten and Shawn Chambers. Both scored twice in their 5-2 home clincher to take Game Four and sweep the Red Wings.
Even though top finisher Claude Lemieux won the Conn Smythe with 13 goals in the tournament, you could’ve made a argument for Broten, who wound up with 19 points in the postseason following 28 in 30 after coming over for Corey Millen in a steal of a deal. The veteran who had spent his whole career first as a North Star and Star, was instrumental in the Devils lifting the Cup under coach Jacques Lemaire. He was always a superb player and fit in perfectly.
Ditto for Chambers, who was a better fit for the Devs after trading Slava Fetisov to ironically the Red Wings where he fit in well under Scotty Bowman, becoming part of the Russian Five in Motown. They would go on to win back-to-back Cups in Fetisov’s final two years.
I always found it interesting that so many prognosticators believed the Red Wings were heavy favorites to win that series. After playing a little prank on one of my college buddies at Fairleigh Dickinson in Madison with a sarcastic 19-Never sign before headed home for the summer, I had a feeling the Devils would win that year. Especially after being so close against the Rangers the year before.
It didn’t matter that they were 22-18-8 which was good enough for second in the division and the East’s fifth seed. They had the experience edge over the Red Wings, who sure boasted great Hall of Fame talent in Steve Yzerman, Sergei Fedorov, Dino Ciccarelli, Paul Coffey, Nick Lidstrom, Mark Howe, Fetisov and likely Chris Osgood later today. Even though the overlooked Mike Vernon was the starter. How Vladimir Konstantinov isn’t in is beyond me. It’s like what they’re doing to Alex Mogilny, who isn’t expected to be announced later as part of the 2020 Class. Ditto for Jeremy Roenick.
As dominant as those Wings were going 33-11-4 with a league best 70 points over 48 games, they were no match for the Devils. New Jersey had one tough opponent by pulling out the last two games over the Flyers to take a compelling Eastern Conference Final in six games. They only lost once to Boston and once to the Penguins in the first two rounds. Detroit had only two defeats entering the Stanley Cup Final. One apiece to the Stars and Blackhawks.
I always felt the Devils were underestimated entering that Final. They were a true four line team that featured the famed Crash Line of Bobby Holik, Mike Peluso and Randy McKay. You had proven vets like Lemieux, Stephane Richer, John MacLean, Broten, Bruce Driver, Scott Stevens, Ken Daneyko, Tommy Albelin, Tom Chorske and Bobby Carpenter. They also had young talent in future Hall of Famer Martin Brodeur, Bill Guerin, Brian Rolston, Sergei Brylin and the other young future legend in Scott Niedermayer. Plus Stevens, who captained all three Devils teams to championships and also is in the Hall of Fame.
They were a T-E-A-M. They proved it by beating the favored Red Wings in four straight. Total domination. You can’t measure the heart of a champion. That was a quote they had on their bulletin board per Doc Emrick on his ironic call that night on Fox with partner John Davidson. The quote was from two-time NBA Champion Hakeem Olajuwon of the Rockets. As for Emrick’s final call, it went like this:
Championship to New Jersey. The Devils are Stanley Cup Champions!!!
Simple and to the point for the same legendary announcer we’ve come to love 25 years later. Doc is the Voice of hockey having gone from Fox to ABC with JD to NBC where he now partners with Eddie Olczyk. Doc’s enthusiasm has always been great for the sport along with his vocabulary. He’s like a walking talking encyclopedia of knowledge. I’m glad I got the chance to work with him during the ’00-01 season. He is a true pro.
It’s funny that all these years later, my friend Robert Davis still jokes about how heavy a favorite the Red Wings were. I never bought it. Maybe it was my intuition and knowledge from how tough that team was for the Rangers to beat. I knew. I’m not right often. But in that case 25 years ago on a balmy summer night, I was.
I made sure to congratulate my friend Ken too on his team winning after my prank. I think I knew they were gonna win. At least I like to tell myself that all this time later.
Enjoy your 25th Anniversary Hasan.