Hockey Hall of Fame - Stanley Cup Journals: 40
The Stanley Cup Journal

(September 15, 2003) — The Devils' opened their training camp Thursday, with that initial day designated for physicals and photographs. The Stanley Cup-winning Devils have a different complexion this fall. Ken Daneyko has retired. Joe Nieuwendyk signed with the Toronto Maple Leafs as a free agent and Jim McKenzie is looking for more icetime in Nashville. Richard Smehlik's option was not picked up while Oleg Tverdovsky became a free agent and decided to return to Russia, where he'll play with Avangard of the Super League.

After an eventful and thoroughly enjoyable summer, it was time to get back to business. Thursday was physicals and photographs with a few new faces, then the Devils hit the ice Friday at South Mountain Arena in West Orange, New Jersey.
New faces in the New Jersey camp this year? Igor Larionov, the 42-year old veteran of three Stanley Cup championships in Detroit, signed as a free agent with the Devils. "I have been the oldest player in the game for many years now," laughed Larionov. "I feel good, I feel excited. I am ready to go and play a full season." Sean Brown, a big bruising defenseman who finished last season with the Boston Bruins, was also a free agent acquisition.

And then, there's Jacques Laperriere. No, he's not replacing Daneyko, but is newly hired to assist Pat Burns, which he did both in Montreal and in Boston. The New Jersey coaching staff alone could be competitive with most NHL teams. With goaltending instructor Jacques Caron in net, special assignment coach Larry Robinson beside Jacques Laperriere on defense, and assistant coaches Bobby Carpenter and John MacLean up front, it could make for a formidable lineup on the ice, but is in place to assist the team in winning a second consecutive Stanley Cup for the New Jersey Devils.

The Devils open their season October 8 versus Boston. Opening night at the Continental Airlines Arena will be October 16 with both the Toronto Maple Leafs and the Stanley Cup in town.
After the boys on the roster went through the required physicals and had their pictures taken, it was a casual day. John Madden and Turner Stevenson decided to get in a round of golf, and set up a one o'clock tee time at the Upper Montclair Golf Club in Clifton, New Jersey. The boys took the Stanley Cup with them to show their fellow duffers, who were thrilled to see the gleaming silver of hockey's legendary triumph cup.

On Friday, the players stepped onto the ice at South Mountain Arena in West Orange, New Jersey. There were three on-ice workouts, one at 9AM, one at noon and one at 2:30, and although not overly strenuous for the first day, the Devils enjoyed a spirited return to being a sense of team again. Captain Scott Stevens spoke for his teammates when he said, "It's always fun to get back to being champions." The extended family saw fifty-nine players skate on Friday, although only 23 will stay with the big club. Most of the remaining hopefuls will start the season with New Jersey's American Hockey League outlet, the Albany River Rats, while some will receive unconditional releases. Every one of those boys on the ice in West Orange is secretly dreaming that come next summer, he'll be planning his day with the Stanley Cup, too.

Coach Burns knows that repeating will be a challenge, but one he and his team are anxious to attempt. "It's no secret to anybody, when you're king of the hill, everybody is going to try to kick you off."

Although there was time to play during the summer, it's all business now for Coach Pat Burns and the Devil players.
The Devils open the season on the road, challenging the Bruins in Boston on Wednesday, October 8. Then, on Thursday, October 16, the puck will drop at the Continental Airlines Arena with the Toronto Maple Leafs in town. There'll be another special guest too - the Stanley Cup!

While the clock is counting down to a brand, new hockey season, the Stanley Cup was taken out for a few final visits. You'll enjoy drinks and teed-off links, go back to school and visit a hospital in the next Stanley Cup Journal.

***Late-breaking story: As you may recall from Ken Daneyko's day with the Stanley Cup, he signed a one-game contract with the Newark Bears professional baseball club. Well, Ken made his debut Saturday night (September 13), inserted into the Bears' lineup as their designated hitter. With the rain pouring down, Daneyko stepped out from the on-deck circle in the first inning, tapped his spikes and strode into the batter's box to face the Pennsylvania Road Warriors' Pat Daneker. Daneyko versus Daneker. Stanley Cup picture versus Pennsylvania pitcher. Daneker kicked and delivered. Daneyko caught a piece of the ball, but the Road Warriors' shortstop scooped it up like lint in a vacuum cleaner and was able to toss to first for the out. The retired Devil grounded out to retire the side. Immediately afterwards, the umpire called the game due to rain.

Kevin Shea is a hockey writer and historian in Toronto.

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