Devils Celebrate The 20th Anniversary Of Their '95 Stanley Cup By Doing What They Do Best; Emasculating The Flyers
What better way to celebrate the beginning of a winning pedigree than by continuing a tradition as old as time itself, putting the proverbial nail in the Flyers coffin. I was going to say that I'm surprised that Philadelphia didn't hold a 40th anniversary celebration for their last Stanley Cup this year. Then I realized that nearly all the players and fans that were around to enjoy it are probably resting peacefully next to the Flyers playoffs hopes. Live look at the Flyers season...
Ironically enough, in 1974, then Flyers Head Coach Ray Shero famously said "win today and we walk together forever". Little did he know how true that statement would stand to ring. It's a good thing too. Hell, if there was any time stamp on walking together the Flyers would have passed it by now.
The Doc Emrick narrated championship tribute that was aired 20 years ago was named "The Title Is Team". A name that couldn't have been more fitting. A lot of words were repeated this past weekend in regards to the group men that took the ice just 20 years after taking out a page in the history books. Team. Family. Selfless. Sacrifice. If there was ever a team that embodied what it meant to play for the logo on the front instead of the name on the back it was the 1995 Stanley Cup Champion Devils.
After the alumni game on Saturday Ken Daneyko mentioned the word 'fraternity'. I think what makes this team, and this event, so special is the casual observer's ability to relate. While maybe not in the most traditional sense, I think that most people can say they belong to a fraternity of sorts. Whether it be a team you played for growing up, a group of high school friends, or maybe your college buddies. Most people have a group that can withstand the test of time and distance. A group that no matter how long it's been, every memory feels like yesterday. To see how cool the weekend was all you had to do was look at the faces on the ice. There wasn't one player that didn't spend the large majority of the weekend with a smile on their face. In fact, I think Lou Lamoriello's face might be stuck like that. That doesn't bode well for future contract negotiations. As they announced the all too familiar names over the loud speaker yesterday I saw the beginning stages of, what looked like, a tear coming from the eye of Sweet Lou. And that's the story of the time that I first realized that Lou Lamoriello might potentially have tear ducts.
Marty Brodeur telling Tom Chorske after game 2 of the finals that he felt as big as the net and that there was no way the Devils were going to lose. Scott Stevens taunting the Red Wings bench to the tune of "you're next". Mike Peluso crying his eyes out on the bench with mere minutes left before hoisting the cup. For every story we know, there are hundreds more that we don't. All of which were probably discussed in detail over a few beers this weekend.
I don't know why, but I vividly remember sitting in my parents room as a nine year kid watching game 2 against the Pittsburgh Penguins. The Penguins already had already won game one and had just tied up game two with just over a minute to play. My mother was bitching at me to go to bed and telling me "nothing is going to happen in one minute". I remember it as clear as day. No sooner had she finished that sentence did Scott Stevens unleash a bomb from just inside the red line and proceeded to beat the rest of the Penguins to the puck to slide a backhand past Ken Wregget. Every time I see that goal I get chills.
I was just a 9 year old fan watching on television. I can't process being able to relive something like that as a player. I get goosebumps every time I watch the highlights. Every time I see Randy McKay scour the glass after scoring in overtime. Every time I see Lemieux unleash a clapper past Ron Hextall to give the Devils a lead with less than a minute to go. Every time I watch Scott Niedermayer fly end to end and net his own rebound. Every time I watch hometown hero Jim Dowd put home the game winner. Every time I see Scott Stevens nearly behead Victor Kozlov. Every time I watch Marty stuff Kris Draper on the goal line with just the shaft of his stick. It all seems so surreal, even all these years later.
They say the first one is the most special. Unlike losing your virginity, this is a first that no one involved will ever regret. It wasn't just the fact that they were an underdog , or the dominant fashion in which they reigned victorious. 1995 was significant because it marked the beginning of an era. It signified what it meant to be a Devil and play Devils hockey. A distinction that carried them through to two more Stanley Cups and decades of success. No matter how much time goes by, or how infrequently they keep contact, no one can ever take away their spot in history. No one can ever take away what they mean to each other, what they mean to this fan base, and what they mean to this franchise.