This November will be the thirty-third anniversary of Wayne Gretzky’s “Mickey Mouse” comment following a game in Edmonton between the Devils and Oilers. The Devils were pretty bad back then, but they would soon grow into a contender.
Tonight, the Devils celebrated one of the men that helped defeat that “Mickey Mouse” stigma once and for all: Martin Brodeur. The game played afterwards was, fittingly, against the Oilers, but a much different Oilers team than the ones the Devils were facing in the 1980’s. This Oilers team is more akin to the Devils of the early-80’s: on the way up.
But tonight was not about the Oilers of the past or present, it was about one man. Marty Brodeur was a once-in-a-lifetime player and got a once-in-a-lifetime sendoff as he had his jersey number “30” retired and his statue unveiled to the general public.
The night started with Devils public address announcer Kevin Clark introducing the trophies Brodeur won during his career as they were brought onto the ice: the Calder Memorial Trophy, the William M. Jennings Trophy, the Vezina Trophy, the Prince of Wales Trophy and the Stanley Cup. Emcee Mike “Doc” Emrick, who (as a Devils, Fox and NBC announcer) called many of Marty’s greatest moments, was then introduced. Doc introduced members of Devils ownership and the front office as well as NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman and Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly.
One by one, former Devils coaches like Jacques Lemaire, Larry Robinson and Jacques Caron were introduced. Line Burns, the widow of former Devils coach Pat Burns, was present, as were the three other men who have had their jersey numbers retired by the Devils: Scott Stevens, Ken Daneyko and Scott Niedermayer. Former Devils general manager Lou Lamoriello was brought out and Brodeur’s family including his brothers and sisters were present too.
The current Devils and their coaching staff then came out before finally, the man of the night was introduced. With the current Devils (who were all wearing warmup jerseys with the name “Brodeur” on the back and his number “30,” and would wear a special patch honoring Marty on their in-game uniforms) forming a raised stick tunnel for Marty to walk through, he came out onto the ice.
Everyone got a chance to speak, including Bettman (who received the usual chorus of “boos”) and Lamoriello (who received the usual chorus of “Lous”) Devils ownership spoke, a representative from Prudential (the sponsor) spoke. Patrik Elias spoke on behalf of the current Devils and Daneyko represented the players of the past. Videos highlighting Marty’s illustrious career were shown. The sold out crowd at The Rock was enthusiastic throughout.
Finally, it was Marty’s turn. He tried to begin immediately speaking after he got to the podium, but was drowned out by chants of “Mar-ty!” and “Marty’s better!” After taking a moment to soak it all up, Brodeur spoke, thanking former teammates, coaches, the New Jersey fans and his family (to whom he spoke in French).
Finally, it was time for the banner raising. Brodeur and his family were brought over to the goal crease that the Devils defend twice a game and the banner bearing his name and number was raised to the rafters of the Prudential Center for all to see.
It was truly a great moment for Devils fans to see Brodeur take his rightful place among the greats of the franchise. But there was more work to be done. The Devils have never lost on a night where they have retired a jersey number. That trend would continue.
The Devils tweaked their lineup a little. Healthy scratches were Tuomo Ruutu and Stefan Matteau, who have sat for the last few games, but Eric Gelinas was out, with Damon Severson taking his spot in the lineup.
The goaltending matchup was paid special attention to on a night like tonight, with goalie royalty in attendance. Cory Schneider got the nod for the Devils, making 19 saves on 20 shots faced. In goal for Edmonton was former Ranger Cam Talbot, who went 24 for 26.
Things got started midway through the first period when Edmonton’s Matt Hendricks took the first penalty of the game (a hooking call against Severson). The Devils were going on the power play 9:18 into the first. They would capitalize when, at 10:33, Reid Boucher took a shot from the half wall with the rebound coming out to Lee Stempniak. Stempniak passed to Adam Henrique on the side of the Oilers net, who pounded it home. It was 1-0 Devils, but that would not last long.
One minute and six seconds later, Edmonton’s Jordan Eberle beat Cory off assists from Benoit Pouliot and Connor McDavid. The game was tied at one and a feeling of dread swept through the crowd at Prudential Center.
The second period did not see any scoring changes, but did see Seth Helgeson take on Hendricks in a spirited fight in which the Devils youngster was able to get the upper hand.
The game winner would come in the third period on the power play (the Devils’ special teams dominated tonight, with the penalty kill killing off all three Oilers power plays and the Devils’ power play going 2-for-6, a respectable number for a team that has had its struggles scoring from time to time.
When the Oilers’ Adam Clendening was called for delay of game for shooting the puck over the glass at 5:27 of the third, the Devils were set up on another power play. They would convert on this one too. At 7:13, Tyler Kennedy passed from along the boards to Henrique in the slot. Henrique saw Boucher swooping in from the top of the near faceoff circle and, with nowhere to shoot, passed to him. Boucher beat Talbot and the Devils had the lead they would not relinquish.
The Oilers would pull Talbot with a little over a minute left in the game, but the Devils weathered the storm and came away with the victory.
Boucher was named the number one star of the night, Henrique the second. Both had a goal and an assist each. Fittingly, Devils goaltender Cory Schneider was named the third star.
Next up, the Devils have a few days off before traveling to Philadelphia on Saturday for a 1 PM tilt against the Flyers. As the Devils move down the New Jersey Turnpike to revive their rivalry with the Flyers, they will try to keep the momentum that they have gained out of this game going. We will find out Saturday if they can get it done and continue on in the playoff race.