The man who scored one of the most famous goals in Devils history has returned. Former Devil player, Stanley Cup champion and coach John MacLean has been brought back into the fold and will join the team’s MSG television broadcasts as an analyst and contributor to ”Hockey Night Live.”
Born November 20, 1964 in Oshawa, Ontario, MacLean played his junior hockey with his hometown Oshawa Generals of the Ontario Hockey League where he was named to the Memorial Cup tournament All-Star team in 1983 when the Generals made it to the CHL championship game, ultimately losing to tournament host the Portland Winter Hawks. He was drafted by the Devils in the first round (sixth overall) of the 1983 NHL Draft. He made the team that first season, playing 23 games for the Devils in 1983-84 and scoring a single goal. It may have seemed like a slow start for the man who would become the franchise’s all-time leading scorer, but MacLean would follow that season up with a solid campaign in 1984-85, playing in 61 games and scoring 13 goals and 20 assists for 33 points. “Johnny Mac” would go on to score 413 goals and 429 assists for a career total of 842 points in 1,194 games for the Devils, San Jose Sharks, Rangers and Dallas Stars. Of that total, 347 goals and 701 points were scored for the Devils, which gave him the franchise leader. That total was topped by Patrik Elias on, ironically enough, St. Patrick’s Day 2009.
But of all those goals he scored for the Devils, none was more important at the time than two he scored against the Chicago Blackhawks at Chicago Stadium on April 3, 1988. With the Devils needing a win in their final game of the season to make the playoffs for the first time since moving to New Jersey and the second time in franchise history (they had made the postseason once as the Colorado Rockies), the team trailed 3-2. Mark Johnson rushed the puck up and shot from just inside the high slot. Blackhawks goalie Darren Pang made the save and the rebound came right out to MacLean’s stick as he was all alone right in front of the net. He deposited the puck behind Pang and the game was tied 3-3 with about nine minutes left in the third. Regulation would eventually tick down with the score tied, but the Devils needed the win, or else the Rangers (who had already beaten the Quebec Nordiques) would take the final Patrick Division playoff spot. A tie was essentially as good as a loss. Overtime began with the Devils knowing they would have to pull goalie Sean Burke if the game was still tied late in the extra session. Then, with roughly three minutes left in the overtime period, Patrik Sundstrom rushed the puck into the Chicago zone. His shot was blocked by Pang and cleared to the corner. MacLean kept a clearing attempt by the Blackhawks in the zone and immediately centered the puck to Sundstrom. Sundstrom passed to Joe Cirella who fired in on Pang. As Cirella went down, the puck rebounded out to MacLean’s stick again. He fired, scored and with a 4-3 win, the Devils were in the playoffs for the first time in team history since their move to the Meadowlands. The Devils were now set for their Cinderella run through the 1988 Stanley Cup playoffs and they owed most of it to John MacLean.
MacLean would have even better moments with the Devils, both from a personal and team perspective. He scored a career high 72 points in 1988-89, posted no less than 19 goals in a season for the rest of his Devils career (which does not seem very sniper-like, but when you factor in it came during the 1992-93 season, his comeback year after missing all of the 1991-92 season with a knee injury, it is reasonable) and, of course, won his only Stanley Cup as a player with the team in 1995 (he was on the coaching staff as an assistant in 2003, winning another Cup with the Devils that year). All of this helped to forge a career of a true Devils legend.
He was traded by the Devils to San Jose along with Ken Sutton for Doug Bodger and Dody Wood on December 7, 1997. He played the rest of the 1997-98 season with the Sharks before returning to the metropolitan area on July 9, 1998 when he signed as an unrestricted free agent with the Rangers. He played in New York until February 5, 2001 when he was traded to the Stars for future considerations. He would re-sign with Dallas on February 26, 2002 as an unrestricted free agent and played the rest of the season with them until he announced his retirement on June 7, 2002.
His coaching career began immediately after his retirement when he was hired as an assistant in 2002 for the Devils. He was passed over in 2007 for the head coaching position that ultimately went to Brent Sutter. MacLean continued to serve as an assistant under Sutter before being named head coach of the American Hockey League Lowell Devils on July 13, 2009. A year later, on June 17, 2010, “Johnny Mac” was named the head coach of the New Jersey Devils. Unfortunately, his time as Devils’ head coach was, to be blunt, a disaster. The team was 9-22-2 and in last place in the Eastern Conference when MacLean was fired two days before Christmas 2010. Jacques Lemaire returned to coach the team for the rest of the year, and they made a run, but the damage was done and the team ultimately missed the playoffs that year for the first time since the 1995-96 season.
While his time as Devils head man was short, MacLean would rebound and took an assistant position under former Devil teammate Kirk Muller, who was named head coach of the Carolina Hurricanes on December 1, 2011. After moderate success in Carolina, Muller, and assistants Dave Lewis (another former Devils player) and MacLean were all relieved of their coaching duties on May 5, 2014.
And now MacLean has come back to the Devils. Though untested as a broadcaster, MacLean (who is taking over for Ken Daneyko, who himself is replacing “Chico” Resch in the broadcast booth as color commentator alongside Steve Cangialosi), does have the charisma and charm as well as an all-around nice attitude to be good in this role. He also has a lot of experience in the Devils uniform and that should give him credibility among Devils fans, setting aside his time as coach, of course.
It is a time of change in the Devils’ broadcast team. Just a few years ago, Mike “Doc” Emrick and “Chico” Resch were the Devils broadcast team with Ken Daneyko doing ice level and intermission reporting. Now, “Doc” is working full-time for NBC, “Chico” is retired and “Dano” has moved into the booth. John MacLean should bring a lot to the Devils broadcasts as well as “Hockey Night Live” and will continue the Devils excellence in broadcasting on the MSG Networks.