Just like eighteen years ago, the remarkable fans of the NHL despite all the skeptics have chosen to forgive, or more likely forget, and refused to take out their frustration on their beloved teams and returned to supporting them in full force. They proved once again in arenas and on television that hockey fans love their game. They don’t love it because everyone else does or because it is the biggest sport. They love the actual action that takes place which cannot be replaced and the rare type of athletes that combine skill, ability, toughness, and humbleness like no other. Tonight, it is New Jersey’s turn to give it’s dedicated fans back the due gift of Devils hockey!
This short season will be explosive because we will have our playoff teams decided in April already. The consensus for this season is overwhelmingly that it is in fact a legitimate season. The shortened length only affects the amount of money that it will produce and the amount of entertaining that the regular season will accomplish. The best teams will still make the normal 16-team playoff field where the same grueling campaign will take place. This 48-game season will find the deserved champion.
Our newly accredited captain Bryce Salvador will lead a team of individuals with big seasons ahead of them. Scott Stevens and Matt Shaw are the new leaders behind the bench. Martin Brodeur will show yet again that he is still among the very best goaltenders in the league with Johan Hedberg proving to be a paramount piece of the operation. Defining chapters will be written for the careers of Adam Henrique, Adam Larsson, Cam Janssen, and Steve Bernier while everyone will also have their eye on the production of David Clarkson, Patrick Elias, Travis Zajac, and Ilya Kovalchuk.
The loss of Petr Sykora is tough. During his contribution from 1995 to 2002 he employed a shoot-first mentality. Mr. Sykora was part of the best line ever assembled in the Garden State. The memories of the “A-Line” with Patrick Elias and Jason Arnott remind us of a dominant force during a time when the New Jersey Devils were known primarily for their defensive prowess. Who could forget how he won the Cup in 2000 from the hospital after he was injured in Game Six against the Dallas Stars and his line mate Arnott scored the game winner in overtime and Elias wore his jersey on the ice. This past season was another serious victory for Mr. Sykora as he took a big risk coming to the Devils camp from Europe as a long shot and didn’t just make the team but became a prominent part of the club.
I think there was another guy too that’s gone. I can’t remember now. Oh well.