The social media was buzzing today with pictures from this date in history, 19 years ago, June 24, 1995 when the New Jersey Devils won their first Stanley Cup Championship in a four game sweep against the Detroit Red Wings.
I began thinking about that eventful night and that wonderful memory. In the summer of 1995, I had just finished my first year away at college, and I was transitioning to life back at home after living on my own for the first time.
I had a couple of different summer jobs, one was at a restaurant waiting tables, but I happened to be off that night which was Game 4 and it was played at the Continental Airlines Arena. I also remember that the game was on Fox, it was the first year they covered hockey, so I remember that feeling strange because they had a different fashion in which they covered the game.
I watched it at home with my parents, and it was, and always will be a great memory for me, not only because I loved the Devils since I was a boy back in the beginning in 1982 and they won the Stanley Cup, but also because my life has changed so much since then.
My parents were both pretty big sports fans, my Mom used to take me to Devils games, baseball games, and NBA games. My Mom and I used to watch the NBA playoffs more than my Dad would usually care about those games. My Dad grew up in Buffalo, so he always really enjoyed hockey, and the Devils became his adopted team. I loved the Devils so much, he did not really have a choice.
The 1995 Stanley Cup Final was a wild series which capped off a tumultuous year for the NHL. Most of that regular season was lost due to a lockout, and that was why the Stanley Cup Playoffs were played so late into the summer. On a personal note, it was a weird season because I was not home, I was away at college so I did not go to as many games in person as I usually did for the first time in my life.
It was a typical “David vs. Goliath” series where the Red Wings were the best team in the NHL and had all of these top flight talent at every position. The Devils were the 5th seeded team in the Eastern Conference that season, and nobody gave them a chance in the series in the mainstream sports media. New Jersey had very hard-nosed players with grit and toughness, they had very few big star type players, if any on the roster.
One of my best friends from high school, and we are still close today, said to me prior to the series that with the way the Devils played in the Playoffs he felt they were going to defeat Detroit. I had a feeling that this team could win too, but I never thought they would sweep the mighty Red Wings. That is the case in point for the unpredictability of sports.
New Jersey shocked Detroit by winning both games at Joe Louis Arena, the two teams were like heavyweight fighters trading blows: goal for goal, check for check. It was a very physical series, for those who remember it, and the Devils played brilliantly. Martin Brodeur allowed 7 goals total in the 4 game series, Neal Broten had key goals, and Claude Lemieux outplayed everyone on the ice on his way to the Conn Smythe trophy.
When the series shifted to New Jersey, and the fans hosted their first Stanley Cup Final game, that arena was rocking especially with the Devils already up two games in the series. We all believed it was possible to defeat the Red Wings. However, the national media downplayed the Devils lead because they wanted a Detroit comeback to extend this series.
The Devils win in Game 3 gave everybody in the fan base the hope that they could win it on home ice in Game 4. I remember Neal Broten scoring about a minute into Game 4, and the arena was shaking! The Devils got goals from Shawn Chambers (who also played terrifically in that series) and Sergei Brylin (one of my all-time favorite Devils players) in route to a 5-2 victory, and the first Stanley Cup for the Devils. The Devils became the lowest seeded team to win the Stanley Cup until 2012 when ironically the Devils lost to the Los Angeles Kings and LA became the lowest seeded team to win the championship.
I remember jumping up and down in front of the television as the final seconds ticked away, I remember how happy my parents were too, probably because they knew how much that team and that victory meant in my life. It was a scene and a memory I will treasure always. It is hard to believe it was 19 years ago today, but life moves on, and my life certainly has changed a great deal since then. There are certain constants, and the Devils are still a big part of my life today as they were that June night in 1995, when my life and the world was a little simpler than it is now. A place where, in my memories, I can visit again like I did today.
(Some background information courtesy of NHL.com)