Devils’ Scott Gomez Writes Inspiring Firsthand Account Of Career


It is no secret that Scott Gomez has revitalized his career this season with the New Jersey Devils. In 44 games, the Anchorage, Alaska-native has tallied 27 points, his most since the 2010-11 season. But it has been a long journey back for the 35-year-old center, who began his career in New Jersey in 1999.

In an amazing piece written by Gomez himself appropriately titled “Not Done” for The Players’ Tribune, a site for professional athletes to provide first-person commentary, founded by former New York Yankees-great Derek Jeter, “Gomer,” as he’s known by his teammates, provided a great deal of insight into his career, and the long journey he has been on trying to re-establish himself as a quality NHL player.

When Gomez left the New Jersey Devils following the 2006-07 season for the rival New York Rangers, he departed as one of the premier play-making centers in the NHL, averaging just under 65 points per season during his seven-year stint with the team.

Regarding his decision to leave New Jersey, a decision that was severely frowned upon by the Devils’ fan-base, Gomez wrote:

"“Regardless, when I was presented with the opportunity to sign my first big contract in 2007, I took it. Every player wants to stay in the league long enough to make it to free agency. You’re never going to make this kind of money again. Any vet will tell you that you should take advantage of the opportunity, and be smart with it. Four teams made offers, but the best one came from the New York Rangers, and I decided that I couldn’t pass on the opportunity to play in New York City at Madison Square Garden. To a hockey fan, signing a contract with the Rangers after spending several years with New Jersey probably sounds like treason. But the truth is that most of my teammates were happy for me. They understand as much as anybody that this is a business.”"

Upon his arrival across the Hudson River, following signing a seven-year, $51.5 million deal in the summer of 2007, Gomez put up 128 points in two season with the Rangers, right in line with his career average. But although the numbers didn’t show it, Gomez struggled during his second season in New York, prompting the team to deal him to the Montreal Canadiens.

That is where Gomez’ career took a sharp turn for the worse, but not right away, as is the popular belief amongst hockey fans.

“The assumption might be that everything went to downhill as soon as I put on that Habs uniform, but that’s not really telling the whole story,” Gomez wrote. “My first season in Montreal, I led the team in assists and we made it to the Eastern Conference Finals. My stats might not have been as high as they were in previous years, but if your team is thriving, that’s what matters.”

And he’s right, as he put up 59 points in his first season in Montreal. But that was followed by his then-worst season in 2010-11, tallying a mere 38 points in 80 games, while posting a -15 plus/minus rating. Gomez was often ridiculed by fans and the media in Montreal during his tenure there as a result of his play. He admitted that was something he could deal with, but when he realized that his ability had faltered to the point that his teammates didn’t want to be on a line with him, Gomez was deeply affected.

“Teammates wouldn’t let it on, but I could tell that they didn’t want to play on my line. And that really killed me because I’m a guy who passes the puck and tries to set up other players to succeed,” he wrote.

Michel Therrien was hired as the Canadiens’ head coach prior to the 2011-12 season, and Gomez wanted to prove that he still had something left in the tank. But Gomez failed to succeed under the new coaching regime. He appeared in just 38 games that year, totaling a mere 11 points. His contract was bought out after that season.

He was then offered a contract by the San Jose Sharks prior to the 2012-13 lockout-shortened season. “I was excited about the opportunity for a new start,” Gomez wrote. “I worked extra hard during that off-season so that I could bounce back strong with the team.”

But the Sharks weren’t the only team seeking Gomez’ services. Lou Lamoriello and the Devils were also interested, as Gomez recalls:

"“Lou was the first person I called when I made the decision to go to the Sharks. He tried to talk me out of it. He wanted me back in New Jersey. He said he wasn’t going to let me fail. I should have listened to him, but at that point I was so set on trying something new that I didn’t hear him out. I thought getting a new start would build my confidence, but what I probably needed was some familiarity. At that point my mind was made up and I just wanted to get the hell out of the east coast.”"

But as Lamoriello feared would be the case for Gomez, his struggles continued, as he scored just 15 points in 39 games with the Sharks, after which he was not offered a new contract with the team.

Oct 27, 2013; Sunrise, FL, USA; Florida Panthers center Scott Gomez (23) skates with the puck in overtime against the Tampa Bay Lightning at BB&T Center. The Lightning won 4-3 in a shoot out. Mandatory Credit: Robert Mayer-USA TODAY Sports

He then signed with the Florida Panthers for the 2013-14 season, where Gomez said his career “really started to bottom out.” He wrote he had a feeling that he wouldn’t be a big part of Florida’s plans, as he said “Part of me wondered if I didn’t show up one day if they’d even notice I was gone. I was like George Costanza in Seinfeld.”

And his inclination was right, as he failed to become a regular with the team, despite the fact that Florida won a mere 29 games last season. When he did play, he saw time on the fourth line, and as a result, totaled just 12 points in 46 games.

“My final six games with the Panthers, they had a few injuries and I got into the lineup. I figured this was my last hurrah in the NHL, so I went full-out balls to the wall. I decided I didn’t care about fitting in whatever scheme was in place; I just grabbed the damn puck and played my style of hockey,” Gomez wrote. “I figured in a few months, I’d probably be in a TV booth so I left everything out there. My ice time jumped from 6 minutes to 17 minutes and I played better than I had in years. At that point, the people closest to me got in contact and told me the same thing: You’re not done.”

And again, Gomez was right. He wasn’t done.

He called Lamoriello following the end of the 2013-14 season , asking for a tryout. Lamoriello told Gomez to go work with Vladimir Bure, who was the Devils’ longtime conditioning coach whom Gomez worked with in his younger years. From there, Gomez wrote that he worked with Bure “twice a day, six days a week doing intense, Soviet-style workouts.”

But Gomez recollects that Bure didn’t only get him back into playing shape, he helped Gomez regain the mental toughness needed to succeed in the NHL.

“Vlade also spent that summer building me back up, essentially brainwashing me into thinking I could not fail. I would not fail. We knew that we were going to surprise everyone, it was like our secret,” Gomez wrote.

Subsequently, Gomez was offered a tryout by Lamoriello. And although Gomez didn’t make the team at first, he knew he had it in him to be on the ice at some point. So he kept skating with the team, waiting for his chance.

Dec 29, 2014; Newark, NJ, USA; Senior VP of Hockey Operations Jim Gregory and New Jersey Devils center Scott Gomez (21) pose for a photo honoring Gomez

He received that chance on December 2, in a game against the Pittsburgh Penguins. Gomez hasn’t looked back ever since, becoming the fourth-leading scorer on the team despite playing in exponentially fewer games than his teammates. The opportunity allowed Gomez to play in his 1,000th career game on December 29, a number he may now far surpass.

Regardless of the struggles Gomez has endured in his career while playing away from New Jersey, the lessons he learned from the Devils organization and Lou Lamoriello have shaped his career and, in turn, his NHL revival.

"“I remember when I was with Canadiens and things weren’t going well, we had a game in Montreal against the Devils. We lost and I had a terrible game, but afterwards I asked a trainer if I could speak with Lou – we hadn’t talked since I left the Devils. In natural form, Lou had me meet him in some private room that he somehow knew about in the depths of the Bell Centre. When we were alone, I told him that I wasn’t sure what he might have heard about me or what had been said since I left, but that I wanted him to know that I still live by his standard every day I come to the rink.I always will.”"

To read Gomez’ firsthand account of the twists and turns his career has taken in full, click here.

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