5 Questions in 5 Minutes with New Jersey Devils Legend Bruce Driver

TORONTO, ON - FEBRUARY 25: Bruce Driver #23 of the New Jersey Devils skates against the Toronto Maple Leafs during NHL game action on February 25, 1992 at Maple Leaf Gardens in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. (Photo by Graig Abel/Getty Images)
TORONTO, ON - FEBRUARY 25: Bruce Driver #23 of the New Jersey Devils skates against the Toronto Maple Leafs during NHL game action on February 25, 1992 at Maple Leaf Gardens in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. (Photo by Graig Abel/Getty Images) /

While Ken Daneyko may be known as ‘Mr. Devil’ around these parts, perhaps we should start calling Bruce Driver ‘Mr. New Jersey.’ Both men are two of the biggest names in the New Jersey Devils alumni and, obviously, were two key cogs of the Devils’ first Stanley Cup championship back in 1995.

Daneyko transitioned from player to broadcaster, while Driver has been one of the main faces of the Devils alumni, constantly making appearances around the state – and he is one of the most successful coaches on the state’s girls’ high school hockey circuit.

When he began his coaching career at Morristown Beard School back in 2000, he probably had no idea how much of an impact he would have on the program – which has now won 12 titles and won the first-ever girls ice hockey State Championship in 2020. Driver was inducted into the New Jersey Scholastic Coaches Association Hall of Fame in 2015.

Recently, the former Devils defenseman was a featured speaker at MeiGray’s 18th annual Jersey Expo, and Pucks & Pitchforks caught up with no. 23 to get his thoughts on the new era of New Jersey Devils’ hockey and a few other topics.

MeiGray has authenticated game-worn memorabilia from some of the biggest moments in sports history and currently has partnerships with six NHL teams (including the Devils), the NBA, USA Hockey, and the ECHL.

Pucks & Pitchforks: Do you see a lot of similarities between the current Devils team and your group back in the early ‘90s, where you had to learn to win together?

Bruce Driver: Definitely. We’ve talked about that a lot. It’s growing pains. We were at a sales event this past Wednesday and people are coming as potential season ticket holders as we were talking a lot about that. Looking around the room and you see a lot of new nameplates – like Tyler Toffoli, and the future looks bright. It’s a learning curve, and it was an excellent experience for them to go through this past year, through the playoffs. It’s something that we had to do as well.

New Jersey Devils
Bruce Driver #23 of the New Jersey Devils. (Photo by Graig Abel/Getty Images) /

(Earlier) I briefly talked about ’87-88 and us almost going to the Final; we thought it was going to be easy and (would) be back there the next year. It’s not that easy; those are the lessons that need to be learned. They are a great, young team and heading in the right direction. Now it’s just a matter of tweaking a few things here and there, and becoming a little more physical – because the playoffs are a lot tougher road.

P&P: Like Dano, you were born in Canada; but he always talks about how he had no idea where New Jersey was. Was that the same case for you?

BD: Well, Dano probably failed geography class, haha! I didn’t know a whole lot about New Jersey, and I was drafted obviously by Colorado, sorta the same thing. But I had been to Colorado before because (when I was at the University of) Wisconsin played against Colorado College in Denver, so I had been there before. But I had never been to New Jersey, only to New York State, and didn’t know anything about living here.

P&P: All of these years later, New Jersey has become your home. Did you ever think in your wildest dreams that it would work out the way it did?

BD: Not at all. No idea. I always thought I’d go back to Canada, with my family there. Both of my kids were born here, I just told the story about leaving the Devils to play for the New York Rangers – and the reason for doing that was my kids. They were already in schools and I didn’t want to uproot them. We’ve built our lives here, my daughter has two-year-olds so my grandkids are here; my son’s not married yet but is living with his girlfriend, so that’s probably coming down the road too.

P&P: Do Devils fans still give you crap for signing with the Rangers?

BD: They do here and there. For those that will give me the time, I will explain the story that I told here. It’s the gods’ honest truth. And I will say one thing that I didn’t mention that (then NYR GM) Neil Smith told me the whole time – he wished that he had players that wanted to stay and play for the Rangers, and he respected the way that I wanted to stay and finish my career with the Devils. I think that is ultimately why he gave me a little more time to make my decision.

P&P: You mentioned in your speech today the relationship with Lou Lamoriello. But since he’s departed New Jersey, a lot of others have as well, except for yourself and a few others. Was it ever under consideration that you would move on as well?

BD: Once everything was established here (for me) from a coaching standpoint and running the Devils Alumni Association as well, having my kids here – I really have no desire to move on. People ask me all the time if I ever thought about being a pro coach. That’s a different world, and I wouldn’t shut the door on anything, but for me, I enjoy coaching kids. And my days of traveling all over the place – when you’re coaching – it’s not something I’m striving to do in any manner. But if an opportunity arises, who knows?

*Bonus Question*

P&P: I’ve always heard rumors that before the Metropolitan Riveters’ fourth season in the NWHL, you were a strong candidate to take over as the Head Coach following Chad Wiseman’s departure. Any truth to that?

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BD: Hah, ahhh, I think it was mentioned. No one really asked me officially. That was right before Randy Velischek became involved and was named Head Coach. I enjoyed going to those games; we had a relationship with them playing at the Barnabas rink. I knew Lorna Cook (Riveters Assistant Coach) and respected her from coaching against her when she was at Princeton Day School. I enjoyed watching that great season they had (the last team in New Jersey to win a pro championship), I was there at the end, and I was at the bar (next door) afterward, drinking out of the Cup. It was great to see that team have that success. I was never formally asked, though, just an inquiry to gauge my interest, and like I said, I wasn’t interested in traveling a lot.