Sat, Feb 04, 2006 - Page 20 News List

NJ Devils to honor blue-collar worker

NATIONAL HOCKEY LEAGUE Scott Stevens played in 1,635 regular-season NHL games for Washington, Saint Louis and New Jersey, more than any other defenseman

AP , EAST RUTHERFORD, NEW JERSEY

Scott Stevens of the New Jersey Devils talks to the media at a news conference announcing the retirement of his jersey in East Rutherford, New Jersey, on Thursday. His jersey will be retired prior to the game against the Carolina Hurricanes tonight. Stevens played for 22 seasons and more than 1,800 NHL games, winning three Stanley Cup trophies.

PHOTO: AP

Through 22 seasons and more than 1,800 NHL games, Scott Stevens stuck to the same simple recipe for success.

"Every year, I always felt that I had to make the team," the former New Jersey Devils defenseman said on Thursday, a day before he was to become the first player in franchise history to have his number retired.

"I felt every training camp I had to prove myself. I never took anything for granted."

That blue collar approach and a penchant for bone-crunching hits made Stevens a favorite of Devils fans, and it spurred general manager Lou Lamoriello to make him the team's captain in 1992.

"All you had to do was watch him in practice day in and day out and watch him compete, and that was what you wanted to be the foundation for the other players to follow by example," Lamoriello said Thursday.

Stevens wound up hoisting three Stanley Cup trophies with the Devils, in 1995, 2000 and 2003, and won the Conn Smythe Trophy in 2000 as the most valuable player in the playoffs.

"All of them were very special," he said. "The first one in 1995, I had already been in the league about 14 years, so when it takes that long you start to wonder if it's ever going to happen."

Stevens holds the NHL record for most career playoff games by a defenseman at 233, and was named to 13 All-Star teams.

He retired before training camp last September, saying he had lost his desire to submit to the physical rigors necessary to play in the NHL. He missed the final 44 games of the 2003-2004 NHL season after sustaining a head injury in a game against Pittsburgh, then found during the NHL lockout that he didn't miss the grind.

On Thursday, Stevens said he has enjoyed helping out with his young daughter's ice hockey team and occasionally dropping by Devils practices to offer instruction on a nonofficial basis.

As he reminisced about his career, Stevens recalled a humorous incident from his first training camp with the Capitals. They were playing the Philadelphia Flyers and the 18-year-old Stevens skated over and sat down on the Flyers bench by mistake to start the second period.

"I hear a voice from behind me say, `You just wish you were over here,'" he said. "I looked back and there was Bob McCammon, coach of the Flyers. You never saw a guy get off a bench so quickly."

RANGERS 5, ISLANDERS 2

Martin Straka beat Rick DiPietro on a penalty shot and Kevin Weekes made 23 saves for his first NHL victory in nearly eight weeks as the New York Rangers beat the New York Islanders 5-2 on Thursday.

Straka fired a wrist shot under DiPietro's left arm to give the Rangers a 4-0 lead midway through the second period. The Czech forward was awarded the penalty shot after defenseman Joel Bouchard grabbed him from behind on a breakaway.

Weekes, making his first start in eight games and second in the last 17, improved to 9-2-8 with his first victory since Dec. 10 in St. Louis.

Straka also had two assists, Jaromir Jagr and Steve Rucchin each had a goal and an assist and Fedor Tyutin and Martin Rucinsky added power-play goals to help the Rangers tie Philadelphia for the Atlantic Division lead. Jagr raised his NHL-leading scoring total to 78 with his 34th goal of the season.

Bruins 3, Canadiens 1

At Boston, Glen Murray and Patrice Bergeron scored power-play goals less than two minutes apart and Boston won again behind new starting goalie Tim Thomas.

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