New Jersey NHL franchise in the NHL's Atlantic Division. Winners of 3 Stanley Cups in 1995, 2000, and 2003. They play out at the Continental Airlines Arena (formerly the Meadowlands arena, and before that the Brendan Byrne Arena). The Devils are expected to move to a new arena in Newark, New Jersey for the 2007-2008 season.
The team was formed from the ashes of the defunct Colorado Rockies and Kansas City Scouts franchises. They relocated to NJ in 1982, with their new name chosen by fan vote. As many expansion teams do, the Devils struggled in their first few seasons. In their second season they engaged in a turtle race with fellow bottom-feeders the Pittsburgh Penguins with consensus top draft pick Mario Lemieux as the prize. The Pens out-sucked the Devils (with the Pens widely thought to have thrown their final games) leaving the Devils to select Kirk Muller at #2.
In the 1986-87 season the Devils hired Lou Lamoriello as their new President and General Manager, a role he would hold for at least 20 seasons. This was the move that would ultimately pay off with a rise to respectability for the franchise.
The following season saw the Devils squeak into their first post-season run. They made a surprising run to the Prince of Wales Conference (Eastern) finals. After game 3 of the series, coach Jim Schoenfeld famously chased down referee Don Koharski in the hall and questioned his judgment on several calls. Contact ensued, Koharski slipped, and felt he was pushed. Schoenfeld demurred: "You fell, you fat pig. Have another doughnut." Schoenfeld received a 1-game suspension. The Devils obtained a restraining order setting aside the suspension, and in protest the NHL refereeing crew boycotted the following game, forcing the use of stand-in officials. The Devils won that game but ultimately lost the series to Boston.
In the lead up to the 1991-92 season a critical piece of the on-ice puzzle fell into place. Losing star forward Brendan Shanahan to the St. Louis Blues via restricted free agency, the Devils obtain blueliner Scott Stevens in compensation in a complex arbitration hearing.
Two years later in 1993-94, the Devils began to show a dominant defensive style built around Stevens rookie 'tender Martin Brodeur. Also prominent was a new style of play promoted by former Habs star and new coach Jacques Lemaire, the soon-to-be-universally-loathed Neutral Zone Trap. It led the Devils to an 106-point regular season and another run to the Eastern Conference finals, this time versus the New York Rangers. In a battle of young goalies who would dominate the next decade, the Broadway Blueshirts' Mike Richter outdeulled Brodeur and the Rangers moved on.
1994-95's strike-shortened season saw the Devils, the Trap, and destiny come together. Brushing aside rumours that the franchise was looking for a new home (as leverage to rebuild their arena), the team comfortably made the playoffs. Thwarting in order stronger offensive teams from Boston, Pittsburgh, and Philadelphia took the Devils to their first Stanley Cup finals. They faced the Detroit Red Wings. Conventional wisdom at the time had the Western conference the dominant part of the league, and a walkover by the Wings was widely expected. Instead the Devils beat down the Wings with the Trap and swept to a four-game Cup victory.
The Cup champs ignominiously missed the playoffs the following season. The three seasons after that saw strong regular season play but indifferent playoff results. The 94-95 victory began to look like a blip.
Then in 1999-2000 the Devils returned to form under another former Hab star turned coach, Larry Robinson. Playoff highlights included a second-round Trap humiliation of the Toronto Maple Leafs in which the Buds were held to only 6 shots in the entirety of game 6, a post-expansion NHL record of futility. Next up in the Eastern finals were the Flyers. Highlight of this series was a crushing Scott Stevens hit on Eric Lindros, which is a perennial highlight pack favourite and a career highlight/low point of the respective players. The Devils prevailed and faced the Dallas Stars in a gruelling 7-game final which featured a triple-overtime game 6 victory by the Stars, and then a Devils win in double-OT game 7 to take the Cup once again.
The following season, 2000-2001, saw a team-record 111-point regular season, and another return to the Stanley Cup Finals. The Cup series featured a new battle of iconic goaltenders: Brodeur versus 'Saint' Patrick Roy. Roy and the Colorado Avalanche would prevail in 7 games that year.
After the poor start the next year, Larry Robinson was dismissed. The Devils again made the playoffs but were bumped by the Carolina Hurricanes during that club's premature and improbable Cup finals run.
Next came 2002-2003 and a strong run to the Cup Finals under yet another coach with a Canadiens history, former Habs bench boss Pat Burns. Their playoff run went past the Bruins, Tampa Bay Lightning, and regular-season champs the Ottawa Senators in the Eastern final. Their Cup opponent was another "what the heck?" story, the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim who had ridden hot goalie Jean-Sebastien Giguere to the Finals. A long back-and-forth series was settled in Game 7 by Brodeur as he shut out the Ducks to seal the victory.
In the 2003-2004 regular season defensive mainstay Stevens went down with a serious concussion. Just before the playoffs, Pat Burns left the team to battle cancer. This left the Devils without touchstones, vulnerable to a superior Flyers team who brushed them aside in the playoffs.
Team colours: Red, black, and white (the nasty green was retired). The team logo, an interlocked NJ with devil's horns and a forked tail on the J, is a timeless classic of logo design. Could it be ... Satan? Possibly, but the name comes from NJ unofficial state monster, the Jersey Devil.
AHL affiliate: The Lowell Lock Monsters (starting in 2006-2007).
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