The 35th in our 118-part series.
Egregious Giveaways that Make You Go “Wha-huh?”
Reason 34 caused a bit of confusion, what with “giveaway” having a surprising number of definitions to a hockey-centric vocabulary. Today we’re celebrating the turnover giveaway, in particular the “Hey Ace!” goal. For a number of years there, Devils fans were treated to two styles of takeaways. The first was Nieder coming out of nowhere to rob a guy on a clear breakaway with just a deft swipe of his stick and an implied “yoink!”. The second was Stevens coming out of nowhere to bowl a guy over, setting up a forward to swoop in to pick the puck up from next to the prone opponent. But the best takeaway ever was the giveaway to end all giveaways. To set the scene, the year was 2001. The Devils had made it to the Eastern Conference Final, beating Carolina in 6 and beating Toronto in a nasty, dirty, hard-fought series. They were matching up with a Jagr-Lemieux Penguins team that seemed a bit over their heads, even without having to deal with Neider on the blue line. We have no actual recollection of which game it was, but late enough in the series that the Devils were pretty well in control of the ECF, and late in a game that the Devils were winning, John Madden, second year player and punk extraordinaire, skated up behind Mario and shouted, “Hey, Ace!” And viola! Perfect First-Ballot-Hall-of-Famer pass goes right from Lemiuex’s stick to Madden’s. In our memories, Madden promptly then scored. (He may not have, for all we know. Monday nights are not a good time for fact-checking at IPB Manor, sorry folks.)
Now, we should probably frown on such an obvious display of poor sportsmanship. If the role of John Madden had been played by that fictional paragon of fair play Horatio Hornblower, Madden would have spent the rest of the playoffs beating himself up for being an ass. But there are circumstances when we’re not only content to overlook our respect for fairness in all things, we’re happy to celebrate the punkiest of plays. And if that means shouting a hearty “Hey, Ace!” whenever Mario’s on the TV, well… we can do that.