The 77th in our 118-part series.
Ken Daneyko going out a champion
Yesterday’s post about Marty Brodeur scoring a goal got us thinking about those rare nights when Devils games weren’t just about team, but were also spontaneous, joyful celebrations of individual accomplishments. And no single game managed to be that more than Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final in 2003 — the last game of Ken Daneyko’s career. He was the last of the Original Devils, had spent all of his 20 years in the NHL playing for New Jersey, and after having left everything he had on the ice for us over all those years, he was done. He’d been scratched in all of the previous games in that series, and deservedly so, seeing as how Dano had very little left in the tank. But as we nervously took our seats at CAA before the game, and Dano’s name wasn’t included on the list of scratches, a roar went up from the crowd. After the puck dropped, a “Dan-O!” chant would spring up every time he took the ice. The game was close, but no amount of tension tied to our hopes for the Stanley Cup could keep the entire crowd from saluting Dano. And when the final shift wound down, with the game and the Cup wrapped up, Pat Burns sent Dano out on the ice to soak up his due reward: 19,040 fans in full throat, thanking him for a great career, and celebrating the fact that he was walking out a champion. Sure, we were all — of course — deliriously happy over the Stanley Cup just on its own merit, but the moment was made that much sweeter by Dano.