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' Dad ' rules the roost


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#1 Rock

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Posted 10 October 2003 - 07:03 AM

'Dad' rules the roost
http://www.northjers...2Y3dnFlZUVFeXk2

Wednesday, October 8, 2003

By TOM GULITTI
STAFF WRITER



WEST ORANGE - Imagine your father taking on the schoolyard bully.

Less than six months shy of 40 and about to begin his 22nd NHL season tonight in Boston, Scott Stevens is more like an older brother to his Devils' teammates, but they call him "Dad," so the analogy isn't far off.

Regardless, he is the Devils' captain and unquestioned leader. And, on Sept. 26 in Philadelphia, he provided yet another example why.

Flyers' enforcer Donald Brashear spent most of the preseason game that night trying to take out smaller Devils Brian Gionta and Aleksander Suglobov. Brashear already had angered the Devils three nights before by punching right wing Grant Marshall while he was on his back.

By the third period, Stevens had seen enough. So when Brashear carried the puck over the Devils' blue line with his head down, Stevens tucked in his right arm and prepared to deliver a crushing blow.

"He had been running around a bit the last few games and I had a chance to hit him, which is what I like to do," Stevens explained.

Brashear saw Stevens coming in time avoid joining Eric Lindros and Slava Kozlov on his knockout list. Still, Brashear was sent spinning to the ice and wasn't happy. He got up, skated over to Stevens, and sought a fight.

These days, Stevens rarely fights, but, after some urging from Brashear, he dropped his gloves. Brashear, who does this sort of thing for a living, won. Stevens more than held his own, though, and sent a message to both Brashear and his teammates:

The Devils won't back down from a challenge.

"It was amazing," Devils' left wing Jay Pandolfo said. "I don't know how to explain it. He's just a warrior. It's unreal. He doesn't fight like those guys, but he's not afraid to take on anyone. That shows the type of leadership he has. It's incredible."

Not that Stevens' leadership was in question. Not after he helped the Devils win their third Stanley Cup in nine years in June.

There are no doubts about his toughness either. After all, this is the man who returned to play in Game 4 of the Eastern Conference semifinals in Tampa Bay after nearly having his ear taken off by the puck 48 hours before.

So, he could have skated away from Brashear with no fear of damaging his reputation. But he fought him anyway.

"You knew he was going to come back," Devils' coach Pat Burns said. "He never backs down from a challenge. It's not just a question that he won't back down, because that's in your nature. That's all part of it. When you have that inside you, you can't teach that to a guy."

The competitive fire still burns brightly inside Scott Stevens. He could walk away from the game and into the Hockey Hall of Fame without playing another shift. He'll go down as one of the game's best defensive defensemen and most feared hitters.

But Stevens wants more. He's in excellent shape physically, the result of a strict diet and countless hours of off-ice conditioning.

Even after a long playoff run and a short summer, he can't wait for the opening faceoff tonight.

"When you come to game time, it really doesn't change," Stevens said. "It's exciting. It's a good challenge and I look forward to it."

Training camp and the preseason gave Stevens an opportunity to see the future of the Devils, and he was excited by what he saw, particularly from rookie defensemen David Hale and Paul Martin, who both survived Monday's final cuts.

"It's nice to see that," he said. "It's nice to have some young guys around that you can help and pass along some of your experience to and try to help them get in the league. That's fun."

Which begs the question: Could coaching be Stevens' next challenge?

"I don't know," Stevens said. "I love teaching and I love the game. I like what I've learned. I guess I'd probably enjoy it, so we'll see. I would probably take a little bit of time off and then come back to it afterwards. We'll see. I do enjoy the game."

Stevens realizes that the end of his playing career is near. He has two more years remaining on his contract, but with the NHL's collective bargaining agreement scheduled to expire Sept. 15, next season could be lost altogether. He's not sure how a long layoff would affect him.

"Maybe the extra rest would help and you would come back recharged," he suggested. "I don't know."

The uncertainty is enough for him to at least acknowledge the possibility that this season could be his last.

"You don't take anything for granted, especially as long as I've been around," Stevens said. "I don't expect to play forever. Injuries are a possibility. Anything could happen. You just approach the season and you work hard and hopefully you stay injury-free.

It will be interesting to see what happens with [the CBA]. Hopefully, that's resolved quickly. I think they're talking, which is important, and we'll see what happens from there.

"There's too many scenarios in my situation [that] could happen."

For now, he's focusing on the season ahead and the Devils' bid to repeat as Stanley Cup champions.

He'll take on the other challenges as they present themselves.

"In this room and when we're out on the ice, he's our leader," Devils' defenseman Colin White said. "Whatever direction we're going, we've just got to follow him."
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#2 msweet

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Posted 10 October 2003 - 09:27 AM

Lou's plan in action.....

"It's nice to see that," he said. "It's nice to have some young guys around that you can help and pass along some of your experience to and try to help them get in the league. That's fun."


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"Quite frankly, all the players are getting paid too much and all the contracts are too long," general manager Lou Lamoriello said. "But if you want to compete in this market and you want to win, there are some things you have to do."


#3 Pando's ChiCk

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Posted 10 October 2003 - 04:32 PM

"He had been running around a bit the last few games and I had a chance to hit him, which is what I like to do," Stevens explained.


Haha.. Gotta love him.
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