2007 Hockey Hall of Fame -- Scott Stevens bio
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Stevens enjoying retirement
By Scott BurnsideIf Scott Stevens was a tree, he would be a great oak.
Immovable, towering, constant, silent, but packing one heck of a wallop.
It was so during his 1,635 regular-season NHL games and it's still so now that he has retired and is headed to the Hockey Hall of Fame.
Those qualities are merely reflected by the fact that he has not moved on to something else since he played his last game midway through the 2003-04 season.
Stevens describes himself as "busy." And although he imagines a life with more hockey in it in the future, he's not entirely sure what that life might look like.
"I guess I see myself back in some capacity. I guess I'm not sure in what area, though," Stevens told ESPN.com.
He admits it's still a little odd to walk into the Devils' practice facility, but that's to be expected after 22 years of NHL play.
Stevens has three children ranging in age from 11-17, and all attend different schools. There are field hockey and lacrosse practices, and for the past three years, Stevens has kept his hand in the game by helping out with his hometown high school hockey team.
"I miss the playing part, but I guess I don't miss all the stuff that leads up to that," Stevens said.
With three Stanley Cup rings, a Conn Smythe Trophy as playoff MVP in 2000 and a host of All-Star Game appearances and other accolades to his credit, Stevens is almost mythic in his stature.
He is the first of the New Jersey greats to go to the Hall and the first to have his number retired by the team. He will certainly be followed by Scott Niedermayer (now in Anaheim) and Martin Brodeur. But there is something symbolic about Stevens being the first.
He came to the Devils reluctantly, part of a compensatory package assigned to the Devils on the eve of the 1991-92 season after St. Louis signed Brendan Shanahan away from New Jersey. Stevens came as an offensive machine with a short fuse and transformed himself into one of the most feared hitters in the game's history and, along with fellow Hall inductee Mark Messier, one of the most respected leaders in the game. A year after his arrival in New Jersey, he was named captain and held that post until he retired.
"He was, to a certain extent, the biggest part of our success," Brodeur told ESPN.com in a recent interview.
Every time the Devils went into an opposing building, they didn't have to worry about being intimidated. They went in with confidence knowing it was their opponents who were going to be fearful knowing Stevens was lining up on the opposing blue line.
Having Stevens on the ice affected how opposing players chose to play, where they chose to go. As a result, Brodeur developed a style of play and confidence that was, in some ways, a reflection of Stevens' presence.
"He had a big effect on my career," Brodeur said. "There were a lot of things I didn't have to worry about when he was on the ice. If he wasn't there, who knows what might have happened to me?
"He was as good as it gets."
The relationship is symbiotic and the same question could be asked of Stevens -- if no Brodeur, what then? But Stevens' presence transcended the ordinary for virtually his entire stay in New Jersey.
Former coach Larry Robinson, now an assistant in New Jersey and a Hockey Hall of Fame defenseman himself, recalled that he never really told Stevens that he'd done something wrong. And he didn't do it right after it happened. After an appropriate cooling-off time, Robinson would come down the bench and suggest that maybe next time, Stevens might consider handling a situation a different way.
"Scotty was so intense, you had to pick your spots. I think he learned over the years to control his emotions," Robinson said.
The funny thing was, over time, Robinson would see Stevens giving the same advice to a young defenseman. Robinson recalled that Stevens hated to get scored on, even in practice. "When he came to practice, he practiced like he played," Robinson said.
Longtime Devils center Scott Gomez recalled his first exhibition game with the Devils. During the pregame skate, Stevens glided up to Gomez and asked him, in all seriousness, if he is familiar with the defensive zone.
"I'm like, 'Wow. Scott Stevens is talking to me,'" Gomez recalled.
Later, before Gomez's first regular-season home game, Gomez went to the players' lounge shortly before the game and picked up a copy of People magazine. Stevens came in and saw Gomez leafing through the magazine and looked at him with disgust.
"He just looked at me and then he called all the guys in," Gomez recalled.
Gomez quickly learned that Stevens' pregame rituals didn't include a few quiet moments with People.
Stevens loves the outdoors and continues to indulge in his passion for bow hunting. Gomez recalled hunting turkeys with Stevens. Even though Gomez had grown up in Alaska, he admits he was more comfortable with fish than fowl, and was a bit squeamish about picking up their kill. Finally, Stevens fixed Gomez with a steely look.
"'Gomer, pick up the birds. Now,'" Gomez recalled Stevens barking. "It was like being out with my dad, Scotty standing there with this look of disgust on his face."
Robinson remembered the 2000 Eastern Conference finals, when the Devils were down 3-1 in the series vs. the Flyers. It was the series in which Stevens leveled Eric Lindros with one of the most emphatic checks of all time.
"There we are, down 3-1, and then all of a sudden in a big game, we're right on the edge," Robinson said. "And I remember the hit happening and the guys standing up on the bench and Bobby Holik looked at me and said, 'You know what? We're going to win this thing.'"
Holik was right. Lindros' career was never the same and the Devils came back to win the series en route to their second Stanley Cup. Stevens was named playoff MVP.
In terms of commitment to the game, the team, his teammates, his family, "you just can't go any higher [than Stevens]," team president and GM Lou Lamoriello said. "No matter how many words you might use to describe it, you would never do it justice."
Lamoriello recalled how Stevens took young Zach Parise under his wing one spring when Parise wasn't yet in the Devils' playoff lineup. Stevens skated with Parise and then brought the young forward home to have dinner with his family.
"To this day, Zach has not forgotten that and he never will," Lamoriello said. "You can go on and on with stories like that.
"Whether it's been on the ice, off the ice, family-wise, Scott Stevens is the name that you'd mention. He's a prototype Devil."
Can Brodeur imagine Stevens behind the bench some day?
"He's such a serious guy, so I think he could be one of 'them' easy," Brodeur said with a smile. "You could see he's got that seriousness. He's got that passion about the game. But he's a guy that loves his retirement life right now."
Lamoriello said the door is always open for Stevens whenever he decides what he'd like to do. He thinks Stevens would make an outstanding coach, "if that's the route he wants to go."
Whatever route that might be, Lamoriello hopes it will take him through Newark. "He's a Devil," Lamoriello said.
Stevens seems to share those sentiments.
"We're going to make our home here," he said. "So, no question about that. It would definitely be something with the Devils."
Scott Burnside is the NHL writer for ESPN.com.
• Teams: Washington (1982-90), St. Louis (1990-91) and New Jersey (1991-2004)
• Games: 1,635
• Goals: 196
• Assists: 712
• Points: 908
• PIMs: 2,785
• After spending his early seasons with the Capitals and Blues, Stevens made a name for himself with the Devils, winning three Stanley Cups with New Jersey.
The hitting. Some of the biggest hits we've ever seen. Knocking out Paul Kariya, Eric Lindros and fellow Hall inductee Ron Francis. Stevens was just a terrorizing hitter. But let's not forget, he's also a tremendous defensive defenseman, who also had a 20-goal season once in those early days in Washington. Still, the hitting is a lot of us will remember most.
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