Fan favorite 'Dan-O' sees his No. 3 retired
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Growing up in Edmonton, Ken Daneyko used to carry around a garbage can and pretend it was the Stanley Cup, little knowing that one day he would hoist the genuine article three times and etch his name in NHL history.
The New Jersey Devils raised Daneyko's No. 3 jersey to the rafters in Continental Airlines Arena on Friday night before their game against the Boston Bruins, honoring a player who rode out the lean times in the franchise's early years and reaped the glories during its heyday.
Before he walked out on the ice to a four-minute standing ovation that turned into chants of "Dan-o! Dan-o!" the scoreboard screen showed highlights of the gap-toothed Daneyko carrying the Stanley Cup -- the real one -- with the Devils in 1995, '00 and '03.
He was described as "a guy who wasn't the best skater, wasn't the best stickhandler" but managed to play 20 NHL seasons, win three Stanley Cups and play in a team-record 1,283 regular season games.
Daneyko recalled answering the phone as an 18-year-old to find out he'd been drafted and then nearly forgetting to ask which team. When he found it was New Jersey, he realized he had no idea where New Jersey was.
"It didn't matter because I would have run 3,000 miles from Edmonton just to get an opportunity to play," he said.
Daneyko was the second Devils player to have his number retired by a franchise that had not bestowed the honor on anyone until earlier this month when former defenseman Scott Stevens had his No. 4 retired.
Daneyko had been with the Devils for nine seasons before Stevens arrived in 1991 and had endured a stretch that included just two seasons with a record of better than .500. But the two defensemen became bulwarks of a team that would win three Stanley Cups in a span of nine years.
"I knew in my heart that one day we would turn it around and we'd do something special here," Daneyko said Friday.
Daneyko, who will turn 42 next month, had 36 goals, 142 assists and more than 2,500 penalty minutes. He once played in 388 consecutive games, another team record, and he is one of only five players to have been a part of all three of New Jersey's Stanley Cup championship teams. The others are Stevens, Scott Niedermayer and current Devils Sergei Brylin and Martin Brodeur.
Daneyko choked up when he gave his thanks to late Devils owner John McMullen, who supported Daneyko in 1997 when he left the Devils to confront an alcohol-abuse problem.
Daneyko also displayed his sense of humor when he nearly dropped an expensive piece of crystal given to him by current Devils owner Jeff Vanderbeek, blaming it on his bad hands. Later, he said, "That pretty well summed my career: fumbled it, but made a great recovery."
After leaving the ice to repeat chants of his name, Daneyko offered a theory of why he became such a popular player with the fans.
"I think I was a blue-collar guy, and I think the state of New Jersey thinks of itself as that," he said.
Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press