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Fan favorite 'Dan-O' sees his No. 3 retired

3/24/2006 - NHL Ken Daneyko New Jersey Devils + more

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.