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Devils' due

Hell freezes over in New Jersey victory

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Posted: Wednesday May 31, 2000 09:54 AM


EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- That bit about abandoning all hope may hold in Hades, but on earth even Devils have hope. Emissaries of the Devils, as any Seinfeld fan can tell you, paint their faces in thick layers of black and red. They scream a lot and scare priests to death.

The diabolical creatures were stalking outside the flat-sided Continental Arena before Game 1 in New Jersey. These had not only painted faces but hair dyed half-black half red—only the Devils could make you do that. Some wore horns on their techincolor heads and had faux tails swinging from their behinds. One of these Judases bore a wooden staff crowned by a small model of the Stanley Cup.

Never mind that a sea of Stars stood between them and that Holy Grail, these Devils believed. They believed before the series began, which means their faith goes still deeper after a 7-3 win. After such a game even the favored Stars have to give the Devils their due. “Now we know what we’re in for,” says Dallas forward Kirk Muller.

Speak of the devil –- did you hear the Ozzy Ozbourne blaring out of the Devils’ public address system? Was it Ozzy who cast a spell on the team from Dallas? Or did his jacked-up, crooning voice –- belting out the fiendish Bark at the Moon and the inimitable Crazy Train –- simply serve to further inspire the worshipers?

Why shouldn’t they believe, these Devils? They rose improbably from the hellish Jersey swampland before, in 1995. Then their names were scrawled on the Cup beside those of so many hockey Gods.

How’s this for hope? New Jersey got a goal from the Eternal Devil, Ken Daneyko. He has been a Devil in more playoff games than anyone. His last playoff goal had come way back in that triumphant 1995 rush. Had Daneyko made a Machiavellian pact then? Has he made one now? “I told the boys I was saving a goal for a big occasion,” he said after the game, offering a wicked and toothless grin.

How’s this for a reason to believe? They also got a goal from the Devil Incarnate, Scott Stevens. Already Stevens has claimed the soul of team after team this playoff season. He has spent this springtime knocking the wits out of opposing players’ heads. “It has been fun so far,” said Stevens after the game. He has a pointed goatee that would please Beelzebub.

How’s this to inspire faith? They got goals and dazzling assists from the Unknown Devils, Patrik Elias and Petr Sykora. Everyone in New Jersey—the Devils playground may know these two. But now that they are on a national stage so many new people wonder who they are. Elias and Sykora spend a lot of time shaking hands these days, saying, Pleased to meet you, hope you guess my name.

“We support each other,” says Sykora of he and his mates.

The Devils play in a big white house set on the flat and flatulent Jersey swamp, and at the heart of an asphalt bloodstream. Not far from the arena, power lines and barbed fences mar the otherwise plain landscape. Often, a chemical smell wafts through the air.

Before the series began someone might have asked, When will New Jersey put up seven goals against a team as strong and stingy as Dallas? “When hell freezes over,” would have been a reasonable reply. Maybe it already has. And that gives the Devils every reason to hope.

Related information
Devils run up 7-3 victory on Stars in opener
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