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Posted: Monday June 05, 2000 02:43 PM

  New Jersey Devils head coach Larry Robinson skates with the team during a practice session. AP

By David Vecsey,

DALLAS -- Tired of hearing about the Reunion Arena ice? Try being Michael Osborne, assistant rink supervisor and Zamboni driver.

Standing, leaning on the boards near the Zamboni entrance while the New Jersey Devils took in a light skate this morning before Game 4 of the Stanley Cup finals, Osborne was never needed to go pull out somebody who had fallen through with a splash. The ice couldn’t be too bad then, right?

“I personally don’t think it’s as bad as everybody’s saying,” said Osborne without a hint of insult or indignation. “The Stars players and coaches have been real supportive and saying nice things about it.

“I don’t think it’s any worse than you’d find in a lot of places this time of year. Besides, we’re in the Stanley Cup finals for the second year in a row ... it couldn’t be too bad out there.”

Hockey in June two years in a row, that’s a Cup finals appearance for every year Osborne has worked on the infamous Reunion Arena ice. But just as he refuses to take blame for anything that happens out there, he also doesn’t acknowledge that coincidence.

“Games are won and lost out there,” he said.

When guessing how many kids grew up in Fort Worth dreaming of driving a Zamboni for a living, one might be a high estimate. But such is the claim of Osborne, who grew up rooting for the Fort Worth Wings in their old Central Hockey League battles with the Dallas Blackhawks.

“Back then that was one of the next levels right under the NHL,” he said. “Those games were really fierce. I remember we had Chico Resch was our goalie.

“We used to play street hockey in Fort Worth, a bunch of us. There was only one place in town where you could get equipment. It’s not like today where there’s hockey stuff in every Wal-Mart. People would pass by us playing in the street and wonder just what the heck we were doing.”

For all the grief he has had to endure over the past few weeks about the condition of the ice, Osborne only looks to the 2001-2002 season, when the Stars will move into the $325 million state-of-the-art American Airlines Center.

“The glass will probably come with us over there, but the ice will be a brand new surface.”

The kids are more than alright

Randy McKay says a lot of things have changed since 1995, when the Devils won their first and only Stanley Cup championship, but the feeling of playing for a title never changes.

“Before the series started it did kind of feel the same [as 1995],” he said. “Dallas is a great team just like Detroit was in ’95. Dallas has a lot of big-name players; Detroit had a lot of big-name players, and we have a lot of young guys who have really yet to make a name for themselves.

“Those young players are stepping up to the forefront and playing exceptionally well. And hopefully we can knock off the big-name team again.”

Those players would include the entire top line for New Jersey -- Jason Arnott, Patrik Elias and Petr Sykora, all of whom have emerged as potential “big-name players” of the very near future.

Another would be Scott Gomez, who is looking to make a rare hockey-double by winning the Calder Trophy as the rookie of the year and winning the Stanley Cup in the same season.

That hasn’t been done since Kent Douglas of Toronto in 1963, back when there were only six teams.

The Devils, of course, have to win two more games, and the Calder Trophy will be awarded on June 14 in Toronto.

Related information
Game 3: Devils regain home-ice edge
Day at a Glance: Monday
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