The Devils lost to Tampa Bay last night. Game one of their playoff series. It's been 5 years since the Devils made the playoffs and I know many fans are very excited. These last few years I have not had a chance to watch many Devils games but I have been a fan since the early 80's when they moved to New Jersey from Colorado. Back then they were one of the worst teams in the league. Wayne Gretzky even called New Jersey Devils a "Mickey Mouse" organization after his Edmonton Oilers beat the Devils 13 to 4 back in 1983.
WSUS had a local sports reporter in the 80's and 90's who covered local high school, college and pro sports teams. When I returned to WSUS in 1986 I started to cover New Jersey Devils games for the sports department. I was already the mid day host on the station so I'd leave by 5 and get to the arena by 6. This was strictly voluntary. Our station press pass was a free ticket to the game, a free buffet in the press room and a chance to talk to all the players after the game. We sat in the walkway all the way on top of the Byrne Arena. It was called the "halo."
The Devils were struggling when I was covering them but they had many talented young players. Their names Danyko, MacLean, Muller, Broten and Verbeek are now a part of the Devils history. By the time the 1987 season came around there was genuine excitement. Some nights the team would look great and other nights they would fall apart.
Then the Devils decided to replace long time coach Doug Carpenter with the much more emotional Jim Schoenfeld. Jim was tough in his playing days and we saw a difference in the team right away. One night after a difficult loss to the Washington Capitols a shouting match erupted between the Caps coach and a Devils assistant coach while Schoenfeld was answering questions in the press room. He excused himself and confronted the Caps coach in the hallway. The coach backed down quickly when Schoenfeld appeared. Simply put the Devils would not be kicked around anymore. Under coach Schoenfeld the Devils made the playoffs for the first time that season.
The lesson I learned from the whole experience of being a sports reporter has to do with attitude. After a win the players were always careful not to celebrate for long. Their focus was already the next game. After a loss it was exactly the same. Their focus was doing better for the next game.
As a person who performs everyday on the radio there are good shows and bad shows. Some days are better than others. These hockey players taught me to never dwell on my mistakes or my radio shows that are not up to par. When 10 o'clock comes every morning I put the last show behind me and think about tomorrow. It has made a world of difference to approach every day like it's a fresh start.