Former Devils defenseman Bruce Driver talks about his Stanley Cup runs and his old roommate, Ken Daneyko.
Status: NHL defenseman from 1983-1998 for New Jersey Devils and New York Rangers. President of the Devils Alumni Association. Part-owner/President/General manager of Twin Oaks Ice Rink in Morristown, NJ. Coach of the Morristown-Beard girls ice hockey team for sixteen seasons.
DOB: April 29, 1962 In: Etobicoke, Ontario
First Hockey Memory: “Probably learning to skate. I have an older brother (Gary) two years older and my father (Gord) played a little bit. We grew up in Toronto. My brother started playing and my dad was coaching and I wanted to get on the ice. I remember pushing a steel chair with full equipment on when I was three. By four I was on a team with my brother. I remember that first shift of that first game was pretty fearful. The ref picked me up and put me in the ice and I essentially stood there for two minutes. I remember in the team photo I looked like the team mascot [smiles].”
Hockey Inspirations: “I wanted to do everything my brother did. My father coached the Toronto Marlies in Junior B, he coached Steve Thomas and Adam Oates. I just wanted to be like my brother and enjoy the sport.”
Greatest Sports Moment: “You’d have to say winning the Stanley Cup (’95). And having the chance to represent your country in the Olympics in 1984 was a huge honor and thrill. To live out your dream and win the ultimate prize is one memory that sticks out as being the biggest milestone.”
Most Painful Moment: “Well I would probably have to say losing in the Conference Finals the year before we won the Stanley Cup. We had played extremely well that whole playoff run. We were ahead in that series against the Rangers. It was extremely disappointing. From a mental standpoint it was tough to get through. But it was a terrific learning experience. We came back and won the Stanley Cup the next year.”
Favorite Uniforms: “I probably have to say Toronto Maple Leafs – great jersey. And the Devils uniform has been symbolic here in the state of New Jersey as the Devils are the only team in the state that uses New Jersey in it’s team name. Many people had a problem with the red/green/white color combination – I did not. Then it went to red/black/white. I liked both of the uniforms.”
Favorite Rinks To Play: “I liked all the old buildings. Some of the older rinks were small and not very friendly to defensemen – they would dump the puck in and run you over. Boston Garden. Maple Leaf Gardens. Montreal Forum. Chicago Stadium was maybe the loudest. Madison Square Garden was very loud. It seemed the smaller buildings had the louder noise levels.”
Most Memorable Goal(s): “Probably the first one. Ironically, it was in Toronto. Making it even more special because it was in front of family and friends. The game was broadcast on a Saturday night ‘Hockey Night In Canada.’ Scored against Allan Bester. I was able to score a fair amount of goals as a defenseman in my career (96 in regular season / 10 in the playoffs) and I had two-goal games but I never had that hat trick game. Also had a few big goals in the playoffs.”
Funniest Players Encountered: “Well, my roommate off and on and teammate for twelve years – Kenny Daneyko. We were dubbed ‘Felix and Oscar’ from ‘The Odd Couple’ – you can probably figure out who was who. Kenny was just a great teammate. Always kept the locker room loose. We’re very close today, I work with him alumni-wise and in the community. He’s been through a lot but he’s a great person with a big heart. He’s doing a great job as the Devils TV analyst since taking over for Chico Resch.”
Strangest Game: “We had a huge snowstorm in 1987. We were playing the Calgary Flames. Any time there’s a big snowstorm, it’s always an advantage for the visiting team because they can all bus together to the rink from the hotel which was just a few miles away from the team hotel. The home team players have to drive to the rink from all over. I think the Flames got to the Brendan Byrne Arena at 3:30. I got there at 4:30. The game was scheduled for 7:30. But a lot of guys were disregarding the weather reports. Since so many of our players were late we didn’t start the game until 9 o’clock when our 20th player walked into the locker room. I remember the stories of some of the guys trying to get to the rink. Peter McNab said he walked along the New Jersey Turnpike to get there. Doug Sulliman was supposed to be scratched but he was there and ended up playing and scored a hat trick that night. I think there was 334 fans at the game. Those fans ended up forming a club. That was one game that was memorable. To hear the stories of the guys trying to get to the rink after the game was unbelievable.”
Least Favorite Arenas To Play: “We only played there for a season – that San Jose Sharks arena (Cow Palace) was just odd. The locker room was far away from the ice. It was an odd set up. I didn’t dislike any arenas because once you’re on the ice you just play. As much as I loved Chicago Stadium you had to walk straight down those steps after you played. It was amazing that any guys didn’t fall. The Aud in Buffalo – they would jack up the heat in the locker room of the visiting teams, especially in the spring during the playoffs. The original rink in Tampa was different too. The seats were all pushed up and there was all kinds of space behind those seats. The rink was okay but it was odd the way the seats were set up because the building was so big.”
Funny Hockey Memory: “I would have to say – it goes back to my roommate being the comedian that he was – Ken Daneyko. In the last game of the season in 1987-88 in Chicago we knew what we had to do. The Rangers won their game earlier that day. We knew if we beat Chicago we’d win the tiebreaker with the Rangers and it would be the first time the Devils would qualify for the playoffs. We were behind in the third and ended up tying it and then won the game in overtime on John MacLean’s goal. A lot of people forget that Ken scored a huge goal in that game for us. After he scored that goal he came back to the bench and said to Schoeny (Coach Jim Schoenfeld), ‘Schoeny, you have to take me out of the game, I’m so nervous. I can’t play, take me off!’ He had just scored a goal that meant so much to our team and our organization. We didn’t know what to say to him. He was not known as a goal scoring defenseman or an offensive threat but he scored that goal and also ended up having an assist on John MacLean’s game-winner.”
People Qualities Most Admired: “I think honesty and caring people. I feel lucky that we had those qualities instilled in us growing up.”
Mark “Scoop” Malinowski is the author of “Facing Federer” and “Facing Nadal.” He’s currently finishing “Facing McEnroe” and “Facing Probert.”