In this week’s Getting To Know, New Jersey Devils GM Ray Shero recounts the joy of victory in the Stanley Cup final, recalls being at the infamous game where the Russian national team skated off the ice mid-contest and tells a hilarious story of a superhero streaker.
Status: General Manager of New Jersey Devils. Former GM of Pittsburgh Penguins and assistant GM for Ottawa Senators (1993-98) and Nashville (’98-06) Predators. Drafted by Los Angeles Kings as a center with #216 overall pick in ’82.
DOB: July 28, 1962 In: St. Paul, Minnesota
First Hockey Memory: “Oh man, obviously, when I was growing up, born in St. Paul, MN, my dad (Hall of Fame coach Fred) was coaching the Fighting Saints there. Also skating on the pond in White Bear Lake. And probably in Omaha when I was six and skating at the old Ak-Sar-Ben Arena, my dad was coaching them on ice back then. Those are probably my earliest memories of being around, and, of course, before he came here to Philadelphia in ’71, so a lot of good memories growing up. And I remember St. Paul and Omaha right away.”
Hockey Inspirations: “I think my father and I’ve got a brother (Jean-Paul) and he and I were always passionate about hockey and always wanted to go to practice. He wasn’t so much – he went to Boston University and got his degree in economics, I went to St. Lawrence, I never followed the economics path in terms of where he went. But my dad never pushed us, to hockey or anything, just what we wanted to do. But I always wanted to go to practice and luckily he’d always take me. So I guess he would be my biggest influence growing up. But once I got here, everybody, from the trainers – I remember all the trainers from when I was a little kid – who always treated me so well. And actually, just about two months ago, (I) ran into Jim McKenzie who was a trainer here for a long time. Ran into him in Lake Placid. So it was great to see him because he took care of me when I was a little kid, so always good times with him.”
Last Book Read: “I’ll have to think about that one . . . because I read two when we were on vacation right before training camp. But it was James Patterson or something like that, they keep rolling into one. I’ll have to pass. I’ll have to think about it. I could have read War & Peace last year [smiles].”
Greatest Sports Moment(s): “My career…winning the Cup I think, in ’09. But even that as probably a GM – I was assistant GM for fourteen years. Greatest thing would probably be winning the Cup … just the greatest moment is being around the game and being around the guys. They say in the locker room as a player – well, I never played in the NHL, so, to me, it’s like being around the scouts and the people in the game. And that, to me, is the greatest thing, for me. Because I was out last year but I was around some work for USA Hockey. The best thing, for me, is just being involved in the game..”
Most Painful Moment: “Probably as a GM, losing to Detroit in Game Six in ’08. They had a really, really good team. Fortunately, we had another chance in ’09 to play and luckily beat them. They were a really good team. That was disappointing. Probably, actually as a GM, one of the series we had here with Philadelphia. They beat us in six games. I think we were a better team than we played. And it was a wild series for the fans, not so much for the GM of a losing team. [chuckles] I can tell you.”
Most Memorable Goal: “As a fan there’s two of them – Rick MacLeish against Boston. And Bobby Clarke against Boston. These two for sure … most memorable goals. There’s lots. I’d have to say in the same series against Detroit, as a GM, Max Talbot scored the second one, because we won it 3-1, that was the winning goal.”
Why Do You Love Hockey: “Probably just growing up around it. And like I said, I was passionate about it as a kid, always wanted to be around it, whether it was playing or being at the rink, skating before practice, skating after practice, hanging around helping the trainers. I don’t know. It’s something … I couldn’t wait for The Hockey News to come once a week. The Hockey News would come. I couldn’t wait to see The Hockey News. I don’t know. Just being around it, just being passionate about it, which I’m not sure is good or bad [chuckles].”
Strangest Game: “Lotta ones growing up I guess. Obviously, the Russian game, I was at that when they walked off the ice. That was strange. That’s been told many times over. But I was at that one. I wasn’t at the game but I was twelve years old in ’75 but the Fog game, obviously, to watch on TV. That was a strange game to me as well. Then as GM, back in the old Mellon Arena, we had a player Nils Ekman was playing for us. And back in the old Mellon Arena, I’ve never seen this before. Both benches are across from the locker rooms. And so Nils Ekman was by the corner – where the dressing room is for the Penguins. He got hit there in the game and dislocated his elbow. And the play is going up ice and he started knocking on the door where our backup goalie Jocelyn Thibault was, and Thibault jumps up and just opens the door, he goes flying off in the locker room or the medical room. So the game is still going on, so the next left winger jumped on the ice and we got called for too many men on the ice. Nils Ekman is in the locker room [chuckles]. I didn’t even know that was a rule. So that was a strange one I tell people when I think of it. So… but I’m sure there’s many more.”
Funny Hockey Memory: “Just lots of on ice stuff, off ice … we’re in Philly – I was telling the story the other day – I think it was the first parade, I was twelve years old. And back then all the players were in the convertibles. Well, the families were in buses. Back then, remember streaking was in? We’re moving along in the parade and this guy, he was almost like Spider-Man, butt naked, jumps on the bus, spread eagle on the bus. We’re like, ‘What the heck?’ The bus driver has seen this more than once. He just casually threw on his windshield wipers and knocked the poor guy right off and that was one of the … I mean, I was twelve years old, we’re like, ‘What the heck?’ This guy’s got no clothes, he just got thrown off the bus by a windshield wiper. That was funny.”
Funniest Players Encountered: “Billy Guerin, when we had him in Pittsburgh. Very serious player when it came to play the game. But in terms of just a great sense of humor and a good person – a lot of guys said that, who played with him – he played with a number of teams and won a number of Stanley Cups – but a lot of players said he could be the funniest guy going. Maybe before him, Marc Bergevin. But Billy Guerin, when he was with Pittsburgh and I was still there with management, he’s a really, really funny guy and a good person. Knew when to be funny but also knew when to play, which he did really well.”
People Qualities Most Admired: “I like people that are passionate about what they do. Whether you’re in hockey, driving the Zamboni tonight or what you do. If you’re passionate about it, that’s really important, in terms of how you approach life. And I like passionate people. And everyone likes honest people but you assume people are honest but you can’t assume people are passionate. So they are both qualities to have. I like people that are passionate about what they are doing because it rubs off on other people. And not everybody can be like that because maybe their life or their job is not really what it is, but again, it could be anything you do. Positive people. Work ethic – three factors that are important. But passion, to me, is, in terms of what you do, is important.”
Mark Scoop Malinowski’s latest books “Facing Nadal” and “Muhammad Ali: Portrait of a Champion” are available at Amazon.