The playmaking center was a part of New Jersey’s salad days, but also went on to have a fascinating career. The kid from Alaska never forgot where he came from.
After 16 seasons in the NHL, Scott Gomez is hanging up his skates. It’s been a pretty remarkable career for the playmaking center, who kicked things off with a bang in New Jersey and kept scrapping through various ups and downs. But he never forgot his roots.
Gomez, who was born and raised in Anchorage, Alaska, even played high school hockey up there before departing for the BCHL and WHL. When lockouts interrupted his NHL duty, the loyal son would decamp back to Anchorage and suit up for the ECHL’s Alaska Aces (needless to say, he led the league in points and assists back in 2004-05).
His entry to the NHL could not have gone better. Gomez joined a New Jersey Devils franchise in the midst of its best epoch ever and in 2000 he won the Stanley Cup in his rookie campaign. On top of that, his 70 points in the regular season helped him win the Calder Trophy. Gomez became an integral part of those famously defensive Devils and won his second Cup in 2003.
Gomez next made news in the summer of 2007 when he left New Jersey via free agency to join the archrival New York Rangers. Both he and Chris Drury signed mammoth contracts (Gomez earned $10 million the first season alone) and the hope was that New York would get back to championship form. But even with a roster that also included Jaromir Jagr and Henrik Lundqvist, the Rangers couldn’t get it done. Gomez played just two seasons in New York before a controversial trade to Montreal that saw the Canadiens give up a prospect by the name of Ryan McDonagh in return.
Things went no better for Gomez in Montreal and as his career wound down, he jumped to numerous teams on one-year deals or even tryout contracts.
But here’s the thing: Gomez was a nice dude. I had the chance to interview him a couple of times and if memory serves me, he was one of the first NHLers I ever got on the phone. He was always fun to talk to and gracious with his time.
Many hockey fans outside of New Jersey will probably remember the bad contract and the devastating trade fallout, but none of that should really reflect on Gomez: he went out and played hockey every day. Market conditions landed him big money in New York and a deft move by Rangers GM Glen Sather put the hurt on the Habs in the McDonagh trade.
Gomez retires as a two-time champion and a proud Alaskan who still lives in Anchorage. All in all, it’s a pretty good legacy.