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Integrity, responsibility, respect define Gionta

Thursday, 03.19.2009 / 8:00 PM / Hockey's Finest Presented by Army

By John McGourty - NHL.com Staff Writer

The first lesson Brian Gionta learned when joining the New Jersey Devils' organization is team goals and aspirations come before the goals and aspirations of the individual.

The Devils just celebrated a personal milestone as Martin Brodeur broke the record for most career victories. But as Brodeur was quick to tell everyone, he didn't break the record by himself. It was a perfect example of the philosophy espoused by Lou Lamoriello, New Jersey's president and general manager, namely that through team success the person also enjoys success.

Is it a philosophy that works?

"Absolutely. Especially here," Gionta told NHL.com. "There are a lot of guys who have played together for a long time. We know each other. It ties into all these qualities.

"You're selfless because you know that you respect the guy next to you. You know he's giving you all he can give. I think that selfless manner is what makes team sports much more different than individual sports. You rely on that guy to come to work for you and his agenda is for the team, not for himself."

Which brings us to a byproduct of being selfless – loyalty. When a player sees a teammate sacrificing for the good of the team, loyalty is a natural result.

"Loyalty goes into being a good teammate. If you're a good teammate, you're a lot more trusted out there by your teammates," Gionta said. "If you make a mistake, they know you're working as hard as you can and they know they can rely on you when they have that loyalty and that friendship that's been built up. It makes things on the playing field much easier to get through when there's adversity."

Gionta saw that point illustrated in the game in which Brodeur surpassed Patrick Roy's record for most career victories. Also reaching a milestone in that game was teammate Patrik Elias, whose 702nd point, reached on an assist to a Gionta goal, made him the Devils' all-time leading point producer. Elias had several great scoring chances against Chicago goalie Nikolai Khabibulin, but had been denied each time. On the shorthanded break that produced the milestone point, Elias didn't think to shoot, he passed to Gionta and was rewarded for his effort.

"You're selfless because you know that you respect the guy next to you. You know he's giving you all he can give. I think that selfless manner is what makes team sports much more different than individual sports. You rely on that guy to come to work for you and his agenda is for the team, not for himself."
-- Brian Gionta

"You are accountable as a teammate," Gionta said. "You are accountable to the coaches and to management. It's your duty to do what you're asked to do. Duty is coming to the rink every day. You know you're here to work and to make yourself better and your teammates around you better. It's your duty to come in and do your job and present yourself in a respectful manner."

Respect is a huge part of what makes Gionta and the Devils successful and respect goes beyond the team dressing room.

"It's the complete package," Gionta said. "You've got to respect the fans. They're coming here giving you a living. You're afforded to play a game that you love. You respect the management's business decisions. It's nothing personal. Same thing with the coaching staff: You respect the years that they've put in as far as coaching and learning the game. And you give them the respect to learn from them and grow as a player."

Honor also ranks very highly with Gionta. He was a member of the 2001 NCAA champion Boston College team, along with Devil teammate Scott Clemmensen, and they were runners-up the year before, when Devil defenseman Mike Mottau was part of the team. That was a great honor, a great achievement, but Gionta said honor is something that you carry deep inside you, regardless of achievements or lack thereof.

"Honor comes along with honoring the name on the back of your jersey. That's the name of your family and you always honor that and respect that," Gionta said. "You want a good legacy and you don't want to disappoint that last name. Your grandparents and your parents have given you such a good life and their name.

"You also honor the organization, the crest on the front of the jersey. The fact that you're working hard for them ties into selflessness. You're working hard for the team that employs you.

"All these tie in. Integrity is huge," he said. "That's how you live your life, that's how you go about your business, doing the right thing when nobody's looking. Courage is going out there and giving everything that you have and being selfless and respecting the guy next to you. It's the courage to go out there when you're injured and give everything you have for your teammates.

Gionta overheard a reporter talking to Zach Parise about the public's view of a team being similar to the tip of the iceberg, how the players know there's more "below the water line."

"The access the fans have is mostly above water. They don't get the behind-the-scenes look," Gionta said. "They don't know what we do day in and day out. They don't see how we take care of each other and each others' families. If anyone was in need, you could call a friend and your family's taken care of. A lot of it goes unseen, but I think that's what makes hockey players so special is that we don't flash it around. We just do it even though people aren't necessarily watching."


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