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Devils Through the Decades - Part 2 (Tom McVie)

Long time Devils fan Jerri Rettig talks about stories involving former Devils head coach Tom McVie

by Jerri Rettig / Special to NewJerseyDevils.com

For those of you who read my first article - Devils Through the Decades, Part 1 (and those of you who didn't), I recounted how I became a Devils fan and that 1991-92 was my inaugural season as a full-season ticket holder. I also mentioned that in a future article (this one), I would share a very special experience that I feel privileged to have had that first year - an experience that helped propel me to the "diehard" fan that I am today. It was a time in my life and memories I will cherish forever! 

Tom McVie was brought back as the Devils head coach at the end of the 1990-91 season and remained the coach throughout 1991-92. Tom is recognized as one of the biggest personalities/characters as well as one of the best storytellers in hockey. Anyone in and around the sport has a "Tom McVie tale." You don't need to go any further than several of Dano's Diaries from last season to hear a few.

Through my boyfriend at the time (who was friendly with him), I had the good fortune to meet both Tom and his wife (Arlene) who he lovingly referred to as "The Duke." The Duke either didn't drive or didn't want to drive in New Jersey (who could blame her?). I picked her up and drove her to every game - sporting a coach's pass in my windshield and a parking spot in front of the Winner's Club. I was also invited to watch road games with her at their apartment where I would happily perch myself in Tom's favorite threadbare chair (it went with him pretty much everywhere he has been). I fondly recall unforgettable moments with The Duke to include eating red and white pinwheel peppermints while we watched the games - always in a bowl on the table as well as in her pocketbook. She consistently gave me a handful to take into the arena when I dropped her off (for good luck of course). During the holiday season that year, The Duke gave me a special gift - she made me a set of glasses adorned with the red, green and white Devils emblem. To this day, I still have them. 

In November 1991, The Duke and I were eating our peppermints and watching the Devils play in Montreal. The Devils were trailing 2-1 in the third period. Peter Stasny had completed his shift, dumped the puck for a line change and headed to the bench. The puck took a bounce and went right passed Patrick Roy to tie the game. He had no idea he had scored until he climbed over the board and onto the bench. I got so excited that I jumped up and my foot went through the seat of Tom's chair. That is where the feel-good part of this story ends…we lost in overtime and the next morning I was sitting at my desk when the phone rang. I answered and it was the unmistakable deep, gravelly voice of Tom McVie - "Jerri, this is Tom and I am going to put my foot where the sun doesn't shine like you did to my chair" (FYI - NOT the language he used - I paraphrased for a "G" audience). We eventually had a lot of laughs over it and needless to say, I will forever hold those days dear. 

At the end of the season, Tom moved on to the Bruins organization where he remains till this day. I stayed in touch with The Duke, but didn't see them again until the 95 playoff run when the McVie's hosted us for two games in Boston (more on that in another article). Arlene "The Duke" McVie has since passed, but I think of her often and toast her every time I drink from those glasses. 

 

I reached out to Tom to get the pictures for this article. It was great to reconnect with him and as expected (and hoped for), I collected a few more stories. I plan on sharing some of these anecdotes in a future article, but there is NOTHING like hearing him tell them himself! For all of my fellow hockey fans, I think you would appreciate his voicemail greeting - quintessential Tom McVie - "There are three kinds of hockey players; the first kind makes things happen, the second watches things happen and the third says what the hell just happened? Be the first kind." 

As I mentioned earlier in the article, I will be writing more about Tom McVie in future articles - there is a lot of material to work with and should be enjoyed by all. 

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