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My Favorite Devils, '85-87 | SUNDAYS WITH STAN

Stan Fischler continues his series of look backs on his favorite players to ever wear a Devils sweater

by Stan Fischler / Special to NewJerseyDevils.com

As the Devils matured as a National Hockey League franchise, the cavalcade of players changed for the better. That meant I had a new roster of favorites from which to choose beginning with training camp in September 1985.

The Boss of Player Procurement, Max McNab, remained active and the following are some of the new Devils I most liked by the following seasons:

1985-86

RANDY VELISCHEK: A student-athlete, this Montrealer got himself a scholarship to Providence and learned his hockey under then Friars athletic director Lou Lamoriello. The blond defenseman graduated with honors and was signed by Minnesota, but the North Stars didn't get what they wanted and New Jersey claimed him in the waiver draft. Randy evolved into a solid two-way defenseman. I know that personally. He was my defenseman in an Islanders-Devils media game. (Nobody scored from Randy's side but three did from mine). He also was a wonderful subject whenever we did interviews. After he retired Mr. V did some good work on Devils radio.

ALAIN CHEVRIER: Likeable and competent, this goalie from Cornwall, Ontario originally tried out for the Cornwall Royals Junior team, then coached by Doug Carpenter, and was rejected by the redheaded mentor. Undaunted, Alain won a scholarship to Miami (Ohio) University and played goal there for four years. Chevvy eventually tried out for the Devils and coach Carpenter - now in New Jersey - liked him. So did I. Even-tempered and a pleasure to chat with, Alain soon would beat out Chico Resch for the top goalie job.

PERRY ANDERSON: Properly nicknamed "Wheels" or "Kid Lightning," this bundle of energy proved to be the quintessential forechecker. In a game against the Islanders, he pounded New York's Hall of Fame defenseman Denis Potvin so hard into the end boards it appeared for a moment as if the Isles captain's career was over. A native of Barrie, Ontario, Andy was a catalyst when the Devils most needed one and a fan favorite as well. The 1985-86 season would be his first of five pulsating ones in East Rutherford.

MARK JOHNSON: Like his father, the legendary Bob "Every Day Is A Hockey Day" Johnson, Mark became a hockey hero. His big games first were evident during the 1980 Winter Olympics. He scored two goals to help beat the Soviets during the Miracle On Ice. Obtained from the St. Louis Blues, the fleet Johnson was part of a group of New Jersey newcomers who spurred a headline in the New York Times - DEVILS FORWARDS BRING NEW HOPE. One of those sharpshooters was a big free agent related to the boss, Max McNab.

PETER MCNAB: Opening the 1985 training camp, Max McNab was aware that he needed a big power forward like four-time Cup-winner Clark Gillies of the Islanders. Max need not look beyond his breakfast table where son, Peter, had become a free agent. Peter signed on with New Jersey and proved with his play that no nepotism was involved. "Peter was a force on the power play," wrote historian-author, Andrew Podnieks. Peter excelled at center between Mel Bridgman and Rich Preston. Thoughtful and amiable, like his dad, Peter was a delight to interview and later became a member of the New Jersey MSG Network team alongside Gary Thorne and Your's Truly.

GREG ADAMS: At first, nobody thought much about this tall drink of water signed by Max McNab with no fuss or fanfare. In fact, Greg was not even expected to make the big club as a free agent pick-up for 1984-85. Sure, he required a few cups of coffee before finding his niche. During the 1985-86 season he fooled everyone by leading the team in scoring. "Greg definitely was our biggest surprise that year," said Max McNab. "Call him a late-bloomer."

1986-87

CRAIG BILLINGTON: Like Chico Resch before him, the London, Ontario native was a media delight. Always available, win or lose, and never without a good quote, "Biller" came to New Jersey with superior credentials. As a Team Canada Junior, he won a gold and silver medal in the World Juniors and showed up in East Rutherford with hopes of escaping the back-up role. But no matter how hard he tried - nor how well he played - Craig remained a back-up through his Devils career and thereafter in the NHL. 

CLAUDE LOISELLE: When he wasn't expertly killing penalties, or getting into the opponents' hair, Claude liked to hangout with the television crew, often showing up in the TV truck hidden in the bowels of Brendan Byrne Arena. Bright, funny and gritty, Loiselle played tough and 'way over his weight. He was a coach's delight and for the press as well.

ANDY BRICKLEY: A virtual carbon copy of Loiselle, the New Englander was a proud product of the Melrose, Mass. hockey program. His penalty killing was as intense as his gift of gab and ability to dissect the ebbs and flows of a game. It eventually led to a broadcasting career which he's retained to this day.

AARON BROTEN: Overflowing with offensive talent, Olympian Neal Broten's kid brother gave New Jersey offense at the right time. Whether he could have accomplished more with his skills is a moot point. Critics said he was more talented than his 1980 gold medal-winning brother but lacked Neal's perseverance and motivation. As a result, Aaron's hot and cold performances drove the general staff to wonder how they could get more out of him. But Aaron was Aaron not Neal, and that was that.

STEVE RICHMOND: One of the few Jewish players to skate for the Devils, Richmond was a Chicago boy whose one season (1986-87) with New Jersey was his best in the bigs. Although he played in only half the games, this defenseman made his presence felt with his fists. In the end, Richmond was good for 143 penalty minutes because his presence produced plenty of intimidated foes. 

ULI HIEMER: Germany's loss was New Jersey's gain when the big defenseman left his native land for The Show. Max McNab wanted him for his offense as well as work behind the blue line. In his rookie year Uli's scoring skills were quickly appreciated. In just his eighth game, he scored a hat trick and entered the NHL record book. It was the fastest rookie hat trick for a defenseman in league history. Unfortunately, his career did not ascend with the expectations generated over that one highlight game.

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