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My Favorite Devils, '88-90 | 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

If ever there was a classic build-up-to-a-letdown season, the 1988-89 hockey year was it. 

The enthusiasm generated by the previous campaign's magical postseason gallop promised even greater adventures ahead. 

Ah, but warnings weren't heeded, and promises weren't kept. Nor was the boss, Lou Lamoriello, all that surprised.

"What often happens after a first-year player - or an organization that has success for the first time gets in the second year - is they think they don't have to prepare anymore.

"They forget what it took to attain that success. And they're in for a rude awakening."

Doing another season of Devils telecasts for SportsChannel, I viewed, firsthand, the decline and fall, but also enjoyed my time working with the players and our excellent TV crew. 

Altogether, it was another stimulating experience in front of the cameras. Here are some of my favorite personalities - both on and off the air.


PAT CONACHER: No relation to Hall of Fame Conachers such as Lionel, Charlie and Roy, Pat nevertheless was an appealingly useful forward who could play any position up front. "Pat was what they call a 'utility player,'" says Devils historian and Emmy Award-winner George Falkowski. "He was like the team's 'handyman' as a checking ace. The numbers don't tell the tale of his value." Patty played 55 games in the 1988-89 season and went 7-5-12. He was terrific in the dressing room and someone who appreciated being a Devil, which was important then as it is now.

CHRIS TERRERI: Lou Lamoriello knew Chris well from their Providence College days. A native of the city, Terreri took the Friars to the NCAA Final Four in 1985 and was named MVP of the tourney after a few eye-opening triumphs. After gaining a spot on Uncle Sam's 1988 Olympic Team, the little crease wizard signed on with New Jersey. It was the beginning of a near eternal NJ lifetime with the franchise. The 1988 hero, Sean Burke, saw his game slipping, and Chris eventually was designated No. 1 goalie. Unlike many puck-stoppers notorious for being high-strung, Chris was a cool cat, always willing to do interviews and have a few laughs - accompanied by his distinct Rhode Island accent!

ANDERS CARLSSON: Life for the Gavle, Sweden native was far from beautiful during Doug Carpenter's reign as Devils coach. But the mentor migraines disappeared under Jim Schoenfeld. A veteran of six World Championships and the 1987 Canada Cup, Carlsson played 47 games for the Devils in 1988-89, having mostly a checking role. Although his arithmetic (4-8-12) wasn't impressive, Anders did finish with a plus-3 which, all things considered, was not too bad at that point in franchise time.

TOMMY ALBELIN: A hockey hero in Sweden before being drafted 158th overall in 1983 by Quebec, this efficient and reliable defenseman came to New Jersey for a fourth-round pick. It was one of Lou Lamoriello's most underrated - but sensational - deals. Once smiling Tom acclimatized himself to Devils hockey, he became a mainstay behind the blue line. He never dazzled with his stickwork nor footwork, but when it came to just darn-good, two-way defense, Albelin proved as reliable as such veterans as Bruce Driver and Joe Cirella. A thoughtful conversationalist, amiable Tommy also was a favorite among the SportsChannel crew members. The Smiling Swede enjoyed a solid '88-89. He played in 46 games and went 7-24-31, good for a most impressive plus-18.

STEVE ROONEY: Lou never forgets; especially Providence College hockey heroes from their past. In his final year with the Friars - under Lamoriello's tutelage - Rooney paced Providence to the NCAA title and eventually returned to the classroom where he completed his final exams for a degree in business administration. He played for the Canadiens before emigrating to East Rutherford for a cup of coffee. It was long enough for us to enjoy his company, tenacity and humor.

THE RUSSIANS ARRIVE: Following the missed playoff season, in the spring of 1989, Lou Lamoriello pulled off some historic moves, including the importing of three Russian defensemen, Slava Fetisov, Sergei Starikov and Alexei Kasatonov. Fetisov and Kasatonov became major assets to the organization. Starikov lasted only a half-season.


SYLVAIN TURGEON: In 1983, this crafty French-Canadian forward was drafted second overall by the Hartford Whalers. The older brother of Pierre Turgeon, Sylvain was a productive scorer early in his career and continued illuminating red lights in East Rutherford during the '89-90 season. He played in 72 games, producing 30 goals, 17 assists and 47 points. I remember the Noranda, Quebec native as smooth on offense and just as hip during interviews. 

SLAVA FETISOV: Once billed as the "Bobby Orr of Russia," Fetisov wasn't the speedy, adroit defenseman of his Soviet yesteryear. But he still had the goods, requiring only half a season to adjust to the smaller National Hockey League ice surface. He had to curtail his rushes and get used to not playing most of an entire game. Still, he evolved as the perfect team player beloved by all his mates except one - his former Red Army defense mate, Alexei Kasatonov. They had a rift in Russia that carried over to New Jersey; but kept it an off-the-ice affair. On the pond, they worked together like best friends. Once they returned to the dressing room, they refused to talk to each other. Despite that verbal separation, they never falted as a unit when the chips were down.

ALEXEI KASATONOV: Leningrad - now St. Petersburg, Russia - was not known as a hotbed of hockey playing production. But Soviet coach Viktor Tikhonov discovered Kasatonov in Leningrad when Alexei was young enough to learn and molded him into a star. When Alexei became a Devil in 1988-89, he adapted more easily to the NHL game than his fellow Russian, Fetisov. Kasatonov still boasted the speed of his Russian past and proved an NHL-level playmaker. The one thing Slava and Alexei had in common was a perfect personality. Each was affable, humorous and a treat for every journalist who approached them.

JANNE OJANEN: This guy really got around. A native of Tampere, Finland, Janne played in three Olympics, six World Championships, two Canada Cups, a World Cup and two World Juniors. While he wasn't quite a star forward for the Devils, he did play an admirable two-way game; especially efficient with the back check and defensive duties. He played in 64 games, recording 17-13-30. Most impressive was his final plus-minus tally which was plus-12.

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