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Mark Recchi: From the Ice to the Bench | FEATURE

It's been 10 years since Mark Recchi played his last game, and he has transitioned from the ice to the bench

by Sam Kasan @SamiKasan / NewJerseyDevils.com

New Jersey Devils Official Podcast · Mark Recchi | Speak of the Devils

Mark Recchi sat in a chair with a glass of wine in his hand and the Pacific Ocean in front of him. Recchi, who was joined by then Boston Bruins teammate Shawn Thornton, was letting the moment sink in. He knew that the next game he played in the National Hockey League - Game 7 of the 2011 Stanley Cup Final - would be his last.

"I'd known riding down the end it was probably going to be it," said Recchi, who invited Thornton to join him that fateful evening. "It was a beautiful setting. We had a view of the Pacific Ocean and sipped on a glass of wine. I was at peace with it. I knew that was going to be it."

The following day, June 15, the 43-year-old pulled a jersey over his shoulder pads for the 1,842nd and final time in his career. On the ice, he helped setup Brad Marchand's second-period goal to give Boston a critical 2-0 lead against Vancouver. It would be his final point.

Marchand's second goal of the game would be an empty-net that sealed a 4-0 Game 7 victory for Boston, helping Recchi raise the holy chalice for the third time in his career.

"To end up winning was the icing on the cake," recalled the Kamloops native. "We had a great group in Boston and had been through a lot in the two-and-a-half years I was there together. To be able to do it in my home province (British Columbia). My brothers were there. It was a special night."

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The Battle for 3C I FEATURE

Here is a look at some of the contenders competing in training camp for the Devils' third-centerman role

by Sam Kasan @SamiKasan / NewJerseyDevils.com

One of the biggest jobs up for grabs for the Devils entering training camp is the third center role. 

The club already has its 1-2 punch down the middle with first-overall draft picks Nico Hischier (2017) and Jack Hughes (2019). But which centerman will take on the role behind them has yet to be determined. 

The team will conduct on-ice fitness testing Thursday and hold its first training camp practices Friday. Those Friday sessions may give a peak at the coaches' early thinking on the role, however, it will obviously evolve as camp and the preseason rolls on. 

Here is a look at some possible contenders for the 3C. 

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Hamilton's Offensive Instincts Learned in Youth I FEATURE

The newest New Jersey defenseman learned much of his offensive aptitude from playing forward as a youth

by Sam Kasan @SamiKasan / NewJerseyDevils.com

If you're watching a Devils games this year, or a few in fact, don't be surprised if you happen to see a certain 6-foot-6 defenseman as a net-front presence in the offensive zone. 

That defenseman would be free agent signee Dougie Hamilton, and he makes his 229-pound presence felt at the opponent's crease with semi-frequent regularity. Though, that tendency in the 28-year-old blueliner can be traced to over a decade ago. 

"When I was 13 or 14, I hadn't hit puberty yet and grown," Hamilton told the Speak of the Devils podcast. "I was smaller and I wanted to be a forward."

So, the hockey youth transitioned from defenseman to forward. But after 2-3 years of playing forward, and after a growth spurt erected him into a towering monumental stature, Hamilton repositioned himself on the backend. 

"(Playing forward) was fun for a couple of years. I enjoyed it," he admitted. "Then it got to a point where I thought to go back to D. I was better at it."

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A Peak Inside Stillman's Draft Day I FEATURE

Take a look at the day and thrilling moment when Chase Stillman found out he was selected by New Jersey

by Sam Kasan @SamiKasan / NewJerseyDevils.com

Chase Stillman stared at the television screen as Tom Fitzgerald stepped to the podium. But before the Devils general manager started to talk, Chase heard a scream from the basement of the family's cottage. 

The shriek came from his older brother, Riley, who had descended to use the bathroom. 

"I thought, 'did this guy fall over in the bathroom or something?'" Stillman smirked. "Hearing him screaming and going nuts, it was momentarily after that my name was coming up."

Riley already knew what was coming. He'd witnessed it on the basement television, which was a second or two ahead of the one in the living room, where Chase was surrounded by the rest of his family and friends watching Day 1 of the NHL Draft. 

Fitzgerald was about to announce the Devils' second first-round pick (29th overall) of the evening. But even before Chase's name was announced, with the combination of Riley's cry and Fitzgerald's opening words, Chase knew what was coming. 

"When I heard 'From the Sudbury Wolves' I knew it right then and there that it was going to be me," Chase told the Speak of the Devils podcast. "I was just overwhelmed with excitement."

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Blackwood Excited About Devils Additions I FEATURE

The Devils goaltender spent most of his summer in New Jersey rehabbing and preparing for next season

by Sam Kasan @SamiKasan / NewJerseyDevils.com

Typically, Mackenzie Blackwood has the best seat in the house. The action of a game coming flying at him, and sometimes with a breath of fresh air, the play going the other way.

This summer, Blackwood sat in the same seat as everyone else: watching with excitement some transformative moves for the franchise he defends every night.

He saw the club trade for defenseman Ryan Graves, draft blueliner Luke Hughes and then sign free agents Dougie Hamilton, yet another defenseman, and his newest goaltending partner Jonathan Bernier.

And Blackwood had to give credit to his general manager.

"Tom (Fitzgerald) has done a great job," Blackwood said. "It's exciting to see the steps our team can make this year."

Video: Blackwood Offseason | RAW

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Fitzgerald: 'I've Always Been Intrigued by Team Building' I FEATURE

Devils GM Tom Fitzgerald brings with him a wealth of experience and a passion for team building to his job

by Sam Kasan @SamiKasan / NewJerseyDevils.com

This story was written from excerpts of Tom Fitzgerald's appearance on Speak of the Devils podcast.

Bill Torrey is a name that needs no introduction in hockey circles. The legendary bow-tied general manager was the architect of the New York Islanders' four Stanley Cup titles in the 1980s and is enshrined in the hallowed halls of the Hockey Hall of Fame.

So, when Torrey talks, you listen.

And that's exactly what Tom Fitzgerald, just beginning his post-playing career in a role in hockey development, did.

"I played for Bill Torrey," said Fitzgerald, an Islander from 1988-93 before following Torrey to the Florida Panthers from '93-98. "I consider him a mentor.

"I respect him so much and leaned on him. He said to me one day, 'I think you're going to be a great general manager.' This was way before. I just thought, 'general manager? I'm just in development.'"

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Hamilton Comes from Strong Family Background I FEATURE

Raised by two Olympians, Dougie Hamilton's childhood was built by a strong family

by Peter Robinson / Special to NewJerseyDevils.com

Lynn Hamilton has seen a lot in her time as an elite athlete and mother of two NHL hockey players. Throw in her husband Doug's career as an Olympic rower, lawyer and sports executive, and it's not hard to imagine the collection of medals, baubles and trinkets that occupy the basement of the family home in St. Catharines, Ontario.

Asked to pick her favorite, it took a while.

"Probably the bronze medal from the world junior when the boys played together," said Lynn Hamilton, of the 2012 World Junior Championship where Freddie and Dougie Hamilton were teammates. "...but it's the men in the house that (pay more attention), I leave that to them."

The Devils signing of Dougie Hamilton this week made waves - it was one of the most notable acquisitions of the annual free agent derby. Dig deeper, and it was a bit serendipitous: Hamilton is the son of two Olympians, inking a long-term contract while the Games were going on in Tokyo.

Talk about striking gold of a different sort.

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Devils Get Their Tandem in Net I FEATURE

The duo of Mackenzie Blackwood and Jonathan Bernier will gives the Devils a 1-2 punch in the goal crease this season

by Sam Kasan @SamiKasan / NewJerseyDevils.com

The plan for the Devils this summer was to add a veteran NHL goaltender to the roster to not only help mentor 24-year-old Mackenzie Blackwood, but to also push him.

They found their man Wednesday at the onset of free agency by signing Jonathan Bernier, 32, to a two-year contract.

"Bringing my experience to a team like this. Pushing any goalie that is in front of me, that's been my thing in the past few years," said Bernier, who has played 11 NHL seasons and won a Stanley Cup with Los Angeles in 2012. "I just want to push Blackwood. I know he's a very talented goalie. I'm sure we'll (be) a great duo together."

But don't get it twisted, the 11-year veteran isn't here just to be a helpful presence to Blackwood. He signed in New Jersey to play.

Video: Jonathan Bernier joins New Jersey Devils

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Free Agent Decisions I FEATURE

The Devils have some decisions to make regarding their would-be free agents prior to July 28

by Sam Kasan @SamiKasan / NewJerseyDevils.com

July 28 is a date on the calendar Devils general manager Tom Fitzgerald has had circled. It will mark the opening of the 2021 free agency season. And while making additions with new players is always a coveted part of the franchise-building process, there remains plenty of work to be done with the players that are currently within the Devils organization until then. The next few weeks will be an important decision-making time, that began with locking up restricted free agent Nathan Bastian last week to a two-year deal. 

Bastian had been a restricted free agent and the team had the flexibility to advance a one-year qualifying offer to retain his rights or negotiate a longer deal - the Devils opted for the latter. Signing Bastian was just the first step in tackling a number of restricted free agents with the club. Seven forwards, four defensemen and two goaltenders remain on the Devils RFA list that the team must consider signing, qualifying or letting walk. Should the team choose to tender a qualifying offer to eligible players, that will give the team time to negotiate new deals, without losing the rights to the player. 

Video: 1-on-1 | Nathan Bastian

 

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PODCAST: Clemmensen's Career a Testimony of Adaption Over Talent

The lessons Clemmensen learned in his pro career are now being passed on to the next generation of Devils netminders

by Sam Kasan @SamiKasan / NewJerseyDevils.com

Scott Clemmensen, 43, delivers the same message to the Devils' collection of prospects every summer at the club's rookie development camp. Though the Devils' director of Goaltending Development mostly addresses his young netminders, the words reverberate around the room. 

"The message that I have to everyone," he said, "and I draw on my own experience with this but even the Devils themselves are a good example, in this locker room we have first-round picks, second-, third-, fourth-, seventh-round picks, we have free agents that weren't picked at all, and invitees that weren't picked at all. 

"I can tell you this, it doesn't matter where you were picked. Someone else might have more ability than you but if you work and you're able to adapt and you can work your way up, you can be better. You can take someone's job. Even if they're a first-rounder, you can take their job."

Clemmensen, who has been instrumental in the development of New Jersey goaltender Mackenzie Blackwood, isn't just preaching. At one point in life, he was in the choir. 

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