NHL.com's Q&A feature called "Five Questions With …" will run every Tuesday through the 2017-18 regular season. We talk to key figures in the game and ask them questions to gain insight into their lives, careers and the latest news.
The latest edition features Ken Daneyko, a three-time Stanley Cup champion with the New Jersey Devils who now works as a color commentator for their television broadcasts and as an analyst for NHL Network:
NEWARK, N.J. -- Ken Daneyko knows everything there is to know about the New Jersey Devils.
He was selected by the Devils in the first round (No. 18) in the 1982 NHL Draft, the first for the franchise after it relocated from Colorado. He spent his entire NHL career in New Jersey, spanning a franchise-record 1,283 games, and was part of three Stanley Cup championships as a stay-at-home defenseman always willing to do whatever it took to succeed.
Daneyko, nicknamed "Mr. Devil" by fans, had his No. 3 retired March 24, 2006, and is a color analyst for Devils games on MSG Network.
"I wasn't a star player but was a piece we needed; it was all about heart and soul and doing whatever I could to help my team win," he said. "Was I in the category of other guys with Hall of Fame careers? No. But I'm also proud of what I was able to bring to the organization. To have my jersey retired was a surreal moment, but it also showed that hard work can get you somewhere."
Here are Five Questions with … Ken Daneyko:
The Devils are celebrating their 35th season in New Jersey in 2017-18. Besides the three Stanley Cup victories (1995, 2000, 2003), can you give me two other memorable moments in your 20 seasons with the Devils?
"I feel qualifying for the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the first time in 1988 was the turning point of the franchise. We went from being a laughing stock, to finally becoming something formidable. We had a lot of pride, knew we'd become something and all wanted to be part of that turning the corner. I still watch that celebration after we beat the Blackhawks in overtime in Chicago (April 3, 1988) to get into the playoffs. We celebrated like we won the Cup. I laugh at it now, but the moment was real, it was emotion, we were all kids and didn't know how to react. It was priceless.
"While having my jersey raised to the rafters was something very special, that wouldn't have been possible if not for all the great teammates I played with. We had character people and players. I can name so many guys, the Pat Verbeeks, the John MacLeans, Kirk Mullers; they set it all in motion. We had a great corps and I was among five players (Martin Brodeur, Sergei Brylin, Scott Niedermayer and Scott Stevens) to win three championships as a member of the Devils and that was something even rare in our era. Winning three Stanley Cup titles with the same five guys is quite a feat; we'll always have that special bond."
Is there a player in Devils history you feel has been under the radar in terms of getting recognition for helping the franchise to three Stanley Cup championships?
"I think everyone would say Sergei Brylin. For me it's never about the numbers, but there are always guys who fly under the radar and are important parts to your team and those championship runs. Some might not get the recognition, but I'd have Sarge [Brylin] in there, for sure. I was a guy who understood every player, their roles and what they brought. Sarge gets all the accolades from me and his former teammates. I think he'll get his due."
What do you enjoy most as a television color analyst for the Devils?
"It's as close as I can get to the action without playing. I'm an adrenaline junky and I live for the team. As everyone knows, I wear my heart and emotion on my sleeve for the Devils logo. Just to be able to call games is as close as I can get without stepping onto the ice. It's gut-wrenching and now I understand what the fans are going through and the pain they must go through, the pressure of an OT game. Getting to watch the team you grew up with every night is something special."
Patrik Elias will become the fifth Devils player to have his jersey retired in a ceremony Feb. 24 at Prudential Center. He will join you, Scott Stevens, Scott Niedermayer and Martin Brodeur. What memories do you have of Elias?
"He certainly goes down as the greatest offensive player in Devils history. Never in a million years did I think he'd get to a level he got, but he was a student of the game and worked hard to get there. He scored so many big-time goals; none greater than the one he scored in 2000 in Philadelphia to help us win Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Final against the Flyers. That's the one I'll never forget; scoring late in the game when he kind of wrapped it around the goaltender. Big time players score in the clutch and Patty was one of them. When he got to the team (in 1995-96), he was a very shy, quiet kid. I remember going out with him and Petr Sykora a couple years after he had arrived. I had a blast with the two Czech kids too. We had a few pops and I remember Patty couldn't really speak good English but was learning quickly. He had a unique personality. It's not easy getting acclimated here coming all the way from the Czech Republic. He was a special player."
Finally, what are your thoughts on the Devils this season? Do you think they can surprise and qualify for the Stanley Cup Playoffs?
"There's a long way to go so let's see where they're at after 30 games, especially for a team that hasn't been there in a few years. The jury is still out right now. Look, they're exciting, they're creative, much more balanced, and the character is there. The core guys like Andy Greene and Adam Henrique have been good, Taylor Hall is playing great in his second season with the team, and seeing that youthful exuberance and commitment is great. They're all tired of where they've been. You need the horses and sometimes that's out of your control. Now they have a few horses and they've had the right attitude from Day One. There's no reason why they can't hang around with that same focus all year long. It's not going to go as smooth every night as far as the offense goes, but this team has character and I think that's big. It's kind of like my team in 1988 when nobody gave us much of a chance. But nothing is better than surprising people or doing the old, 'I told you so', quicker rather than later. Coach John Hynes and [general manager] Ray Shero aren't fooling around this year; they have high expectations. Hynes has taken the team to a whole other focus and that's pushing the players. It's about pride. In '88 we didn't accept losing. It doesn't mean you always have to win, but we didn't accept losing. Losing has to hurt. This year I can feel that type of emotion being around the team."