John MacLean can recall as if it were yesterday when he raised the Stanley Cup above his head during the on-ice celebration with his New Jersey Devils teammates at Brendan Byrne Arena in East Rutherford, New Jersey, on June 24, 1995.
It was the Devils' first championship in their 20th season.
"I can still see that shot on the bench of [forward] Mike Peluso crying and [coach Jacques Lemaire] trying to figure out who he was going to throw on the ice in the final minute," said MacLean, the former Devils forward. "[Defenseman] Scott Stevens passed the Cup to me right away and I passed it to [defenseman] Bruce Driver.
"You always hear the stories about the Cup being a little heavier than you think, but even though we're all exhausted, the adrenaline is pumping and you find the energy to lift that baby over your head. That's the shot everyone wants."
The Devils defeated the Detroit Red Wings in four games in the 1995 Stanley Cup Final. They won the big prize following a 5-2 win in Game 4 before 19,040 fans.
"I was thinking about the lean years when the Devils weren't even considered to make the playoffs," MacLean said. "We'd come so far and it was nice to win it for the state of New Jersey and nice to share it with the guys who survived the early years, like [defenseman] Kenny [Daneyko] and Bruce [Driver]."
MacLean recalls how nervous the players were before the game began and how Lemaire settled them down by saying, 'Guys, relax. We only have to win one game.' He remembers the countdown by the fans.
"I had my hands in the air so there was no way Lemaire was putting me out there in the final moments," MacLean said with a grin.
The icing on the cake to that season was getting to spend a day with the Cup with friends and family.
"I was married but with no kids so I took it all over," MacLean said. "I went into Montclair, New Jersey, and took it to some of my friends' homes. We brought it to Oshawa, Ontario, Canada, and shared it with mom and dad, and coaches and teammates there. That thing is a magnet. That's when you begin to realize how big a deal it is to all people who have watched you play and grow."
Knowing his name is etched on the Cup is something MacLean takes great pride in.
"I remember looking over the Cup when I had it and reading all those names from the great New York Islanders teams of the early 1980s," he said. "But the coolest thing is knowing your name is on there and it will be a long time before that band comes off and is placed in the Hockey Hall of Fame. It'll last my lifetime, and probably my kids, so that's cool."