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For Stevens, Home Is Where the Heart Is

The move to Minnesota proved more difficult than Wild assistant coach ever imagined

by Dan Myers @1DanMyers /

ST. PAUL -- In the end, a long-distance relationship with his home became too much for Wild assistant coach Scott Stevens.

Away from his wife, Donna, and two of his kids, who also live in New York, for most of the last year, Stevens resigned from the team on Tuesday in order to return to his life in New Jersey.

"I just want to be close to them," Stevens said. "That's the toughest part of the job, moving away from your house and being away from your family. I need them, and that's what it comes down to."

Stevens, one of the toughest players of his generation in a playing career that spanned two decades, settled an hour west of New York City in New Jersey after hanging up his skates. 

He coached for parts of three seasons with the Devils, the team he helped lead to three Stanley Cups as a player, before spending a year in broadcasting as an analyst with NHL Network. All of those duties he was able to do while living in New Jersey.

But leaving the area to try something new in Minnesota proved to be more challenging than he may have initially believed.

"When you've been in one spot for a long time and you raise your kids ... it's a little tougher than you think," Stevens said. "I had nothing but a great experience in Minnesota. I met a lot of people and [have] a lot of new friends that I'll keep forever."

Hired almost a year ago by Bruce Boudreau to coach the Wild's defensemen, Stevens helped Minnesota to franchise records in both wins (49) and points (106). 

Longtime teammate Scott Niedermayer recommended Stevens to the new Wild head coach shortly after Boudreau accepted the top gig in Minnesota. Boudreau, who did not know Stevens before that, was driving cross country from Anaheim to Hershey, Pennsylvania, when he decided to drive a couple hours further to meet with Stevens in person.

Their initial meeting went splendidly. 

"He's a genuine person. It was like we knew each other forever," Stevens said last June. "The first five minutes, it was very comfortable. We had a great dialogue about the game and how we play the game and what we like."

As it turned out, informing Boudreau he was heading home ended up being difficult, as well.

Boudreau, a self-proclaimed hockey historian, has a ton of respect for Stevens' career as well as his work with the Wild's defensemen and penalty kill during the season.

The feelings were mutual for Stevens.

"It was very difficult," Stevens said. "The hockey part is kind of the easy part; that's what you know, that's what you love. It's the other parts that are tough. I had a wonderful experience; I learned a lot from Bruce. The coaching staff was outstanding; we got along great. I will miss that part, but I will be cheering for the Wild and I will be staying in touch with Bruce."

Under Stevens' guidance, Jared Spurgeon, Jonas Brodin and Matt Dumba each had career offensive seasons. Ryan Suter had the best goal-scoring season of his career and finished a plus-34, tied with Jason Zucker for best in the NHL.

"I had a lot of fun working with the players. It was one of the draws in coming to Minnesota," Stevens said. "They are a great group of guys, very responsive and they're quite young yet. It takes a while for [defensemen], and I think they made progress. I think there is a lot more [to come] for some of these younger defensemen moving forward."

Whatever comes next for Stevens -- whether it's coaching or heading back to television -- he said he's just eager to return home and be close to loved ones. 

Where he settles in career-wise is still up in the air.

"At this point, I'm just gonna take a step back. I really have no plans," Stevens said. "I just want to get back home and get settled and we'll see where it goes."

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