New Arrival: Vitek Vanecek

Well, another year, another new Devils goalie. After the absolute disaster in 2021-22, when the Devils played no fewer than SEVEN goalies (and dressed an 8th), Tom Fitzgerald sought to regulate the goaltending situation by trading for the rights to impending free agent Vitek Vanecek.

Vitek is a Czech national, who was drafted 39th Overall by the Washington Capitals in 2014. He arrived in America in 2015, playing for the South Carolina Stingrays before spending 3 seasons playing for the Hershey Bears of the American Hockey League. He made his NHL debut in the 2020-21 season, splitting time with Ilya Samsonov.

In July 2021, Vanecek was selected by the Seattle Kraken in the 2021 NHL Expansion Draft. One week later, he was traded back to the Capitals for a second-round pick in 2023.

Thereafter, the Capitals elected to blow up their goaltending situation not only by parting ways with Ilya Samsonov, but also trading Vanecek, an impending restricted free agent, to the Devils in exchange for an exchange of second round picks and an additional third round pick from New Jersey.

Vitek made his Devils debut on October 15, 2022, and in true recent Devils style was shelled in a 5-2 loss to the Detroit Red Wings.

“Vitek Vanecek, give a dog a bone.” – MadDog2020, 7/8/2022

Finding pucks signed by current Devils has become quite easy, as multiple people have been frequenting the parking lot outside of Devils’ practices and getting many players to sign. This one was found on eBay, reasonably priced, so I snapped it up. Happy to have Vitek in New Jersey.

New Arrival: Cam Johnson

Another pickup for the “backup only” subset. Cam played 4 years at the University of North Dakota before joining the Binghamton Devils for parts of two seasons.

In January 2019, Cam got the call to serve as backup to Keith Kinkaid due to Mackenzie Blackwood being unavailable. Johnson dressed but did not play.

Cam Johnson in warmups during his brief call-up to the New Jersey Devils

Can went into to play for several teams in the ECHL, winning the league’s championship in 2022 as goalie for the Florida Everblades.

I tried contacting Cam on several forms of social media to no avail. But, being persistent on eBay led to me finally finding this one. Great UND puck (which seem to sell for high prices even when unsigned), and with a “Go Sioux!” inscription. Happy to check another one off the list.

Collection Tour: Craig Billington

It was recently brought to my attention (albeit inadvertently) that I kind of just stopped documenting the pucks I already had when this blog was started. I want it to be complete at some point, so I am going to resume giving a tour of the entire collection, player by player, until I have them all done.

Craig Billington was drafted by the Devils 23rd overall in 1984. That would be the Devils’ second pick in that draft, having drafted their future Captain Kirk Muller second overall.

Billington made his NHL debut during the 1985-86 season, putting up a GAA of 5.14 and a save percentage of .840 over 18 games. He remained with the Devils through the 1992-93 season. Those were some absolutely terrible years of hockey, but were also the first 8 years of my Devils fandom, so Billington holds a special place in my heart. It was also a deflection off of Craig that resulted in the one and only time I ever caught a puck in the stands, a 75th Anniversary logo puck.

Billington in his 75th Anniversary season jersey; could this have been the game where I caught my puck?

I found a signed Billington puck as I usually do, on eBay. I’ve always thought of having him sign that 75th puck I caught, and if I ever have the opportunity to meet him in person, it’s just what I will do.

Replacement Pucks

As one might expect, I’m constantly looking at eBay and other sources for pucks. Sometimes I see one I already have, and I replace the one in my collection. These are three of those that I have already written about, so I’m just posting the pictures.

Jeff Reese. Had a Stars puck, but found this Devils one available and made the switch.
Mike McKenna. The one I had was a beat up old blank puck, this one was more appealing. Plus that Phantoms logo is pretty cool.
Akira Schmid. I bought the first one I found and it had the signature on the bottom edge. Didn’t look great in my display case, so I grabbed this one with a larger, higher signature.

New Arrival: Kyle Shapiro

Hockey is a very different sport, and I think this phenomenon is only something you see in hockey.

On January 13, 2022, the New Jersey Devils found themselves in what you might call “a situation”. Starters Mackenzie Blackwood and Jonathan Bernier were sidelined with illness/injuries. AHL goalie Nico Daws was also out with an injury. Akira Schmid was in COVID-19 protocol. Mareks Mitens, Utica’s third-string goalie, was needed at the AHL level. The Devils had recently traded for Jon Gillies, who was moved up to the starter’s position for that night’s game. But the Devils were left without a backup goalie.

Enter NHL Rule 5.3

This rule allows a team, in the event they are short a goalie, to dress an emergency backup goaltender. This goalie is permitted to sit on the bench, in uniform and gear, but is only allowed to enter the game in the event the starting goalie is injured. This rule was changed not long ago, when the NHL decided not to be fun and wanted to prevent teams from inserting their emergency backup for a shift or a minute to give them what would obviously be an unforgettable moment for them. But I digress.

The Devils turned to Kyle Shapiro and signed him to an Amateur Try Out (ATO) contract.

Kyle is currently an assistant coach with the Trenton Titans of the NAHL. Kyle played three years at the University of Southern Maine and one year at New England College.

Kyle was assigned number 65 and participated in the team’s optional practice that morning. He would then lead the team out onto the ice that night, skating a lap around by himself before the team joined him, another great hockey tradition. Unfortunately, he did not see any game action but he had what must have otherwise been the experience of a lifetime.

Number 65, Kyle Shapiro

It was Kyle’s experience that opened me up to including players who had dressed for a game but had not played in my collection. There have not been very many in the Devils’ history. I reached out to him on Instagram after his experience and asked if he would be willing to sign a puck for me to add to my collection, but I did not get a response.

Several months later I reached out again, and this time, Kyle responded right away. He apologized for having missed my original message with all that was going on, and agreed to sign a puck for me. I sent him everything he needed and he returned this beautifully signed puck for me (he may have been an emergency backup, but that’s a professional player’s signature!).

Very happy to have added this puck, and of course, special thanks to Kyle for helping out.

New Arrival: Frederic Henry

First puck to arrive since I decided to add in the “dressed but never played” category.

Frederic Henry was drafted in the 8th Round (200th overall) in the 1995 NHL Entry Draft. He spent parts of six seasons with the Devils’ then AHL affiliate, the Albany River Rats.

On November 4, 2000, legendary Devils starter Martin Brodeur was suffering from a mild groin strain and was not available to play. Chris Terreri was given the start that night, and Frederic Henry was recalled from the River Rats to serve as his backup.

The Devils would lose to the Los Angeles Kings that night with Terreri only facing 16 shots the entire game, but the Kings converting on two of those opportunities and winning 2-1.

Henry was returned to the AHL and never made another trip back to the NHL. The following season, he spent only two games with Albany and then played in the ECHL for the Greensboro Generals. Henry would continue playing in various lower level leagues until his eventual retirement from hockey after the 2009-10 season.

Obviously, any player who only backed up one game in the NHL probably didn’t sign a lot of autographs at that level. But I assumed given his longevity in Albany, there was a shot he signed a number of pucks while there. This one was located via eBay and of course, is on a River Rats puck. Even has a goalie depicted on the reverse in an ad for a local anti-smoking organization.

New Arrival: Andrew Hammond

Andrew is the latest addition to the collection, having come to the Devils via a trade with Montreal.

“The Hamburglar” is perhaps best known for his time in Ottawa, where he finished his first full season with a record of 20-1-2.

When he was obtained by the Devils, I went to eBay, my first stop when puck hunting. There were plenty of Hammond Ottawa pucks available. Although there was one with “The Hamburglar” inscribed on it, it was also 6 times the price of the one I purchased.

His time in New Jersey may or may not be limited l, especially following an inauspicious debut, but I’m pleased to add yet another puck to the 2021-22 collection.

New Arrival: Chad Erickson

When you think of Devils goalies with the number 30, obviously there is only one name that could possibly come to mind, and that name is…Chad Erickson.

Chad played three years at the University of Minnesota – Duluth, before joining the Utica Devils in the 1991-92 season. He would play 43 games that season, and somewhere in the midst of that, was called up to play for the New Jersey Devils.

His first game was on March 22, 1992, a road game against the New York Rangers. Chad yielded six goals in a 6-3 loss.

He would play only one other NHL game, two days later on March 24, 1992. This was a home game against the brand new NHL franchise, the San Jose Sharks. I remember this game very vividly, because as it happens, 15 year old me was in attendance.

Whenever I had tickets back then, I was looking to watch Chris Terreri. I cannot remember why Chris was not playing, but I do remember Chad Erickson getting the call, and the only thing I really knew about him at the time was that he had played the previous game and we had lost.

But that night was a different night. Chad gave up three, but the Devils scored four. By the end of the game, we were screaming for Chad and rooting as hard as we could for that first NHL win. And wouldn’t you know it, it happened.

Chad’s game worn #30, the last guy to wear that number before the last guy wore that number.
#30, Chad Erickson

The story for Chad would be short lived, however, as he did not play another game at the NHL level. Two days later, the Devils would see another goalie make his NHL debut, wearing #29. That goalie was Martin Brodeur. That makes Chad Erickson the answer to a trivia question, as the last Devils goalie to start a game before Martin Brodeur, who would be around for the next 24 years.

Chad continued to play professionally for various teams in the AHL and in other leagues, before eventually retiring in 2001.

I wrote to Chad using an address I received from another collector in July 2021, in the early days of this project. I knew finding a signed puck of a guy who played only two NHL games is a tough task, so I figured it was worth a shot. I received no response.

I sent a follow up letter in August, no response again. Then I sought out other addresses, found one, sent out another puck. Nothing.

I have no idea how requests like this are received by former players. I am sure some love the opportunity to sign for fans and some don’t. So there was no way to know which camp Chad fell into.

Nearly 7 months later, a package arrives in the mail. It contains not only a signed puck, but both of my letters, and a handwritten note on one apologizing for the delay. Evidence that Chad is an awesome guy, as there is no reason to apologize for a delay in doing something that you had no reason or obligation to do!

I am beyond excited to have added this puck to the collection, and it only renews my desire to obtain the remaining two and complete this collection!

New Arrival: Akira Schmid

Akira Schmid is a Swiss born, 5th round section (136th overall) by the Devils in 2018. He made his NHL debut on December 11, 2021.

Things have been rough for Schmid at the NHL level, but in the AHL he has posted a 1.65 GAA and .944 SV%.

Akira Schmid

Having mailed a puck to the arena and not having received it back, I was very excited to find this one on eBay. There has since been a flood of Schmid pucks there, as I assume the more practices he attends, the more people try to get him to sign.

I was definitely not expecting to see six goalies play for the Devils this year (so far!). I’m happy to say I have caught up again, and am back to only needing three more to complete the collection.

Congrats to Kyle Shapiro!

For those who don’t know, a combination of COVID and injuries caused the New Jersey Devils to dress 28 year old Kyle Shapiro, assistant coach of the New Jersey Titans of the NAHL, as their emergency backup goalie last night.

It’s a rare event indeed, but has to be something that a guy who gets that opportunity will never forget, even if they don’t get into the game.

For one night, Kyle got to live out part of a dream that most of us hockey fans have had. We here at the Puck Project hope you had a great time, Kyle!!

Devils EBUG, Kyle Shapiro

Still Struggling

The final 3 (now 4) players are still on my mind. It’s been weeks since I made any efforts outside my usual searching of eBay and similar sites.

For Chad Erickson, I have found a different e-mail address than I had previously. I sent a message and it was not returned like the previous one I had. So I am cautiously optimistic that it may get through.

Sam St. Laurent and Hannu Kamppurri both remain problematic in that they are both outside the U.S. and have little to no online presence. It may be time for another trip down the rabbit hole to see if I can come up with any new information regarding these players.

I have offered up to $100 for the signed puck(s) or new information that helps me obtain one. So far I have not had any takers regarding these three.

Schmid is the “new guy” and I am not as worried. I did send him a puck and it has not yet been returned. I am hopeful that it will be, but with COVID, who knows, such requests could go directly in the trash.

I have not, and will not, abandon this project. It may take me 20 years to find the last couple of guys, but I am in it to complete the list and I will not accept any other result!!

New Arrival: Jon Gillies

I went into this season or expecting to need to obtain a lot of pucks. Things don’t always go as planned. A rash of injuries have resulted in lots of new faces inside masks in Newark.

Jon Gillies was drafted by the Calgary Flames 75th overall in 2012. Prior to New Jersey, he played in only 13 NHL games mostly with the Flames. He had not played in the NHL from 2017-18 until this year, after signing with the St. Louis Blues.

An injury to Jonathan Bernier was the motivation the Devils needed, trading for Gillies for future considerations.

While watching Jon’s first game as a Devil, I was pleased to find that pucks signed by him were readily available. I chose the 2012 draft year puck, essentially because it’s better than another team and I don’t know how long I’d have to wait for a Devils one. I do like the Draft pucks so I was happy to add it to the collection.

But let’s not have any more goalies this season.

Side Quest Complete! Mel Bridgman

Mel was the second captain of the Devils, and the only one whose puck was not readily available for purchase. I wanted to keep this subset all Devils pucks, or at least no pucks of other teams.

But, I followed this Flyers one on eBay until I felt I had exhausted all other options, so I obtained it and completed the Captains collection.

Mel is one of those guys who is really careful of where he signs, and I couldn’t help noticing that no portion of his autograph extended onto the Flyers logo, which gave me an idea.

Instant Devils puck.

New Arrival: Nico Daws

This one is quite literally a new arrival, as Nico has just played his first two games as a Devil in the past week.

Nico Daws was drafted by the Devils 84th overall in the 2020 NHL Draft. He was playing with the Utica Comets when injuries to Mackenzie Blackwood and Jonathan Bernier required his being called up to the Devils.

He started his first game against Buffalo on October 23, 2021, playing very well and winning 2-1 in overtime. His second game against the Flames, well, we’ll just pretend that didn’t happen.

Following the game, I took to the Internet to see if a Nico Daws signed puck was available yet, and I found this one on eBay, the only one available. Just what I needed. The 41st goalie in Devils history.

New-ish Arrival: Jonathan Bernier

The 11th overall pick in the 2006 Draft (Los Angeles Kings), Jonathan Bernier seems to be the kind of guy that is always involved in trade rumors. I swear there must have been at least 3 times the Devils were rumored to be interested in him. Meanwhile, he played for the Kings, winning a Stanley Cup in 2012 as backup to another Jonathan (Quick), but we won’t get into that here.

After bouncing around a few times, Bernier wound up on the Detroit Red Wings, before becoming a free agent at the end of the 2020–21 season.

Meanwhile, in Carolina, a guy named Alexander Nedeljkovic played in 23 games as a rookie goaltender, winning 15 of those games and posting a 1.90 GAA and .932 save percentage.

For whatever reason, and I can only assume it was Expansion Draft related, Carolina’s response to that amazing rookie season was to ship him out of town as fast as possible. For a free agent with an expired contract and a third round pick. If Alex turns out to be as good or better than his rookie year, this will go down as an all time bonehead trade.

To make it even worse, Carolina then failed to come to terms with Bernier, and he was signed as a free agent by New Jersey to serve as a backup (or maybe a co-starter?) for Mackenzie Blackwood.

Scouring eBay for pucks on a daily basis as I do, it wasn’t long after the trade that a Detroit fan put this puck up for sale at what I considered a bargain price. The Puck Project rule is, no goalie gets added to the collection unless and until he suits up and plays in a regular season game for the Devils. Had I gone ahead and obtained a Corey Crawford puck last year, it would not be part of the collection because he retired before he played a game for the Devils.

But, working on an assumption that lightning wasn’t going to strike twice, I picked this one up and held onto it just in case it was needed. With Bernier having made his Devils debut, this old new arrival is now officially part of the collection. Happy to have Jonathan on Beatles, both on the team and in the collection, as the 40th goalie to ever play for the New Jersey Devils.

I do like these draft year pucks; perfect way to have a guy’s signature without having to own another team’s puck.

New Arrival: Richard Shulmistra

Richard played his college hockey at Miami University (Ohio), before being drafted by the Quebec Nordiques in the 1992 Supplemental Draft. He never played for the Nordiques, and was signed by New Jersey as a free agent in 1997.

As anyone who has been a Devils fan knows, being a backup in New Jersey in the mid to late 90’s (and beyond) meant playing second chair to one of the greatest goalies in the history of the game. Richard was not first in line, either, as the Devils also had a young goalie named Mike Dunham, who saw most of the action.

In fact, Shulmistra would play only one game for the Devils, allowing two goals in a an overtime loss to the Florida Panthers. The game winning goal was scored by former Devils player, Rob Niedermayer, who also had a famous brother.

Richard would get another chance in the NHL with those same Florida Panthers, and two years after his first appearance with the Devils, he recorded his first and only NHL win against the Tampa Bay Lightning.

Richard would continue to play in the United States and in Europe until 2004, when he retired from play. He became a goaltending instructor and still works with a junior hockey program to this day.

Locating a Shulmistra signed puck was a strange situation for me, because I was able to find very reliable information about him, both a physical address and an e-mail. I tried contacting him both ways to no avail.

I then contacted the executive director of the junior program he works with, who told me Richard was his friend and he would forward him my info. He believed Richard would be happy to help.

I never heard back. I emailed the executive director again, and after having received a reply within 5 minutes the first time, I never heard back from him. I even sent a puck to their offices with a small donation to their program, and nothing. So I gave up.

I took to Facebook, where I had just registered for an account. After joining several memorabilia groups, I just threw it out there: anyone have a puck from one of these four remaining guys?

Almost immediately, I received responses from not one but two fellow collectors who had Shulmistra signed pucks! I chatted with my new buddy Andrew McCartney, who was willing to sell me his puck.

It’s the only Albany River Rats puck in my collection, and I am really, really happy to have it. Thanks again to Andrew for stepping up and providing me with one of the final four.

Anyone else wanna do that for one of the three remaining?

Side Project New Arrivals: Jamie Langenbrunner & Zach Parise

Two more pucks for the Captain’s Collection!

Jamie Langenbrunner came to the Devils during the 2001-02 Season, having been traded with Joe Nieuwendyk form the Dallas Stars for 2000 Stanley Cup hero Jason Arnott, fan favorite and Crash Line Member Randy McKay, and a first round pick. He would be named Captain in 2007, only to be traded back to the Stars in 2011.

He won two Stanley Cups in his career, one in 1999 for the Stars and in 2003 with the Devils. Although he left New Jersey on not the best terms, I’m happy to add him to my collection.

Zach Parise was the hardest one for me to add to my collection. Any Devils fan knows that when it was time for his big free agent deal, he opted to leave town for Minnesota. Some of us are still bitter about it. But, he wore the “C” in 2011-12, a season which saw the Devils make a run to the Stanley Cup Finals. Can’t say I am thrilled, but I own a Parise signed puck. Here it is.

These additions mean I have now found pucks for the last 7 captains of the Devils, leaving just 4 more to bridge the gap between first captain Don Lever and Scott Niedermayer.

Still seeking the “Final Four”.

1. Chad Erickson

Was looking for pucks and information and found this article, which contains quite a few quotes from Chad. He was the last Devils goalie who started a game before Martin Brodeur got his first NHL win.

Read the Article Here

2. Richard Shulmistra: I learned Richard is very active in a youth hockey program near where he lives. I reached out and the executive director got back to me, and said he was friends with Richard and would get my info to him. Never heard from Richard, so I sent a follow up email to the director, and got no response to that.

So I sent the puck, sharpie, return envelope, and a small donation to the youth hockey program in hopes that someone will receive it and just hold it out and say “sign this please”.

Hanna Kamppuri: one of the first pucks I mailed out, never heard from him and it never came back. He is in Finland and I am running out of options to find him. Does that mean I’m….Finnished???

Sam St. Laurent: a total phantom. Zero contact and not a lot of leads out there.

Have a lead that you think will help me get a puck from one of these guys? It’s $40 USD to you if you do.

Side Quest New Arrival: Don Lever

If you are going to collect pucks of Devils captains, you need to start at the beginning. The first ever Devils captain, Don Lever.

Don was a 9 year veteran who, in 1981, played for the Colorado Rockies, who would move the next year and become the New Jersey Devils.

He would serve as captain for only two years. He played over 1,000 NHL games and will forever be a part of team history as its first ever captain.

The puck was sourced from my favorite place for pucks, eBay.

Not sure what happened here, but who looks at the back anyway?

New Arrival: Aaron Dell

Aaron Dell was an undrafted free agent signed by the San Jose Sharks out of the University of North Dakota. He was later signed and then waived by Toronto, and was claimed by the Devils.

Aaron played just 7 games as a Devil, but may forever hold the team record for the most badass set of goalie equipment ever.

I mean really, who wants to try to top this?
In action.

This puck is number 36 in the collection but also represents a first for the project: a donation. My buddy JWomp from the http://www.NJDevs.com forums offered to send me this puck if I covered the shipping. Sent him the cash, and he sent me the puck. Thanks again JWomp!

This is also the first Hockey Fights Cancer puck in the collection. I happen to enjoy the aesthetic of the purple logo and do buy HFC merch from time to time. When I do, I usually also make a small donation to the American Cancer Society, just as a reminder that it’s merch but it’s merch for a cause. I figured out what I would have paid for this puck on the market, and will donate that amount to ACS.

Another one down, four to go!

Came pre-labeled and the effort to remove it would be significant, so I’m leaving it.

New Arrival: Shawn MacKenzie

Shawn was born in Bedford, Nova Scotia. He played in just 6 NHL games, all of them for the Devils in 1983. He spent a few more seasons in the AHL before retiring from play in 1987.

These days (and since 2006) Shawn has been involved in junior hockey with the Bedford Minor Hockey Association. Which, as it happens, is exactly how I located him. Using good old fashioned Google searches, I reached out to the BMHA, and spoke with Greg in their offices.

Greg told me he spoke to Shawn and if I were to send the puck and a return envelope, he would be happy to sign it. He even offered me the opportunity to stop by and get it signed in person if I was local! Knowing what I know about return envelopes from US to Canada and back, I knew I had to engage an intermediary in Canada to assist.

So, I reached out to my man at http://www.steriodesign.com, who was willing to help. Sent him everything I needed, and Shawn followed through.

Many thanks to the BMHA, to Greg, to Shawn, and to Sterio for hooking it all together. This reduces the list of remaining pucks to just 5.

Kamppuri, St. Laurent, Erickson, Shulmistra: $40 Finders’ Fee Available

I have had ZERO success getting these signatures. Think you can do better than I can? Then put my money where your wallet is.

If you find nee information that directly leads me to obtaining the signature of one of these gentlemens’ signatures on a puck, I will pay you a $40 USD finder’s fee.

Rules are simple:

1) Has to be information that’s new to me. I have made some efforts on these guys and have followed some leads. I’ll tell you if it’s new info to me (honor system).

2) Has to lead to me actually getting the signed puck. I’m not paying for leads, I am paying for the successful lead.

3) No eBay links. I search eBay for these multiple times a day, and I am not offering to pay you for finding it first.

4) If you are offering to sell me one of these pucks from your own collection, we will work out a fair price, which will be market value for a virtually unknown goalie, plus a $40 finder’s fee. Those items will be subject to my ability to verify the signature using online examples. This avoids people forging a puck to cash in.

5) Only the first person who gives me the successful lead gets the finder’s fee.

6) If I get multiple leads for one guy, and cannot tell which one was the successful lead for some reason, we will figure something out, whether it’s flipping a coin, splitting it, or something else.

Who thinks they have the skills to get this done? Reach out to me and show me what you can do!

New Arrival: Lindsay Middlebrook

Lindsay was another early Devils goalie, playing his first game for New Jersey in 1983 . He appeared in just 9 games as a Devil. New Jersey would be his final stop in the NHL.

Lindsay Middlebrook

When I reached out to Jay Noble at Hockey Ink In The Mail, Lindsay’s address was the first one he provided. I sent a puck and return envelope his way, and for a while… nothing.

So, I sent a follow up letter to him (and a couple others I had written to), and was very happy when I received an email from the man himself! He told me he was away but he had received my package, and he would return it in two weeks. And he complemented my project!

True to his word, the puck arrived in short order, with a pretty nice inscription on it to boot. I sent a “thank you” email, because I really do appreciate when these guys treat fans the right way, and Lindsay did just that.

New Arrivals: Ken Appleby and Karl Friesen

Have to love a double mail day!

Ken Appleby was thrust into action due to injuries to Devils goalies Cory Schneider and Keith Kinkaid. Making it to the NHL as an undrafted player is, in my opinion, quite the accomplishment in its own right.

The pride of North Bay, Ontario.

Ken played in just three games as a Devil, and did not win a game despite an unreal 1.45 GAA and .945 save percentage. He’s now in the New York Islanders system.

I got in touch with Ken Appleby via Instagram, and he immediately agreed to sign a puck for me, provided I get it to him and provide a way to get it back to me. Easy enough. Or so I thought.

As it happens, you cannot print a return label to ship something from Canada to the US. So, I engaged an intermediary. Enter u/UofAThrowAway0292, a Redditor who responded to my request for help. We agreed that if I sent everything to him, he would forward it to Appleby with a return envelope and then he’d send it back to me.

Problem number two. CanadaPost shipping labels expire in 5 days. UofA suggested that was a bad idea, and that perhaps he would just stick some cash in the envelope and Appleby would take it to CanadaPost to send it back.

And that’s exactly what Ken did. Very happy to have it, and I couldn’t be more thankful that Ken was willing to help.

While I was sending this puck up to UofA, he also agreed to help me try to get a puck signed by Karl Friesen.

Karl played 15 years in Germany before coming to North America, first playing for the Devils AHL affiliate, the Maine Mariners. He played in just 4 NHL games for the Devils in 1987 before returning to Germany. He retired from play in 1995, having played 20 years.

Karl’s address was given to me by Jay Noble of Hockey Ink In The Mail. He warned me that he had obtained Karl’s signature years ago, and had no way of knowing if his address was still current.

Took a shot, and UofA did the same treatment as he did for Appleby. To our surprise and delight, Karl turned it right around and sent it back immediately.

Neither of these pucks would have been possible without my Canadian assist from UofA, who volunteered to help simply because it sounded like fun and because he’s a good guy. Obviously, I reimbursed him for all monies spent, but money alone wasn’t enough to get this done. I needed the kindness of a stranger, and I thank him greatly for agreeing to help.

The Collection Tour: Corey Schwab and Mike Dunham

Here’s two more from the collection.

Corey Schwab came to the Devils in the ill-fated 1995-96 season, when the Devils failed to reach the playoffs after having won the Stanley Cup the season before. Corey played in just 1 games before being traded to the Tampa Bay Lightning.

He would come back to the Devils in 2002-03 playing in 11 games and posting a 1.47 GAA And .933 Save Percentage. Corey would get his name on the Stanley Cup that year, as the Devils won it all.

Mike Dunham attended the University of Maine, and was drafted 53rd overall in 1990. He would be the second goalie drafted by the Devils that year, behind Martin Brodeur at number 20.

He would play 41 games for the Devils, before being selected by the Nashville Predators in the 1998 expansion draft. He played 5 seasons in Nashville and would later play for the New York Rangers, Atlanta Thrashers, and finally, the New York Islanders. After retiring with the Islanders, he immediately became their goaltending coach, a position he would hold for 10 years.

New Arrival: Jean-Francois “JF” Damphousse

JF was a first round pick (24th overall) in the 1997 NHL entry draft. After spending a number of seasons with the Albany River Rats of the AHL, JF was brought up to the NHL in 2002, playing in just 6 games with the Devils.

Remember, this was the height of Martin Brodeur’s career, and there was not room for a whole lot of other goalies on the Devils at that time. Marty started an absolutely astounding 73 out of 82 games that season. JF’s 6 appearances (4 of which were starts) was more appearances than any of the other goalies on the Devils roster that year. Looking at stats from that season, Marty was only relieved in no more than three games the entire season (I can’t say for certain whether the three relief appearances registered were all in relief of Marty, odds are they were).

Jean-Francois Damphousse

JF would continue playing for another 3 years, never returning to the NHL. He is presently a Scout with NHL Central Scouting.

Finding a puck signed by a guy who did not play for a significant time is often difficult. I tried contacting JF on social media several times and was unable to make contact. He was on the back burner for this project when, out of nowhere, not one but TWO signed pucks popped up on eBay, from the same seller. I made an offer, he accepted, and I added another puck to the collection.

Signature is a little smudged, but still clear enough to identify.

Status Update

As of today’s date, there have been 39 men to play goalie for the New Jersey Devils, not including anyone who has not yet played (Jonathan Bernier). This post is dedicated to who is left, and my efforts to secure those signatures thus far.

Lindsay Middlebrook

I received an address for Lindsay from Jay over at Hockey Ink In The Mail (http://www.hockeyinkinthemail.blogspot.com). Jay is very experienced with autographs so I figured that would be an easy one. I sent a puck, Sharpie, and return envelope to the address provided, and thus far…nothing.

Not to be too obnoxious (but I feel like I am going to have to be), I send a follow-up letter today explaining my project, and I even enclosed a photograph of the current collection. I’m hoping that sending that might convince him to return the puck. We will see what happens.

Shawn MacKenzie

Using good old fashioned Google skills, I learned that Shawn is involved in a youth hockey program up in Canada, the Bedford Minor Hockey Association. I reached out to them via e-mail and received a reply from someone in the office who spoke directly to Shawn, and said he was willing to sign for me. I then enlisted a friend of mine in Canada, because you cannot print and send an International return label from the US. So, my buddy will send/receive the puck for me and then return it to me. I have every confidence that this one will come back and I will add this one to the collection.

Hannu Kamppuri

This is one of the ones I thought would be impossible, but as it happens, Jay over at Hockey Ink just recently got Hannu to sign for him, and he passed the information along to me. He is affiliated with the SM Liiga Alumni. Unfortunately, he is in Finland. Not to be deterred, I sent a puck and Sharpie to him with a letter asking him to help me out, and to contact me so I could send some money for the return shipping cost. I can see this request being a little irritating to fulfill, so I will not be surprised if this one remains outstanding.

Sam St-Laurent

This guy has virtually no online presence at all. I was able to locate some info that said he had a website where he offered freelance instruction, but having found the website (with the assistance of a French speaking friend), I learned it was no longer active. Same friend provided me with a possible known associate and we are in the process of tracking her down to see if she can help. More to follow on this one, I hope.

Karl Friesen

Through a separate Canadian intermediary, I sent a puck up to Winnipeg with hopes that Karl would be kind and help me out. My buddy reports this one has come back, so it looks like this one will be added to mu list soon.

Chad Erickson

I was able to find someone named Chad Erickson in his original hometown. A little Google research revealed he was the right age and had the correctly named wife, so I am pretty sure I found him. I send the package out with a return envelope and have heard nothing. I sent him a letter today as I did with Middlebrook up above. I am somewhat hopeful he will respond.

Richard Shulmistra

See Chad Erickson above, because I sent them at the same time and thus far, have the same (lack of) results.

JF Damphousse

I thought this one was going to be easy as JF seems to have a fairly active online presence. I have reached out on Twitter and Instagram and have yet to make contact. I did discuss the project with a friend on the http://www.njdevs.com message board, and he thinks he may have one in storage that he doesn’t need. Waiting to hear back on all of those issues.

Ken Appleby

I actually made contact with Ken and he was very willing to help, seems like the nicest guy in the world. The friend who handled the Friesen puck for me also sent one to Ken, and while it isn’t back yet, I am pretty confident it will happen.

Aaron Dell

I didn’t think someone so recent would be so hard to find. I understand he is expecting a child so I have backed off a bit, I have left messages on Instagram and Twitter, and I am hopeful he will respond. If he doesn’t, he is signed to play for Buffalo this Fall, and I will send a puck to whatever team he is palying for (AHL or NHL) to try to get that one done.

My Overall Feelings On The Project:

I am pretty happy that I have been able to get my hands on most of these pucks. I didn’t expect that I would get close, but now being only 10 away with several out there in the world potentially waiting to be returned, I am anxious to make some contact and get in touch with some of the Elusive 10.

I am more optimistic than ever that I can get this collection completed. However, I am always willing to humbly accept the assistance of others. If anyone knows a guy, or a guy that knows that guy, or lives in the same town, or just wants to pick a guy and see if they can track him down, I am happy to accept that help!!

The Collection Tour: Chris Terreri

Chris was the 85th overall draft pick in 1983 out of Providence College. He came to the Devils in 1986-87, bounced around in the minors a little, and stayed for good from 1989 to the 1995-96 season. During most of that time, until 1994, he was basically a half-time starter, splitting games with players like Sean Burke and eventually, Martin Brodeur.

Still love the old red and green.

He retired from playing in 2001, only to come back in 2005-06 to play a single game for the Albany River Rats, where he was working as an assistant coach. He remains active in coaching today, with the New York Islanders currently.

I had the opportunity to meet Chris a few times, but my favorite memory of him is from the 1995 Stanley Cup “parking lot parade” at the Meadowlands . I was 18 years old, called out of my retail job, and went. We arrived a little late, but by some fluke, wound up exactly where the players drove through. We were high fiving players, their wives, whoever, and of course screaming like lunatics.

Terreri came by holding a.l big sign reading “Nashville? No Way”. The rumor of the day was that the team was set to relocate to Tennessee, which would have killed me and most Devils fans. When he reached the stage, Chris held that sign high and the place went nuts.

1995

I obtained this puck in one of my favorite ways: as part of a larger lot of signed pucks. This one was 6 in total, and by the time I re-sold the other 5, the Terreri was almost free. Chris was the first goalie that I watched and cheered for regularly, and I am happy to have this one in the collection.

I always like when a guy takes the time to sign a puck in the “right” spot; doesn’t obscure the logo, but still big and clear enough.

New Arrival: Peter Sidorkiewicz

Peter was a late round draft pick by the Washington Capitals, but I think he was best known for his time as a Hartford Whaler, where he played the bulk of his career.

Hartford exposed him in the 1992 Entry Draft and he was claimed by the Ottawa Senators. The Senators were absolutely awful, and in 64 games, Peter posted a record of 8-46-3. That record still stands as the third most single season losses in NHL history.

I’m sure not all 46 losses were his fault.

He came to the Devils in 1993-94 in exchange for Craig Billington and Troy Mallette. He would play only 3 games that season, all losses, and split the rest of his time between the Albany River Rats of the AHL and the Fort Wayne Komets of the IHL.

The pitchfork on the helmet was pretty awesome.

He would stay in the Devils system for another 4 years before getting called up and playing in just one game in 1998. He retired from playing after that season. He would continue his hockey career as a coach, most recently for the Norfolk Admirals of the ECHL, working as an assistant under former Devils coach Robbie Ftorek.

I located this puck by a simple Google search from Classic Authentic in Canada. Arrived quickly and it looks great, highly recommended those guys. I went with a Whalers puck because it they have a cooler logo and he played there the longest (Ottawa was available as well). Very happy to get a step closer to my goal.

Always have loved the Devils logo, but in terms of other teams, the Hartford Whalers are way up there in terms of cool logos.

New Arrival: Alain Chevrier

This puck is the first one that I sent out to the player completely without having had any contact and it actually came back. Pretty excited that it worked!

Alain Chevrier came to the Devils during the 1985-86 season, and would go on to play in 140 games as a Devil before moving on to Winnipeg, Chicago, Pittsburgh and Detroit.

He also happens to be the goalie who was playing at the very first NHL game I attended, which means this was a piece that I definitely needed. And of course, he wore a pretty famous number among New Jersey goalies.

Number 30.

Thanks on this one go out to my man Jay at http://www.hockeyinkinthemail.blogspot.com who helped me get this one done.

It almost says “it was mine before it was yours, Marty”, don’t you think?

New Arrival: Ron Low

Ron was drafted by the Maple Leafs in 1970. He was left exposed and selected in the 1974 Expansion Draft by the Washington Capitals, where he would record that franchise’s first ever shutout.

He was then traded to a Detroit, and in 1979 was again left exposed and was again selected in the Expansion Draft, by the Quebec Nordiques. He was then traded to the Edmonton Oilers after only 14 games.

In 1983, Ron was traded from Edmonton with Jim McTaggart to the Devils for fellow goalie Lindsay Middlebrook and Paul Miller. He would play parts of 3 seasons with the Devils before retiring.

Another one on the “I’ll need a Devils puck eventually” list.

New Arrival: Yann Danis

Yann was undrafted out of Brown University and signed with the Montreal Canadiens in 2004. He came to the Devils as a free agent in 2009, and stayed for a year. He would return to the team again as a free agent in 2016. He played a total of 14 games for the Devils and retired from the sport in 2018.

I could not find a Devils puck, but was able to obtain this one from his stay with the Montreal Canadiens. Good luck in retirement!

New Arrival: Gilles Senn, plus a bonus.

Gilles Senn is a Swiss born monster of a goalie at 6’5”. He played for HC Davos in Switzerland Before being a late round selection by the Devils in 2017. He played only two games in the NHL, coming in once for an injured MacKenzie Blackwood and starting one game (a loss, but this is 2020 Devils hockey we are talking about, after all). He spent the rest of his time in North America playing for the Binghamton Devils.

“Hey you, with the goalie signed pucks…what’s wrong with you?”

In 2021, following the signing of a couple other goalies, Gilles opted to sign a contract with his original team, HC Davos, and he left North America.

For a guy like me, that presents a problem, now I have to try to get a puck signed by a guy in Europe. But, I got lucky. There’s an eBay seller who has a ton of Binghamton stuff for sale, obtained directly from the team. One of his listings was a lot of 43 signed pucks, and I saw one as clear as day: Gilles Senn 31.

So yeah, I bought 43 signed pucks to get one that I wanted. I figured I could sell the rest and make up the difference. I immediately listed the rest for sale and sold enough that I am happy with the net cost of my Senn puck.

The first Binghamton Devils puck in my collection

After identifying my Senn puck, I of course went through the rest, curious as to what other goalies I might find. There was a Mackenzie Blackwood signed puck, but I already had one of those. It was one of the first ones that sold on Reddit, in less than an hour.

But then I found this one, signed by Devils prospect Evan Cormier. No, Evan does not fit my collection as he has not played in a game with the Devils. He has split his time between Binghamton and the Adirondack Thunder of the ECHL.

It would absolutely annoy the crap out of me if I didn’t save this puck, Evan comes up and plays, and then I had to find another. So, to avoid that, I’ll set this one aside and hope that Evan gets to have his day.

I guess we’ll call it “pre-collecting”.

On the flip side, anyone need any Binghamton Devils signed pucks? Check my sale page to see what’s left.

New (Outgoing) Mail Day

I have definitely been doing my best to try to put myself “out there” to try to get this project done. part of that was talking to Jay at http://www.hockeyinkinthemail.com. You want to talk about a collection? He is attempting to obtain the signature of everyone who ever played in the NHL. Makes my project pale in comparison.

Jay was able to provide me with some tips about autograph seeking, but also some addresses of retired players who have been receptive to his autograph requests. I figured it was worth a shot.

I have also been making efforts to connect with players on social media, and have been in touch with one.

So I am in the process of sending out pucks, silver Sharpies, and return envelopes to five separate players.

Actually, one of those is Hannu Kampurri in Finland. There is apparently no way to send a return envelope internationally, so I just asked him to contact me in a note, providing him my e-mail, so I can pay for the shipping cost. I expect that I will not see that puck back, and that the money spent to send it to Finland will be lost. I am ok with that, its all part of this project and I am happy to make the effort.

Five pucks. Five players. Let’s see how many come back.

New Arrival: Eric Comrie

Eric was claimed on waivers from the Winnipeg Jets. He played one game, starting the January 31, 2021 contest against the Buffalo Sabres. He allowed 3 goals on 33 shots for the win. He also had one of the most badass masks in team history. Literally, it had team history on it, pictures of Chico Resch, Ken Daneyko, Scott Stevens and Marty Brodeur.

Come on. Now that is cool.

A little more than 2 weeks later, Comrie was waived by the Devils and reclaimed by Winnipeg. His time in Winnipeg accounts for this Jets puck with his signature in gold.

New Arrival: Jeff Reese

Jeff is a other guy who did not play long for the Devils. He joined the Devils on 1996-97, playing in just 3 games. That was when Martin Brodeur was in his prime, and he played 67 games that year. We also had a very capable backup in Mike Dunham.

Jeff backed up in the NHL for over 10 years before retiring. He then served as a goalie coach in several organizations, including the one on this puck which is his current team, the Dallas Stars.

This one was a perfect pickup for my collection because Jeff’s signature nearly completely covers the Stars logo. Thanks Jeff!

Is it not a Devils puck? I can pretend.

New Arrival: Rollie Melanson

I made the decision that I would go ahead and allow non-Devils pucks as I try to complete my collection. If Devils puck versions pop up later, I will swap them out. This is the first one.

Rollie played for the Devils once. Literally once, during the 1990-91 season. He spent the previous year in the AHL with Utica Devils and was called up for just one game, coming in in relief for Sean Burke on February 27, 1991. Sean had given up 5 goals on just 11 shots to the Toronto Maple Leafs. Rollie played the third period, allowed two more on 7 shots.

Rollie would later be traded along with Kirk Muller in exchange for Stephane Richer and Tom Chorske.

He played for various other teams, and the least offensive option for a signed puck was the Minnesota North Stars (better than owning an Islanders puck!).

Rollie also had a second stint with the Devils, this time as a goalie coach from 2017 to 2020, after replacing another former Devils goalie, Chris Terreri.

20 minutes of play as a Devil, that makes him a player I needed in my collection. Happy to have it.

The Collection Tour: Sean Burke

Sean was the 24th overall pick in the 1985 NHL Draft, and he was the first goalie picked that year, ahead of both Mike Richter (28) and Bill Rangers (52). Imagine the Devils wound up with Mike Richter and not the Rangers?? I would rather not think about that.

Sean was a good goalie but one of the things that drew me to him as a fan was his demeanor. He was a tough goalie to ply against, and he didn’t mind dropping his gloves either.

Check him out in action, starting around 3:07

Sean played only 4 seasons with the Devils, and as it sometimes happens, it didn’t end well. He sat out the 1991-92 season and played for the Canadian National Team. As I recall, he was upset both over his salary and his reduction in playing time after Chris Terreri arrived.

Sean was ultimately traded with Eric Weinrich to the Hartford Whalers in exchange for Bobby Holik and a draft pick that would later be used to select Jay Pandolfo. Hard to imagine the Devils not having those two guys, especially Pandolfo who would play for the team from 1996 through 2010.

We got Holik and Pandolfo, Sean got these badass pass with a whale’s tail on them.

Between the bad breakup and his short time as a Devil, I would’ve thought a signed Devils puck would be hard to find, but I got this one on eBay with relative ease. One of a select few of my pucks where you can actually read the signature. Happy to have it as part of the collection.

Legible signature in silver Sharpie with his #1.
AJ Sports World Hologram on the reverse, corresponds with the Certificate of Authenticity.

The Collection Tour: Glenn “Chico” Resch

Since I don’t expect to be very active finding the remaining pucks on my list, I figure I will also take the opportunity to run through the ones I already have. Might as well start with an original Devil, and a true original period, Glenn “Chico” Resch.

Resch was traded by the Islanders to the Colorado Rockies in 1981. He was one of the players who made the move east to New Jersey the following season.

Chico would play 4 seasons with the Devils before being traded to the Flyers during the 1985-86 season. Never had a good season as a Devil, and played on some truly awful teams.

Chico getting his pre-game stretch on.

I only started watching the Devils during the 1986-87 season, so I never really knew him as a player. My main exposure to Chico was as a color commentator. And of course, part of that was his memorable series, “Chico Eats”.

I met Chico just once. Not at a meet and greet, not at a card show, but standing at a urinal in the Continental Airlines Arena. My usual bathroom technique at a game is to head up the stairs with less than a minute left (during a stoppage, of course, I’m not a heathen), watch the end of the period at the top of the stairs, then bolt for the restroom.

I did exactly that and immediately after I arrived at my urinal, coming in at full speed was a little guy in a brown suit with a combed over hairstyle and a mustache. Holy crap, I’m peeing next to Chico Resch.

I maintained proper urinal etiquette. Stare straight ahead, say nothing, look at nothing, do your thing. Chico did not. He pulls up at the urinal directly next to me, which any guy knows is a breach of protocol unless there is no option; you are supposed to leave an empty urinal as a buffer.

And he didn’t look straight ahead, he looks over at me and says “Oh boy, this is one heck of a game we’re seeing I’ll tell ya that!” It was, as I recall, a 1-0 game through two periods. I agreed, he said that if Marty kept playing the way he was playing, there was no way he was getting scored on. He wound up being correct.

Chico finished his business, zipped up, told me to enjoy the rest of the game, and off he went. He did wash his hands, with soap, so he got that part of the process right.

I remember feeling like it was weird that a “celebrity” working for the team (or the network, rather) would be using the same bathroom as the fans. But if you’ve ever listened to Chico, or had a conversation with him (hopefully not while holding your meat), you know that he’s just that kind of guy. There’s no question the guy likes talking to fans.

This puck was an eBay purchase. Signed in white ink, and a little smudged. But still a great piece. Chico may not be remembered as a great player for the Devils, at least not by most of us who missed his time, but there is no way I could have a collection like this without him being a part of it.

Signed Glenn “Chico” Resch.
It’s an official game puck with my LectraTag label, which is easily removable.

New Arrival: Bob Sauvé

I originally found and purchased this one on eBay in December 2020. Unfortunately, the seller (a former Devils equipment manager) didn’t realize he had it in his storage locker, and he could not access it due to COVID restrictiions.

Fast-forward 6 months, and I found it on eBay again. Closed the deal and now it’s added to the collection.

I hardly remember Bob as a player. He came to the Devils in 1987-88 via free agency, and he shared playing time with Alain Chevrier and a young rookie named Sean Burke. Burke took over the starting duties in 1988-89 and played in 62 games, with Bob playing in only 15. He played only those two seasons with the Devils before retiring due to chronic back issues.

His best career year was 1980 with the Buffalo Sabres, when he shared the Vezina Trophy with Don Edwards.

Check out the late 70’s/early 80’s mustache action. He was like the Magnum P.I. of hockey players.

He is now a player agent and represents Marc-Edouard Vlasic and Jason Demers. He also used to represent guys like Patrick Roy and Vincent Lecavalier.

This puck is signed in what appears to be ballpoint pen, which does not make for as striking an appearance as my favored silver Sharpie. But, it’s a signed puck by an older Devils goalie, which are hard to come by.

I am happy to bring it into my collection after a 6 month delay. Many thanks to eBay user “10college” for making it available. You should check out his eBay listings, he has some early Devils jerseys and some Capitals stuff that was really cool to look at.

This signature is on what appears to be an official game puck from the time period. Even if it isn’t, it at least has the red and green colors that were in use when Bob played for the Devils.

New Arrivals: Frazee and McKenna

Found a seller on eBay who had both of these pucks. A combined total of 3 Devils games for these two goalies.

Frazee was a longtime Devils minor leaguer, spending 6 seasons between Lowell and then Albany in the AHL, and 5 games in the ECHL for the Trenton Devils. He was called up in 2013. He exchanged roster spots with Keith Kinkaid, who had just made his first NHL start before being sent back down to the AHL.

Jeff never started a game for the Devils. He came in just once, in relief of Johan Hedberg on March 9, 2013. He faced three shots in 19 minutes and allowed no goals.

Jeff never played another game on the NHL and has since retired, with a forever perfect 1.000 save percentage.

Mike McKenna played two games for the Devils in the 2010-11 season. He allowed 6 goals on 56 shots.

His first start for the team was against the St. Louis Blues, his hometown team. The Devils were defeated 3-2.

Both of these pucks arrived wrapped in dirty hockey tape with the player’s name written on it, like they do for milestone pucks that are taken out of a game. These didn’t appear to be milestone pucks of any kind and they looked awful.

They did not look very “collectible” in this condition.

The first step was to remove the tape. Anyone who has ever worked with hockey tape knows, that stuff is really sticky. It came off the McKenna puck pretty cleanly. The Frazee was left with much more sticky residue around the edges. However, since I display them in a wall mounted shadow box, that doesn’t really show.

I should add, these pictures will show you my own method of labeling signed pucks, labels printed with a Dymo LectraTag label maker. While right now I can identify each one, I was afraid that in time, I would forget which illegible Scribble belonged to which player. The LectraTag labels are small, and adhere nicely to the surface of a puck. But, they also come off without residue. I initially tried labeling the side edge, but the texture of the puck would not allow the label to stick.

Two guys who barely played for the team and whom I anticipated difficulty in finding. Thank you how’s out to eBay user “motherpucker-puck-shop” (GREAT name) for making these available.

These pucks are non-logo and pretty beat up, and I would consider replacing them with a proper team logo puck should I ever find one.

Signed Up for Social Media

I have long avoided social media, but for purposes of this project, I have signed up for Twitter (@GoalieNJ) and Instagram (devilspuckproject). I figure it’s going to be necessary to put myself “out there” at some point if there is any prayer of getting close to completing this project.

I am still not thrilled with Facebook and I have to see if there is a way for me to sign up over there.

Also, Happy 4th of July to anyone reading, hope you had a great weekend!

A New Arrival: Kirk McLean

I will be sharing the pucks I have collected before I started this site, but this one arrived today and I figured why not post about it. This one is signed by New Jersey Devils superstar Kirk McLean.

Wait, what??

Kirk was the 107th pick in the 1984 NHL Entry Draft. He played for the Devils for parts of two seasons. When I say “parts”, I mean 6 games total between 1985-1987.

Obviously, most people don’t remember Kirk as a Devil. He spent most of his career with the Vancouver Canucks following a trade in 1987. Never won a Vezina, but did have a 38 win season once. Played 16 seasons in the NHL, a total of 612 games. But he played 6 in the old Red and Green, so he is a welcome addition to this collection.

I didn’t think I would be able to find a Devils puck signed by a guy who played here for such a short amount of time, but here it is, and with a nice inscription to boot. Thanks go out to the fine seller that made this one available to me. Thanks Cojo Sport Collectibles!

The fact that the autograph and inscription are slanted as compared to the logo is triggering my OCD just a bit.

Everyone Remembers Their First Time: Martin Brodeur

Might as well start out with the best.

1995, fresh off the first Stanley Cup Championship in franchise history. Martin Brodeur had become my personal hero, at least hockey-wise. In the course of two years he went from being a dude we only knew because of the cheesy mustache on his Score rookie card, only to emerge as the starting goalie that would bring the Devils their first Cup, on his way to becoming one of the best the league ever saw.

Not a great look, but we won’t hold it against him.

I was very surprised to learn that my hometown, squarely in the middle of Rangers country, would be getting a visit from Marty. This was toward the tail end of when sportscard shows were very popular, and he was booked for an autograph signing.

I knew I had to go, but I anticipated it would be mobbed. So I lined up early. Three hours early. One of those things that at that time, I was young enough to do and that I am now old enough that I probably wouldn’t.

But, the good news was, I was fifth in line. That meant no matter what, I was meeting Marty and getting something signed. I brought not a single thing with me. Leaving my girlfriend (now wife) to hold my spot, I ventured out into the shoe to find something to get signed.

I had an autographed stick from John MacLean. It was always a pain to display and I didn’t really enjoy it. Trading cards were fine, but not really that exciting. As I made my rounds, I found what I needed. A 1995 Stanley Cup Champions puck.

To that point, I owned only a single puck, the one I caught 10 rows behind the goal in the Brendan Byrne Arena. That was December 28, 1991. I don’t remember the Buffalo Sabres player who shot it, but I remember it deflecting off of Devils goalie Craig Billington, and then coming in hot towards me (pre-safety nets; row 10 was basically lined up exactly with the top of the glass).

I had never caught anything at a major sporting event before, and this was my chance. I stood up and threw my hand up to try to catch the puck, which seemed to be traveling at about the speed of light. I got my hand in front of it, and WHACK, it hit the bottom of my palm and bounced off. Dejected, I sat down without even considering where it went next.

The answer turned out to be “straight up”, because as I sat back down, it hit the empty seat next to me with a solid thud, and I quickly reached over and snatched it before anyone else could. I got a visit from the usher, who asked if I needed medical assistance, but who also expressed his amazement that I even got my hand in front of it. I was fine, the Devils won 3-0 on two goals by Doug Brown and one by Stephane Richer.

Still have it, with my ticket stub, nearly thirty years later. It may be the oldest thing I still own!

Anyhow, I waited in line for about three hours for the line to even start moving. Within just a few minutes, I was next in line. I brought a camera with me (pre-digital) and tried to snap a picture of Marty while I was waiting. Much to my surprise, he stopped signing for the person in front of me and looked directly into the camera and smiled. As of this post, I cannot locate that picture.

When it was my turn, he made some sort of joke about how I thought he wouldn’t pose for a picture. As I have done with every celebrity I have ever met, I made sure to thank him for keeping me entertained and of course for helping to bring a Cup to New Jersey. He thanked me for coming and I got to shake his hand.

This puck has been with me since 1995, and it will be the Brodeur puck that I include as part of my project (I will admit, I’ve obtained a few others over the years).

In addition to everything else you can say about Marty, I can also say with certainty that the guy knows exactly where to sign a puck. I have 4 Marty pucks and each one is signed in a spot where there is the least amount of logo, which makes for a great looking autographed item.

Signing over the silver Stanley Cup logo would have looked sloppy. Marty knew exactly where to sign.
Devils logo on the back; but I had to have it signed on the Cup side, obviously!

Postscript: My wife (then my girlfriend) had Marty sign an 8×10 glossy photo, which she had pinned to a cork board in her room , through the plastic sleeve, not the picture. One day I noticed it was gone, and I mentioned that if she didn’t want it anymore, I could find a place for it. Her response was “That? I threw it away!”. I married her anyway. It’s not like she was a Rangers fan or anything.

Additional Postscript: I pulled out the Certificate of Authenticity and realized that I didn’t remember the dates all that well. This signing was in the summer of 1996, not 1995, so it was significantly after the Stanley Cup (and missing the playoffs the next year).