In Story Time, athletes share random stories from their career with little context. For this edition, we asked former New Jersey Devils teammates Scott Gomez and Ken Daneyko to each separately provide their versions of the same event. Warning: may contain adult language.
It’s 1999. I’m this fresh-faced kid from Alaska who just made his first NHL roster with the New Jersey Devils. It’s my first week of practice and I felt like the new kid in school, except you’re surrounded by grown men. It’s not like Junior hockey where everybody is your friend. In the NHL, guys have families and responsibilities. So I’m trying to lay low. There’s all kinds of locker room rules and etiquette that you find out about when you come in. There’s a hierarchy to everything. I mean, this is the ’99 Devils. I’m looking around the locker room and seeing Scott Niedermayer, Marty Brodeur, Scott fucking Stevens. It was ridiculous.
After one of my first practices, I stay out on the ice as long as I could because when you’re the new young guy you kind of have to be the last person off the ice. You do your best to put as much work in as you can while not being seen or heard. Finally, I head to the locker room and no surprise, most guys had left.
So I’m in the showers, shampooing or whatever, when all of a sudden I hear this deep, booming voice.
“Aww, no way. No way!”
My heart jumps. I thought I was alone.
“There’s just no way. No fucking way.”
I recognize that voice. Holy shit, it’s Ken Daneyko. I’m standing there with a head full of shampoo. I have no idea what to do. All I really knew about the guy was that his nickname was “The King,” which didn’t make me feel better about the situation. My mind was racing with worst case scenarios: Was Dano supposed to have the room to himself? Maybe he’s always the last guy and nobody’s supposed to be here? I should have asked someone if I could be in here.
“No. Fucking. Way.”
Finally, I peak my head out the shower and see Dano standing in front of a mirror, making his pecs bounce like Hulk Hogan.
And I say, “Hey King, is everything okay?”
He turns to me. He doesn’t laugh or smile.
“No, it’s not okay,” he says. “There’s no fucking way a 36-year-old man should be looking this good!”
Fifteen years later, he’s one of my best friends in hockey.
I was always a very energetic and intense guy, to say the least. I was really into the weights at the time. So after practice, I guess Gomer was in the shower. I didn’t know he was in there. I was getting up there in age at the time, but I was still pretty strong. So I was flexing in the mirror, grunting. Maybe I was screaming. Kind of like a WWF wrestler would, you know?
“Oh my god! You gotta be kidding me. There’s no way!”
I was just goofing off. I thought I was alone.
One thing about Scott is that he was always very respectful of the veterans in the room. He must have been so nervous in the shower. I can just imagine Scott’s thought process: “Oh no, why is he yelling? Dano’s been with this organization a long time. Maybe I’m not supposed to be in the shower before him.”
I remember him poking his head out around the corner all sheepishly.
“Hey King, is everything okay?”
And I was still all pumped up from lifting. So I said something like, “No! Hell no! There’s no way a 36-year-old should be this jacked!”
The look on his face was great. There was this big sigh of relief. I didn’t think anything of it, but I guess if you’re a 19-year-old kid coming into the locker room and there’s this old vet ranting and raving in front of a mirror, that would freak you out a little bit.
Hahaha! We ended up winning two Cups together, so I guess we were doing something right.