One of the best things about being a Devil is that we’ve got die-hard fans everywhere — not just in New Jersey but all over the world, thanks to the legends like Eliáš and Holik and Fetisov, who came here from overseas. We know what this series against the Rangers means to you all — whether you’re watching at 8 p.m. in Jersey or 3 a.m. in Europe. So I thought it would be cool to do something a little different and write a letter before this series kicks off, because I need to ask you all a quick favor. I’ll get to that in a minute. First, I want to explain what it means to wear this jersey.
For me, I think everything really clicked this February when they celebrated the 20th anniversary of the 2003 Cup. I was on the bench for the ceremony, and I was watching all our legends come out…. Eliáš, Niedermayer, Stevens, Daneyko, Brodeur. Obviously, it’s my second season, so I thought I understood the Devils fans pretty well. But the way I saw the crowd react to the ’02-03 team as they came out of the tunnel…. Man, it was just really special. I saw a whole different side of our crowd. There was such admiration for what those guys had gone through to get that Cup and everything they sacrificed — the blood, the sweat, the teeth. There’s such a bond between the fans and those legends. We have a young group here, and there’s quite a few of us who weren’t old enough to know much about those great Devils teams. You see the banners around The Rock, you see the highlights, you hear the stories. But to see it up close, it was just different.
How can you not stand there and think: Everything you want, everything you’ve dreamt about … it’s right there.
Listen, we all want that feeling. It’s why we’re here. There’s a real positivity to this group. Call it a vibe or a culture or whatever, but it’s real. I don’t know how else to say it other than to say it simply: I’m just really glad I’m a Devil.
I knew it the moment I got to camp in my rookie season. I was drafted during the COVID season, so I didn’t get to meet everyone in the organization for about a year. Obviously, it could’ve made it weird for me, but during that first camp, right away, everyone made me feel comfortable. One of the things that helped me was seeing other young guys like Nico, Jack, and Yegor and so many others work as hard as they did. They aren’t much older than me, but they didn’t act like young guys out there. They pushed the pace, they had commitment, they led the team.
Last year we had some obstacles that we couldn’t quite overcome. There was some disappointment for sure. But I thought the way the room handled it was really positive. There was work to do in the summer, no doubt, but we knew we could take the next step. It was on all of us to come back this season with a new attitude. And the Devils fans were going to hold us accountable, that’s for sure.
They did, right away. We lost our first two games and people were frustrated. We heard the chants in the crowd. That sticks with you, as a player. And I understood, completely. But for us it was early in the season and we had a lot of belief in our group. You all know what happened next.
We won 19 of our next 21 games, and went on the streak. There’s a lot that sticks out from that run, but I remember that third period in Edmonton pretty clearly. We were down 3–1 to a real good team and Vitek made a couple huge saves to keep us in it. And I could just feel it on our bench that we weren’t done yet. Sometimes, hockey is a feeling. We were pushing and got within one. Then we got two more in seven seconds to go up 4–3 with a few minutes to go. And it was just one of those games where you start to envision what’s possible. Confidence is earned, you know? After that, we never felt like we were out of another game. Also, Yegor’s goal in Toronto during the streak — awesome. I mean, come on. Awesome.
I think we all knew coming into this year that each of us had to take a step forward. Watching the way Jack and Nico did that this year — honestly, they probably took two or three steps — it made it easier for all of us. With Nico, you know, I don’t think people appreciate how much he means to us. He’s a leader by example. When I joined the team, it was clear right away the connections he had with everyone. And to watch him play, he does it all. Scores, makes plays, hits, blocks shots, power play, penalty kill. He’s the type of player I think everyone wants to be. He’s there to win. Simple as that. To come from overseas, to deal with the pressure of being first overall, to be in the league at such a young age — he seems like he’s handled it all in stride and he’s a great leader in our room.
For all of you, and for the guys in our room, I know this season has been a lot of fun. Our group keeps it light and Coach Lindy really gets that, I think. He lets us be us, and his knowledge, and just how badly he wants to win, it’s clear for us all to see.
But the season is the season. The playoffs are what we’ve been working towards for years now. So that brings me to the favor. Look — you all make us go. When the building is rocking, it just gives us that little extra push. So if you don’t mind doing us a big favor tonight: Please go ahead and feel free to absolutely lose your minds when that puck drops. We don’t care if you’re in the building or watching from Czechia or Switzerland at 3 a.m. We want to hear you.
I know what we have here. You know what we have here. This feels like the start of something special.
See you at The Rock.