Another season is upon us and this site is now back from its summer hiatus.
Starting the September headlines for the New Jersey Devils is the retirement of Captain Bryce Salvador.
For Devils fans, all I ask is that before you start chirping about how this is a good thing, read what led to this day: Player’s Tribune.
Over the years, I’ve heard fans talk badly about Bryce. They were always so overly critical. Everything from age to degenerate were their reasons for wanting Bryce off their team. When you read what actually happened to him when he took a puck to the face, you’ll see the situation very differently and become more sympathetic on why his game started to falter. It started on that day.
He didn’t show up to work and choose to play horribly. His condition had nothing to do with age. It had to do with an internal injury he sustained that day…and then another one. He struggled to stay in the game as long as he could. He wanted his kids to be able to see what their daddy did for a living.
Like most athletes, they try to hide their injuries in order to continue playing the game they love, until one day they can’t hide how bad things really are. They have to admit to themselves just how bad things are. It took a few years before doctors could pinpoint what was wrong with him. It wasn’t just a concussion. There was something more. It was that injury from the puck that prevented him from playing the game the way fans demanded him to play.
What he went through just to play in the 2011-2012 Stanley Cup run…I have to applaud him for. In one of my last two interviews with him, we spoke about his favorite moments as a New Jersey Devil (and fighting). This was originally published with Inside Hockey.
January 16, 2014
Most players on New Jersey Devils 2011-12 roster cite how the Stanley Cup run in 2012 was their favorite moment as part of the franchise.
Devils captain and defenseman Bryce Salvador is one of those players.
After being in the NHL for the last 13 years, the 2012 playoffs was one of the biggest highlights of his career — even though the Devils did not win the Cup.
“I think there’s been a lot,” Salvador said of his favorite moments as a New Jersey Devil. “But I think some of the more memorable ones were [when] Marty [Brodeur] broke the record and the run we had in the playoffs.”
Just what exactly was it about the Stanley Cup run that year that made this so special for him?
“I’ve been in the league for what has it been? Geez. 13 years? 14 years? It’s the first time I made it to the Finals,” Salvador said. “Obviously we didn’t win it, but to just go and experience that…it doesn’t happen very often. Everything about it: the wins, the losses, the aches, the pains — everything about it. It’s just the whole experience. You can’t pick out one thing out of it.”
One factor he pointed out on the road to the Stanley Cup that made the run so memorable: the good ole’ Hudson rivalry.
“Obviously, around here to beat the Rangers to go to the Finals, I think that adds to it,” Salvador said.
The last time I spoke with Bryce, it was right after he fought Dallas Stars’ Antoine Roussel. These two players have some of the highest numbers of career fights to their names on their respective teams. It was a bit shocking to see Bryce fighting, considering his health, but he did it anyway, because that’s the kind of captain he is. If another player has to be put in their place, he’ll take one for the team. That’s what made him such a great leader, just like the previous captain before him (Jamie Langenbrunner).
Bryce will continue to work with the Devils organization focusing “on growing the sport in collaboration with the team’s rink partners throughout New Jersey.” (NJ Devils email to press).
Best of health and happiness to Bryce, April and their children.