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For Daneyko, week in Russia brings back memories

Wednesday, 09.19.2012 / 10:36 AM ET / Features
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For Daneyko, week in Russia brings back memories
Daneyko played 1,283 games with the Devils, most in franchise history.

In a 20-year NHL career, Ken Daneyko won three Stanley Cups to go along with silver and bronze medals earned representing Canada at the World Championship. With that kind of resume, he figured he had experienced everything hockey could offer prior to his 2003 retirement.

That changed in early September, when the former New Jersey Devils defenseman made a special hockey pilgrimage to Russia.

"Everybody asked me when I retired if it was difficult. For me, it really wasn't. I was very content," said Daneyko, who traveled to participate in two exhibition games featuring former NHL players. "When I got in the locker room with these guys, all of a sudden you're in a room sitting next to (Wayne) Gretzky and (Mark) Messier. Brett Hull was there. To see the competitiveness from them, it was the first time I felt like an NHLer again. I thought, maybe this is what I miss. Even though it was some old [guys], the atmosphere was unbelievable."

The collection of some of the game's greatest players gathered for a series pitting a team of Canadian players against a roster of former Russian greats, including Pavel Bure, Alex Mogilny, and Daneyko's former Devils teammate Viacheslav Fetisov.

Despite Canada being outplayed in the first game in St. Petersburgh, goaltender Trevor Kidd managed to keep things close. But Kidd's heroics wouldn't be enough, and the Russians won 6-4. By the time the scene shifted to Yaroslavl a few days later, Daneyko and his Canadian teammates weren't ready to give their hosts a two-game sweep.

"We played to win. You see Gretzky and Hull and Messier saying, 'We're not losing two, boys,'" Daneyko told NHL.com. "Regardless if it's for goodwill, we were all into it and the second game was very competitive. We won 5-4 to split [the series]. The Russians hate to lose on their turf. I really just felt alive again in the hockey world."

I really just felt alive again in the hockey world. - Ken Daneyko

The games rekindled Daneyko's competitive edge and entertained Russian fans. But for everyone involved, there was more to the week than just playing hockey. For the players, that meant first honoring the 40th anniversary of the historic 1972 Summit Series, a seminal hockey moment that still resonates with Daneyko.

"That was so big and so huge. I grew up in Edmonton, where we stopped in the middle of class. I remember it like it was yesterday," Daneyko said. "At 10 a.m. they put TVs in the hallways to stop and watch. It was a great thing for hockey."

The ceremony commemorating the tournament featured players from both teams and an appearance from Russian president Vladimir Putin. A few days later in Yaroslavl, the players marked the one-year anniversary of the plane crash that took the lives of 44 people, including most of the Lokomotiv club's players and coaches. For Daneyko, the ceremonies in Yaroslavl proved to be an emotional moment, especially after a chance meeting with the widow of Yaroslavl's coach, Brad McCrimmon.

"I talked to her for about an hour, she's such a strong lady. You can't put yourself in those shoes, you can't imagine what they've been through," Daneyko said. "In the morning we put roses out for the guys. We just paid our respects the day of the game. That was really special. You just can't imagine when a tragedy like this happens, the number of people it affects."

With the exception of a short Russian exhibition in 2000 honoring Fetisov, it was the first time Daneyko had played there since the 1986 World Championship in what was then the Soviet Union. More than 25 years after that bronze-medal performance, Daneyko visited again to reminisce with old friends and enjoy an experience he won't soon forget.

"Just to be in that room with these guys, I was like a little kid. And here's a guy who played 20 years in the National Hockey League. What a great feeling. It was a real honor," Daneyko said. "I got to bring my son along. It was the trip of a lifetime for him.

"Boy, do they love their hockey over there in Russia."

By Tal Pinchevsky - NHL.com Staff Writer

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EASTERN CONFERENCE
  TEAM GP W L OT GF GA PTS
1 WSH 53 40 9 4 175 120 84
2 FLA 55 32 17 6 153 127 70
3 NYR 55 31 18 6 157 140 68
4 DET 55 28 18 9 138 134 65
5 NYI 53 29 18 6 150 131 64
6 TBL 54 30 20 4 144 130 64
7 BOS 54 29 19 6 159 148 64
8 PIT 54 28 19 7 139 136 63
9 NJD 55 27 21 7 122 123 61
10 CAR 55 24 21 10 131 143 58
11 MTL 56 27 25 4 151 151 58
12 PHI 53 24 20 9 127 138 57
13 OTT 56 25 25 6 157 173 56
14 BUF 56 22 28 6 131 155 50
15 CBJ 56 22 28 6 140 173 50
16 TOR 53 19 25 9 122 149 47

STATS

2015-2016 REGULAR SEASON
SKATERS: GP G A +/- Pts
L. Stempniak 55 15 25 6 40
M. Cammalleri 42 14 24 15 38
A. Henrique 53 18 18 14 36
K. Palmieri 55 20 15 3 35
T. Zajac 47 8 18 7 26
D. Schlemko 47 6 9 -8 15
A. Larsson 55 2 11 12 13
D. Severson 51 1 12 -1 13
A. Greene 55 4 6 2 10
J. Josefson 44 3 7 -14 10
 
GOALIES: W L OT Sv% GAA
C. Schneider 24 16 6 .930 2.01
K. Kinkaid 3 5 1 .909 2.52
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