I just recently had the pleasure of speaking with former New Jersey Devil, Jim Dowd, a member of the 1995 Cup-winning team:
RednBlack: You graduated from Brick High School in 1987 after a stellar career (375 points over four years, a national scholastic scoring record). Being a Jersey guy, what was it like for you to be drafted by the Devils in the NHL Entry Draft that summer?
Jim Dowd: It was amazing. During my senior year of high school I committed to Lake Superior State University. My college coach told me that I would be drafted, and honestly, the only team I didn’t want to be drafted by was the New Jersey Devils. Reason being, I didn’t want to be a charity pick (local pick). But when I received the call that I had been drafted by New Jersey it was a great feeling to say the least. Especially given I was picked in the 8th round. At that time, there were 12 rounds in the draft.
RnB: After spending the next four years at Lake Superior State University (where you were named CCHA player of the year after your senior year – 274 points in 181 games), you began your pro career with Utica in 1991. It was during that season you were called up for your first game as a New Jersey Devil (3/26/92) against Boston. (My first Devils’ game was two days later 3/28/92). What was that first game like for you?
JD: It was an incredible feeling to get called up to play that first NHL game, which we won. It was actually Marty Brodeur’s first NHL game as well that night so it was great to share that with him. He wore the #29 that game, for the one and only time in his career (a little trivia for you). I remember my first faceoff was in the neutral zone against Adam Oates, and I won it, but I think Adam let me win it because he knew it was my first game.
RnB: After the lock-out you were called up to New Jersey for good. During your time with the Devils, especially early on, was there anyone you really looked up to in the locker room?
JD: There were so many great leaders in the locker room: Bruce Driver, Kenny Daneyko, John Maclean, Scotty Stevens. I remember having posters on my wall of these guys and now I was playing with them. Even guys like Claude Lemieux and Stephane Richer were great role models in practice. At the time Tommy Albelin was our sixth defenseman, talk about depth. Now he’d be a top 3 D-man. All of the veterans treated guys called up, or guys coming over via trade, like we were first liners. It was really a great team concept.
RnB: 19 years ago you were a member of the first New Jersey Devil team to win a Stanley Cup. (I was actually at Game 4). You were the star of Game 2 with the GWG against Detroit to give New Jersey the 2-0 lead coming back to New Jersey. You guys went on to complete the 4-game sweep of the Red Wings. What was that run like for you?
JD: To not only grow up in NJ, rooting for NJ, get drafted by NJ, and then win a Cup with NJ? It was absolutely incredible, a fairy tale I guess you could say. The feeling was hard to describe.
RnB: You played for 10 NHL teams during your NHL career…aside from being from New Jersey and winning the Cup with the Devils, was there anything that made that team extra special or unique for you?
JD: Just the fact that they always went about things the right way, and they continue to do so.
RnB: You remain involved with the Devils. Can you tell me a little bit about what you are currently involved with?
JD: Ken Daneyko, Bruce Driver, Grant Marshall and I are very involved in the Devils Community, partaking in many events including street hockey clinics, which I’m actually driving back from right now (Camp Louemma in Sussex, NJ).
RnB: You’ve also been extremely involved in youth hockey in Monmouth County for nearly two decades including numerous charity games and events. A short time ago you were hired as the new head coach of the Manasquan/Point Pleasant Beach Co-Op High School team. How special was that for you?
JD: It was amazing. I am really looking forward to it. They have been asking me to coach for 3 or 4 years now but I wanted to wait until my son got to the high school. The team will be playing at Jersey Shore Arena in Wall. I look forward to creating a great atmosphere for these kids, a great culture, that people in the community can really get excited about.
RnB: What is your outlook for the 2014-15 New Jersey Devils, especially given the recent free agency signings of Mike Cammalleri and Martin Havlat?
JD: The Devils were right there last year. I think it will be very strange not seeing Marty Brodeur around. But the team brought back Clemmensen to battle with Kinkaid for that backup spot behind Cory Schneider. A couple of issues were addressed, especially scoring, as Cammalleri can score a lot of goals. I think Havlat is going to be a good fit, given his Czech connection with Elias and others. If Jagr continues his high level of play and Zajac gets back on track, we are going to be right in the mix.
RnB: Truly appreciate the time you spent in speaking with me today.
JD: Any time, no problem at all.
Thanks for reading.