The Top 10 CNY Sports Stories EVER! The Utica Devils Hockey Team
Once upon a time there was a different sort of hockey that glided on the ice at the Utica Aud long before the UC Pioneers took up residence. In this AHL team's short 6-year stint here, there was a legacy begun that still echoes beyond our town, even today... They were known as the Utica Devils.
The guys pictured above were the first incarnation of the Devils but the team still had plenty of room in their skates to grow... Just three years later the team would produce arguably the best goaltender in the world, and be coached that same year by one of the most legendary coaches of the game.
If you're a hockey aficionado, then the name Martin Brodeur is nowhere near foreign to you and he's still wowing audiences today as the New Jersey Devil's starting goaltender. He spent his first two seasons as a pro player with our Utica farm team and then after getting called up full-time to the NHL with New Jersey he began breaking records and winning awards almost immediately, racking up an impressive set of stats over his 21-year tenure with the team, even shattering the records of his boyhood idol.
During Marty's first year in Utica, he was coached by none other than Herb Brooks who many of you remember made history about a decade earlier when he led the U.S. Hockey team to victory over Russia during the 1980 Olympics. Herb is no longer with us after losing his life in a car accident in 2003, but not before facing his former goalie (yup, Marty Brodeur) across the ice at the 2002 Olympic games and walking away with the silver medal to Martin's gold. How interesting that must've been to be those two guys that year! (Here Herb is pictured standing behind his U.S. team while playing Canada for the gold-medal game)
Herb was later immortalized on film by Kurt Russel in a movie chronicling the historic 1980 Lake Placid gold medal bout called 'Miracle'. I've seen it and it is inTENSE! And speaking of intensity, here's a neat find, an undated YouTube video of some Utica Devils players mixing it up (literally) with the Springfield Indians:
Along with Marty, the Utica Devils ended up producing another 8 NHL players worth mentioning and unfortunately, a year following Herb Brook's departure as coach after being at the helm only a single season, the Calgary Flames bought the Utica Devils and shipped them off to Nebraska to become the St. John Flames. Even though the life of the team was short, they didn't split town without leaving their mark on both our community and on the national hockey scene as a whole. Every time I see a New Jersey Devils logo I can't help but think of the 'U' with the horns and tail too.