The New Jersey Devils don't usually retire numbers.
There are only two hanging from the rafters at the Prudential Center. Scott Stevens and Ken Daneyko, arguably the foundation of the dominant Devils defense during their Stanley Cup championships, have gained that honor. Friday night, Scott Niedermayer will join them. The former Devil was one of the teams most productive skaters. He ranks second in the team's history in assists and is one of their top-five all-time scorers.
His retirement ceremony will be a celebration of a storied career and an acknowledgment of his importance to the organization. But one local media member thinks it could be so much better than that.
Tom Gulitti, who covers the Devils for The Bergen Record, took the Devils to task today for their mismanagement of the event. He said the franchise will do a great job with the actual ceremony, but missed out on an opportunity to expand the event.
"Not having some kind of media event today with Niedermayer, Stevens and Daneyko all there is another missed opportunity by the organization," Gulitti tweeted. "There are special moments for an organization and this is a gift-wrapped opportunity to promote the player and the team locally.
"The Devils will get a sellout for Niedermayer and that's fine, but they could have done more/better with this."
It isn't the first time Gulitti criticized the Devils organization. When a bank of lights went out during a game against the Tampa Bay Lightning last season, he criticized team management for how it handled the situation. He was correct then, and he's raised a valid point in his argument today.
Retiring a number for the Devils is a special event. New Jersey is, by all means, a relatively young organization. They struck it rich at a fast pace, winning three Stanley Cups and drafting some extremely gifted players. Celebrating a player who has his number retired should not be limited to a two hour window before a game. Holding a special media day would give writers like Gulitti the opportunity to get Niedermayer, uninterrupted. Think about the amount of personal stories and great quotes that could come from an event like that. It would lend itself to better stories being published and, in some ways, a greater opportunity for fans to learn a little more about one of the greatest players in Devils history.
I also like Gulitti's idea of involving Daneyko and Stevens. The three of them spent years together, with Neidermayer leading the offensive charge and Stevens and Daneyko serving as the physical enforcers. The stories the three of them could tell alone makes that a great idea. It's why the Hall of Fame invites back its members when new ones are introduced. They want to enhance the celebration and allow present greats to welcome the new ones into an exclusive club.
This event would also draw immediate positive attention to the Devils. Despite their rebound early this season, New Jersey isn't exactly a beacon of great news. The organization is facing serious financial difficulties, and there's constant talk of Zach Parise leaving town at the end of the season. An event like this would shine a positive light on the Devils and allow them to be the talk of the league. Instead, they will cram it all into one day.
As Gulitti says, the team will get a sellout Friday night. The ceremony will be done with class. But, when looking at the bigger picture, it's hard not to disagree with Gulitti. New Jersey had an opportunity to cash in bigger on this event, but decided to let that go.
While fans will surely enjoy watching Niedermayer's number slowly rise to the rafters, we can still wonder if the Devils left them hanging, with something more needed to make it a truly great event.