(July 23, 2003) It was Game 5 of the Stanley Cup Final. John Madden, demonstrating why he's nicknamed 'Mad Dog' by his teammates, was ferociously forechecking in Anaheim's defensive zone when a crosscheck from the Mighty Ducks' Sandis Ozolinsh sent him sprawling to the ice. In the resulting fracas, an errant skate blade carved a deep gash into Madden's cheek that spilled crimson down the length of his bearded face. Madden quickly retired to the dressing room and, missing just three shifts, returned with fresh stitches bridging a serious cut. Two games later, the Devils earned the Stanley Cup. Sports Illustrated ran a shot of the warrior holding the Cup aloft, his smile disguising the pain he was enduring. With blackened eyes and a long red scar on his left cheek, Madden still mustered a broad smile that totally erased the damage inflicted on him by those Ducks.
John Madden plays every shift as though his life depends upon it. It's one of the reasons he was selected the Selke Trophy winner as best defensive forward after his sophomore season (2000-01) and why he was runner-up to Jere Lehtinen of the Dallas Stars earlier this spring. Fiercely courageous, Madden loved the photograph and asked a friend to secure a copy so that he could have it duplicated and signed for friends. The photo epitomized the John Madden the NHL has come to know - a warrior and a champion.
When the package arrived, Madden tore through the wrapping, anxious to study the picture once again. But 'Mad Dog' got a surprise - instead of the victor standing bloodied and bruised, his friend had used a computer program to touch up the photo. The black eyes had been artfully erased and the stitches had now mysteriously disappeared. "Ah, man!!" Madden sighed. "What the hell is THIS? Sports is supposed to be all about unedited drama. I don't even recognize the guy in this picture!" His friend had decided to airbrush out the badges of courage of which John Madden was so proud.
Although having completed just his fourth full season in the NHL, Madden has not only established himself as one of the league's premier defensive forwards, but also as a champion. This is the second summer he has had the honour of spending a day with the Stanley Cup. As a rookie in 2000, John took the Cup home to his childhood neighbourhood in Scarborough, Ontario. This visit by the Stanley Cup took on an entirely different complexion for Madden.
|Madden poses with the Cup in his
prized 1964 Corvette.
Late in the evening on Wednesday, July 16, the Stanley Cup arrived in East Hampton, Connecticut. The heritage town, although known as 'Belltown USA,' is decidedly quiet, and Madden's Stanley Cup celebration reflected his neighbourhood. John and his wife Lauren wanted this Stanley Cup victory to be subdued yet meaningful, and decided to share their celebration with two special couples -- Madden's childhood friend Sheldon and his wife plus a university pal, Rob, with his wife. The couples hung out at the Madden home, reminiscing and catching up on their respective lives while the Stanley Cup sat nearby.
Thursday, the couples continued their visit with the addition of John and Lauren's two children. Photographs of the group were taken, including some posed in John's prized 1964 Corvette. In the Devils' dressing room during the season, Madden and assistant coach Larry Robinson often fell into conversations about their classic sports cars.
The couples retired to the garage for a serious game of table hockey, competing for the Stanley Cup. Later, the six examined the names inscribed on the Cup, throwing trivia related to past winners at each other. John's knowledge of hockey history is quite good; remarkable in fact for a 28-year old. It was a wonderful day spent thoroughly enjoying time spent with close friends. As intense as 'Mad Dog' might be on the ice, he was a study in relaxation during his day with the Cup, savouring every special moment.
Return for Friday's installment of the Stanley Cup Journal when the Cup follows Brian Rafalski to Waupaca, Wisconsin.
Kevin Shea is a hockey historian and writer based in Toronto.