Climbing back into the saddle for the Stanley Cup final never gets old for the New Jersey Devils, especially if you have been around the organization as long as pro scout Bob Hoffmeyer.
Hoffmeyer is only 56 years old, but he's been a member of the Devils family longer than general manager Lou Lamoriello has been with New Jersey, and Lamoriello recently celebrated his 25th anniversary with the team.
"I think it's safe to say that Lou's time with the Devils has been a little more important," Hoffmeyer said with a chuckle. "But there is nothing old hat about returning to the Stanley Cup final. It's exactly why you play or exactly why you put in the extra work.
"I never got to experience a Stanley Cup as a player, but in the minors and juniors I played in a few Game 7s, and I will never forget how much fun it was. It's still extremely exciting to be a part of this."
Hoffmeyer and the Devils will make their fifth trip back to the final as an organization, when they open the 2012 championship series at home against the Los Angeles Kings on Wednesday (CBC, CBCSports.ca, 8 p.m. ET).
The native of Dodsland, Sask. -- a village about three hours west of Saskatoon -- hopes to add a fourth Stanley Cup ring to go with titles from 1994-95, 1999-2000 and 2002-03.
One of the Devils' strengths has been their scouting staff. People like executive vice-president of hockey operations David Conte, Claude Carrier, Marcel Pronovost, Fern Flaman, Dan Labraaten, Lou Reycroft and Hoffmeyer have been with the organization for a long time.
Hoffmeyer remarked that there is plenty of loyalty between Lamoriello and his scouts. Lamoriello said the loyalty goes both ways.
"Loyalty is a two-way street," Lamoriello told Gord Stellick and I on Hockey Night in Canada radio on Monday
. "We have tremendous scouts here like David Conte. He's had a number of opportunities to move on, but he takes tremendous pride in what he does. He has autonomy and we work very closely. I feel that way with all our scouts. They all have tremendous responsibilities and they're good at what they do. At any time, they can be game changers.
"Bob Hoffmeyer is a good example. We were looking for a role player several years ago. Bob was in Columbus. I get a call from him and said 'I may have found what we're looking for.' We gave up a fourth-round pick and that player scored some big goals for us."
That player was Grant Marshall. He scored six goals in the Devils' march to the 2003 Stanley Cup. Patrolling the blue-line
Hoffmeyer, a defenceman, was a fifth-round pick of the Chicago Blackhawks in 1975 and spent five seasons in their system. He played a year in Germany before returning at the end of the 1980-81 season to sign as a free agent with the Philadelphia Flyers.
Eventually, Hoffmeyer patrolled the blue line for the Devils in the mid-1980s, but after a knee injury forced him into retirement, he accepted a job as the Devils' advance scout in Oct. 1985. He later spent time as an assistant coach with New Jersey and their minor-league affiliate in Utica. He briefly left to coach his junior team, the Saskatoon Blades, at the end of the 1990-91 season, and then took a head coaching position with the Kalamazoo Wings.
Hoffmeyer returned to the New Jersey organization as the team's pro scout in the mid-1990s and he has been in that role since. Although, we should mention that he came out of retirement to play for the Devils' AHL affiliate a decade after his last pro game.
The Albany River Rats were in Cornwall on March 14, 1996, and Hoffmeyer was in the area to check in on the Devils prospects. But after an afternoon spent at the hotel working on his reports and a trip through the Burger King drive-thru to fuel up before the game he was about to scout, he got a surprise when he got to the rink. The River Rats had lost some players to injury and to call-ups.
"I ordered the biggest Whopper they had and I was still wiping the grease off my chin when I was walking across the parking lot," Hoffmeyer recalled. "I visited the dressing room, and one of the guys said 'there's our extra defenceman.'
"When I was told they were short, I went to find [River Rats head coach] Robbie Ftorek. He was up on the concourse taking his usually nightly walk to sort out his thoughts. Robbie phoned Lou on a pay phone to see if it was all right for me to play. Lou said 'I guess so,' and Robbie hung up before Lou could change his mind."
By the time Hoffmeyer went through the players' extra equipment to find some stuff he could use, he made it out on to the ice for the final five minutes of warm-up. "That's all I needed. I didn't want to peak too early," he said.
The River Rats lost 7-0 that evening, but Hoffmeyer, at age 40, only was a minus-one. He asked Ftorek afterwards if he wanted to use him again in the next game. But the high-strung Ftorek didn't answer as he boarded the bus.
It was back to scouting for good for Hoffmeyer.
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