SUN Hockey Pool

Scott Stevens

MIKE ZEISBERGER -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 1:53 PM ET

In the dense woods of central New Jersey, hockey's Captain Crunch waits quietly, patiently, bow in hand, for some unsuspecting game to wander into range.

The poor critters don't have a chance.

"I like bow hunting," Scott Stevens said. "It's quiet, you are outside, and it's very relaxing."

Not for the animals he is targeting.

And in hunting, as in hockey, Scott Stevens does not usually miss what he aims at.

During his illustrious Hall of Fame career, Stevens did the exact same things with his shoulders that he does with a bow.

LURKING ON THE BLUE LINE

He would lurk on the blue line, eyeing unsuspecting forwards as if they were nothing more than his prey.

Then, suddenly, before the poor target knew what had hit him ... BOOM!

Ask Eric Lindros. Or Ron Francis, Paul Kariya and Shane Willis. If they can remember, that is.

All were members of the Scott Stevens' hit list. All were left with their marbles scrambled. All know the brute force with which Stevens could deliver a bodycheck, the type of blows that could make a man's teeth rattle.

"Believe me, it's hard to describe how it feels being on the other end of one of those," Atlanta Thrashers forward Slava Kozlov said. "And I know."

In Game 1 of the 1995 Stanley Cup final, the host Detroit Red Wings were huge favourites over Stevens' New Jersey Devils. But when Stevens splattered Kozlov on to the Joe Louis Arena ice with one of the most memorable hits in Cup history, the Wings could not recover, falling to the Devils in four consecutive games.

"For the next 10 minutes after the hit, I didn't remember a lot, I can tell you that," Kozlov said.

After returning to the bench, Stevens, exhibiting his trademark piercing stare, pointed at Wings forward Dino Ciccarelli and appeared to yell, "You're next!"

INTIMIDATION

Were the Wings intimidated? The fact they would not win a game in the entire series should give you the answer.

Admittedly, there was much more to Stevens' game than his penchant for cutting a swath of destruction through the opposition's cache of forwards. He captained the Devils to three Stanley Cups, won the 2000 Conn Smythe Trophy as the MVP of the playoffs and played more games (1,635) than any other defenceman in league history.

But he always will be known for "The Hits," which is fine with him. There is actually a video of his top-10 checks on the Internet, a compilation first put together by TSN, which he has seen before.

"I'm proud of (my reputation)," he said. "I loved to play physical. To me, a big hit is like a great play because it can rally your team.

"I'm a firm believer that a big hit could change momentum in a game just like a big goal could."

Keeping that in mind,Sun Media asked Captain Crunch: What was your biggest, if not best, hit? Lindros? Kozlov? Maybe Francis?

"Actually, a number of years back in a game against Pittsburgh, I stepped into a guy named Gary Rissling," Stevens recalled. "I thought I might have killed him. I really did.

"But he was hard-nosed and shook it off. He wasn't too happy though.

"I had a few of them. It was my thing."

As he prepares to enter the Hall of Fame on Nov. 12, Stevens is thrilled that his parents, Mary and Larry, will be on hand to witness the event.

CREDITS HIS MOM

He credits his mom and dad for staying the course in a household of three sons that, quite frankly, could become quite chaotic at times with all the indoor hockey being played.

"Geoff, Mike and I wrecked mom's furniture," Scott said. "It was crazy.

"There was actually one room that she refused to decorate until we were out of the house."

Geoff Stevens is now a scout with the Devils, while Mike enjoyed a successful playing career in Europe.

"I think that's how I got so competitive," Scott said. "With two brothers close to your age, you learn to hold your own.

"I don't think players really think about the Hall of Fame when they first get into the league. But as you get closer to the end of your career, you think about it.

"To be inducted is awesome. I guess, in my case, championships were a consideration. But I also think my work ethic and passion for the game and the desire for my team to win all played a role, too."

And let's not forget the hit parade he authored, either. Slava Kozlov certainly won't.

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THE SCOTT STEVENS FILE

- Hometown: Kitchener, Ont.

- Career stats: 196 goals, 712 assists, 908 points

- Career leader among defencemen in games played with 1,635

- Won three Stanley Cups with Devils (1995, 2000, 2003)

- Winner of the 2000 Conn Smythe Trophy as the most valuable player of the post-season

- Spent 13 seasons in a Devils uniform

- Drafted fifth overall by the Washington Capitals in the 1982 draft.

- During his high school football days at Kitchener's Eastwood Collegiate, one of Scott's teammates was a kid named Markus Koch, who would go on to win a Super Bowl ring with the Washington Redskins.

- Most would point to his bone-crunching hip check of the 2000 Eastern Conference final against Eric Lindros as Stevens' defining moment. But a more significant check was the one he unloaded in Game 1 of the 1995 final against Detroit's Slava Kozlov, one which propelled the underdog Devils to their first Stanley Cup.

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WHAT THEY SAID

"I think we fed off each other to be what we are. I know that was part of the reason for my success. You don't see that type of defenceman much anymore -- so tough, so disciplined, so much of a leader."

-- Devils goalie Martin Brodeur, who won three Cups with Stevens.

"He gave 100% all of the time. He cared about winning, about the team. His work ethic in practice and in games was the same."

-- former teammate Patrik Elias.

"He was not a dirty player. But you always had to be aware of where he was. He was so competitive, and he never took a shift off. And believe me, he hit hard."

-- Slava Kozlov, who absorbed one of Stevens' most famous bonecrunching checks during the 1995 final versus Detroit.

"Why was I so competitive? Because hockey always came first. When you have two brothers, you learn to fend for yourself pretty quickly."

-- Scott Stevens


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