Not-so-fond farewell

Leafs coach Paul Maurice yells during team practice on Thursday. The Leafs face the Devils in New...

Leafs coach Paul Maurice yells during team practice on Thursday. The Leafs face the Devils in New Jersey tonight. (SUN MEDIA/Michael Peake)

MIKE ZEISBERGER -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 2:10 PM ET

If the antiquated Continental Airlines Arena suddenly sank into the bubbling Jersey swamps, perhaps stirring the spirit of Jimmy Hoffa in the process, Mats Sundin and his teammates likely would let out a collective cheer.

The former home of the New Jersey Devils -- now known as the Izod Center -- was a virtual house of horrors for the Maple Leafs, who are practically giddy they no longer have to lace up the blades at the faceless East Rutherford facility.

While the Raptors will be tipping off against Vince Carter's New Jersey Nets at the Izod Center tonight, the Leafs will be doing battle versus the Devils about 10 kilometres away at the sparkling new Prudential Center.

The Devils' first-year digs are located in the middle of Newark, not the first place one might find in a vacation brochure.

But for Sundin, even a frozen pond on the outskirts of nearby Hackensack would be an improvement over the Izod Center, which held many bad memories for his team.

"The Toronto Maple Leafs are not going to miss that place," Sundin said yesterday. "We will say goodbye to that place without tears, that's for sure."

Back in 2001, Sundin did shed a tear or two after the Devils eliminated the Leafs in Game 7 of their playoff series at the then-Continental Airlines Arena.

One year earlier, that same venue was the site of the Leafs' final game, as well. On that particular night, the Devils limited Toronto to just six shots in a 3-0 victory and a six-game playoff elimination.

The most recent instalment of the Nightmare in New Jersey unfolded last March when a late hit by the Devils' Cam Janssen left Leafs defenceman Tomas Kaberle sidelined for two weeks with a concussion.

Had Kaberle been in the lineup for the entire month, who knows if the Leafs might have reached the post-season instead of finishing one point out of a playoff spot?

At least Kaberle can take heart in the fact that Janssen won't suit up against the Leafs tonight because of a shoulder injury.

"We just never had much success in that place," Sundin said. "The playoff losses, the (six-shot) game, well, like I said, it won't be missed."

Having played at the Izod Center at least four times per season when he was with the New York Islanders, forward Jason Blake toyed with the media yesterday when asked about the aging rink.

"I loved it," he said wryly. "The ice was great."

The media, however, wasn't buying it and urged him to come clean.

"C'mon guys," he finally offered. "Were you ever in that dump?"

The Devils, meanwhile, could not be happier to be in the Prudential Center, where they are 1-1 after starting the season with nine consecutive road games. There are murals on the walls depicting their three Stanley Cup triumphs and a new practice facility is being constructed adjacent to the rink, which already has earned the nickname "The Rock."

"It's our arena," Devils forward John Madden said. "You walk in there and you know this is where the Devils make their home. That's a great feeling."


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