Patrik Elias got his day in February. Now it’s time for the New Jersey Devils to give Sergei Brylin his due.
Timing is everything when it comes to professional sports. It’s time for the New Jersey Devils to retire No. 18, which belonged to Sergei Brylin, and lift it to the Prudential Center’s rafters before 2018 comes to an end.
That’s right, Sergei Brylin.
It would be fitting to retire Brylin’s No. 18 in 2018, which would be the sixth number the Devils have retired. Here’s why.
Sergei Brylin was an ideal and prototypical Lou Lamoriello product. He was quiet, appeared serious at all times, was a great two-way player and ultimately succeeded in New Jersey by joining an elite class of Devils skaters.
The Russian native is one of five Devils to have won all three Stanley Cups during the team’s dynasty era (1995-2003). But Brylin is the lone the player from of that group—Scott Stevens, Ken Daneyko, Scott Niedermayer and Martin Brodeur—to not have his jersey retired.
That just sums up the story of Sergei Brylin’s NHL career—success in the shadows and the Devils’ sixth man who was key in building a winning culture for Jersey’s Team.
Oh, and to this day, Brylin is still seen cleanly shaven at all times.
His dedication to the Devils was deafening
No, Sergei Brylin was not by any means a household name or an All-Star. But No. 18 was a true professional both on and off of the ice, and his dedication to the team cannot go unnoticed.
How many players have left the Devils to play in bigger markets, for a change of scenery, or publicly made it known they might leave for, well, you know what’s coming next – the money?
Granted Niedermayer is a Hockey Hall of Famer, but the No. 27 that’s hanging in the rafters decided to leave New Jersey on his own terms (left in 2004 as a UFA to Anaheim) when the team was entering a new, post-Scott Stevens era and needed him most.
With his 328th straight start, Andy Greene has tied Sergei Brylin for the third-longest game-played stretch in Devils' history.
— NJDevilsPR (@NJDevilsPR) November 19, 2016
The former second-round pick in the 1992 NHL Draft spent all 13 seasons of his NHL career with the Devils. He not only accepted his role as a third-or-fourth line role player, but he excelled at it.
That characteristic alone was arguably his key value in becoming a Devil and gaining all of Jersey’s trust. It was rare to see Brylin take a night off. His work ethic more than likely made those around him better.
The shutdown forward went on to play in 764 regular-season games in a Devils sweater and added 109 to his Stanley Cup Playoff resume. Keep in mind that he would join Daneyko and Elias as the only players to have their numbers retired and play out their entire career with the Devils, too.
Speaking of dedication and hockey resumes, if it counts for anything, Brylin has been an assistant coach with the Devils’ American Hockey League (AHL) affiliate, the Binghamton Devils, since 2013.
— Binghamton Devils (@BingDevils) February 23, 2018
Winning cures everything
On a bigger scale, when any pro athlete is in a debate to get (let’s say) voted into the Hall of Fame there always seems to be one big deciding factor. Does he have a ring?
Winning a championship is the final nod to get a jersey number retired, to transition from being considered a great player to a Hall of Famer.
— New Jersey Devils (@NJDevils) August 25, 2016
Considering that Brylin having his number retired is debatable, the fact that he won not one, or two, but three Stanley Cups with New Jersey should speak volumes on whether or not he’s worthy of such an honor.
That doesn’t mean that Brylin should have had his number retired long ago.
For a guy who was always taking one for the team, watching and celebrating as others got the recognition, waiting a decade to have his number retired is no big deal.
In fact, chances are that he wouldn’t want it any other way.
No, Brylin doesn’t have flashy career stats and record-setting numbers like Patrick Elias and Martin Brodeur, but that’s what’s going to stand out when his number does get retired.
No. 18 didn’t need the goal totals or 1,000-plus games played to get honored, he offered something much different than the average eye could see from the seats at Continental Airlines Arena and Prudential Center.
In fact, all five of the players who already have their numbers hanging at the Rock stood for something different when they laced up the skates, yet Lou’s guys shared the same goal. That’s what defined the Devils, and makes a team.
Staying humble, loyal, winning three Stanley Cups and putting the team before yourself for over a decade may not get an NHL player’s jersey retired with most teams—but the Devils aren’t like most teams.
It’s time to welcome home No. 18 and make sure that this time, he’s here to stay.