Skip navigation
Sign up to follow your favorites on all your devices.
Sign up

John MacLean’s journey to be Devil’s coach had rocky start

Rich Chere at The Star-Ledger has a great story up today on John MacLean’s path to becoming the first former Devils player to become head coach, focusing on the day in 1997 that MacLean publicly demanded a trade.

“I feel I’m just dying on the vine here, and it’s time to move on,” MacLean said that morning. “There has been no contract offer, and I’m not going to sit by and wait around for one. I talked to Lou and have requested a trade. I told him I won’t be coming back, that it’s time for me to go.

MacLean would be traded not a week later to the San Jose Sharks and never again appeared in a Devils jersey before retiring in 2002. He was upset at the time that after 15 years of playing for the organization the team had focused on contract extensions for Scott Stevens, Martin Brodeur and Doug Gilmour and not with MacLean.

Yet eventually, any hard feelings were set aside when MacLean was invited to be part of training camp in 2002 before becoming an assistant coach with the team. Said MacLean about the turnaround:

“I definitely thought I’d be back at some point,” MacLean said. “Things happen and at that time things were happening. It may not have been handled correctly, on my part either, but there is a lot of history here with me. This is where I feel most comfortable.

“You can’t hide from what happened. I learned from it and from the places I went. They were great learning experiences for me. It shapes who you are. You just go on.”

There are many who are pumped to have MacLean as the new coach of the Devils, hopeful he can bring a fresh approach to a team that has frankly grown a bit stale. 12 years ago, it didn’t seem that this moment would even remotely be possible.