Timekillers that require some thought are always welcomed. Throw in a hockey theme and you got something interesting going. For example, word-sensation-game Wordle begat Gordle, the letter-by-letter game to remember hockey player names. This Summer, the hot thing for sports fans is the Immaculate Grid by Sports Reference: A game where you have nine chances to fill out a grid of nine players that fit the criteria of both the row and the column. Naturally, a hockey version is out there with the more apt name of Puckdoku. What came first? To reference Boy George, it is not about who did it first but who does it best. The Immaculate Grid is not about hockey, so that settles that to me. Your mileage may vary.
The main purpose of both games is to fill out the grid. However, the game within the game is in the Uniqueness Score. It is a calculation of how often the player is picked for that day’s game. The lower the score, the more unique the grid is. For example: Anyone can name Scott Stevens as someone who played for the New Jersey Devils and the Washington Capitals. But disgraced former head coach and not-disgraced defenseman Joel Quenneville? Now that’s rare. As long as the player meets the criteria - having played a game for the franchise, meeting the stat - they count. And with a lower score, you can achieve the ultimate prizes from anything involving potentially-obscure trivia: self-satisfaction and potential bragging rights.
I find it to be both a great time killer and a good reason to look deeper into the history of the National Hockey League. This purpose of this post is to help you, one of the People Who Matter, in going 9-for-9 in filling out grids and getting lower Uniqueness Scores. The stealth purpose: this is the most dense Let’s Talk About Some Guys post I could do at the moment.
Your Memory May Be Good but Life is an Open Book Exam: The latter is an important lesson from one of my college professors. The purist may argue that the only proper way to play Puckdoku or Immaculate Grid or similar games is to just rely on your own memory. If you choose to do it that way, then that is fine. For those without much knowledge of hockey history, struggle to recall players, or just want to find some answer for someone who played for both Columbus and Calgary. .
Avoid: Elite Prospects. Normally, a fantastic resource to look up all kind of players. Unless you have an account, they have a hard limit on the number of page views you can have per day.
Use for Teams: HockeyDB and Hockey-Reference. Both are resource sites that pride themselves on listing where anyone in the NHL has played at some point and in other places too. Both have rosters that are quick to look up and easy to find if someone played for a certain team.
Use for Stats: NHL.com. Once upon a time, the league’s main website was eschewed for stats. Now, it has a rather robust set of filters to make it easy to look up things such as which San Jose Sharks have put up a 50+ assist season in franchise history. Hockey-Reference used to be the king for that, but with Sports Reference putting their powerful search tools behind a paywall, the NHL has become the leader. You could use NHL.com for player history on teams, but I find it better for when stats come up.
Be Careful: NHL Trade Tracker (or any sites with trades). In theory, a trade is an easy way to find a player who played for multiple teams. Struggling to know who played between Pittsburgh and Colorado? Look up a trade. The issue is that Puckdoku requires that the player has to have played a game for the team to count. So, no, you cannot use Damon Severson as a Blue Jacket since he has yet to play a regular season game for them. You cannot use Dmitri Orlov as a Minnesota Wild player since he only went there technically as part of a three-team trade. Players get moved for prospects and picks, so it makes the exercise a little tougher. This is not to say never use trades, but just to be careful and check that it actually happened.
Learn to Love Your Journeymen/Long Time Players: One of easier ways I found to fill in those team-to-team spaces is to think about those who just played for a lot of different teams. Many have gone through New Jersey at one point or another. They are often a way to fill in those more obscure combinations. Although you do need to be careful that you can only use a player once. So, no, you cannot use Lee Stempniak for six to nine spaces. I do, of course, endorse all usages of Lee Stempniak. Here are some other Devils-related journeymen and guys who just played a long time for a lot of different teams. Key word is some: I cannot name them all.
- Jaromir Jagr - The legend. He will likely not help your Uniqueness Score, but he did play for New Jersey, Pittsburgh, Our Hated Rivals, Washington, Philadelphia, Florida, Dallas, Boston, and Calgary. A NJ-Calgary spot filled in by Jagr may end up being low, especially since he played just 22 games for the Flames.
- Jim Dowd - Brick’s very own! He played a lot longer than I remembered. He came up through the Devils and was a depth piece on the 1995 Cup winning team. Then his career took him to Vancouver, Long Island (for just 3 games), Calgary, Edmonton, Minnesota, Montreal, Chicago, Colorado, and it ended in Philadelphia a season after he returned to New Jersey. Is he the best ever Jersey-born player? No. But he is a fantastic Puckdoku answer in addition to being a local legend.
- Lee Stempniak - 14 seasons, 10 teams! In order: St. Louis, Toronto, Arizona, Calgary, Pittsburgh, Our Hated Rivals, Winnipeg, Devils, Boston, and Carolina. And to think his last NHL season was when he was 35. Stempniak was a solid hand wherever he went and he was just often trade bait. Mike Sillinger has him beat in terms of the number of teams, but Sillinger was never a Devil so there.
- Sean Burke - He got his start and established himself in the Devils’ first ever playoff run. He was 21 then. His last season was when he was 40. After four seasons with the Devils and six with Hartford/Carolina, the journeyman part of his career began. He was traded twice in 1997-98 to Vancouver and Philadelphia. After a stay in Florida, he was moved to Arizona in 2000. He was traded to Philly again in 2004, signed with Tampa Bay in 2005, and then was claimed off waivers by Los Angeles in 2006.
- Rob Ramage - Now here’s a blast from the past. He was never a Devil but he was a Colorado Rockie - which is a part of the Devils franchise. He also played for St. Louis, Calgary, Toronto, Dallas (original Minnesota), Tampa Bay,, Montreal, and Philadelphia. And if Puckdoku ever adds the World Hockey Association, Ramage began his career with Birmingham. Yes, in Alabama.
- Jim McKenzie - McKenzie was a fighter and PIM machine. Whether you call them goons or enforcers, some tend to stick for a while. McKenzie was not just a Devil, but a Hartford Whaler (he counts for Carolina), Dallas, Pittsburgh, Arizona, Anaheim, Washington, and Nashville.
- Lyle Odelein - He tended to make passes back to his goalie. Fine in soccer. A bit scary in hockey. Odelein also played 16 seasons across eight different teams: Montreal, the Devils, Columbus, Chicago, Arizona, Dallas, Florida, and Pittsburgh.
- Tom Chorske - A depth guy who just kept getting work. He started in Montreal before coming to the Devils through the Cup in 1995. Then he played for Ottawa, the Isles, Washington, Calgary, and Pittsburgh before calling it a career. A sneaky unique answer since I doubt many outside of the 1990s will recall him.
- Bill Guerin - A very good winger and he just played in a lot of different places after New Jersey traded him to Edmonton for Jason Arnott. Edmonton led to Boston. Then he signed in Dallas. Then he went to St. Louis and was moved to San Jose. Then he signed with the Isles, traded to Pittsburgh, and remained a Penguin until 2010. Guerin was a Shark, a Blue, and spent 100+ games with five different teams and five short of a century as a Penguin. Guerin provides Puckdoku value.
- Scott Gomez - Not necessarily a unique choice for the Devils. Or Our Hated Rivals, who infamously signed him to a stupidly large contract. Montreal fans may shudder at his name. The unique part comes from his last four seasons where he played a bit for San Jose, Florida, a return to the Devils, and then ended it in St. Louis and Ottawa. Now that is some good uniqueness among his seven teams.
- Erik Haula - Canes fans hate him for some reason. I don’t get it. But Haula surely loved getting a three-season deal from Tom Fitzgerald if only so he can settle down for a little bit. His career began in Minnesota, went to Las Vegas in the expansion draft, was picked up by Carolina, sent to Florida, went to Nashville, then Boston, and then traded to the Devils.
- Arron Asham - While not as well traveled as some of the guys on this list, he is my go-to as the rare player who played for all three local teams: New Jersey, the Isles, and OHR. He also suited up for Montreal, Philadelphia, and Pittsburgh. A great Let’s Talk About Some Guys guy for local rivalries.
- Curtis Lazar - If I’m including Asham, then why not Lazar? Not even 30 and he has six teams in his experience: Ottawa, Calgary, Buffalo, Boston, Vancouver, and now New Jersey. While there are others with six teams in their career (e.g. Claude Lemieux), I doubt Lazar is going to be a first choice in some people’s minds.
- Jarrod Skalde - And now we get to the obscure names in this section. Skalde was a second round pick from the 1989 NHL Draft for New Jersey. Skalde never broke through to the NHL full-time as he never played more than 22 games for a team. But he did keep getting work. After call-ups with New Jersey, Anaheim took him in the expansion draft. Then he went to Calgary, split 1997-98 with San Jose, Dallas, and Chicago, spent 1998-99 with San Jose, was a member of Atlanta for 19 games (yes, a new-Winnipeg connection!), and a game with Philly. Skalde was a IHL/AHL tweener and that is huge for those who want connections and rare ones.
- Mike McKenna - The depth goalie has played all of 35 career NHL games but he kept getting NHL deals for call-ups in seven different organizations. Almost a guaranteed sub-1% for uniqueness as he appeared for Tampa Bay, the Devils, Columbus, Arizona, Dallas, Ottawa, and Philadelphia. He grinded a lot for those 35 appearances since his first one was when he was 25 and he was 34 at the last one.
- Joel Bouchard - 11 seasons, 364 NHL games, and just 1 with New Jersey. Seriously, just one. But he would count in Puckdokue. He bounced around the league a lot with Calgary, Nashville, Our Hated Rivals, Dallas (2 GP!), Arizona, Pittsburgh (7 GP!), and the Islanders. I completely forgot he played just one (1) game in New Jersey.
History is Your Friend for Low Uniqueness: In general, the people who are playing this in 2023 are not likely to remember players from the early 1990s, the 1980s beyond the stars, and further back. They are options in the system and I find they can be real good ones for lowering that Uniqueness Score. It may take some research but it feels good knowing that while others picked Patrik Elias or Jack Hughes as Devils who put up a 50+ assist season, you remembered that Tom Kurvers did it once. And it may have led to one of the greatest defensemen to ever play the game to come to New Jersey. Again: history is your friend. Here are some notable past Devils to help you fill in some gaps in a pinch.
- Mark Johnson - A member of the 1980s Miracle On Ice team, Johnson basically finished his career with the Devils, spending the last five seasons of his 11-season career in East Rutherford. He also played for Pittsburgh, Minnesota (so Dallas), Hartford (so Carolina), and St. Louis too.
- Joe Cirella - I did not realized he played this long, but Cirella had a 15-season career that started in Colorado and his time with the Devils ended in 1989. He then joined Quebec (so Colorado), Our Hated Rivals, Florida (more on this in a bit), and Ottawa.
- Rob Ramage - As mentioned above, he played a lot and for many teams. He will fit as an older player too.
- Sean Burke - Ditto along with Ramage.
- Chico Resch - While he is certainly not an unknown to the People Who Matter, I think plenty of hockey fans forget he was an Islander throughout the 70s, joined the Devils as they were still struggling in general, and ended his career in Philadelphia.
- Chris Terreri - The goalie between Burke and Brodeur, T-Bone was in the NHL from 1986 through 2001. He spent much of it with New Jersey. You will get loads of credit if you remember he was also a Shark, a Blackhawk, and for eight games in 2000-01, an Islander.
- Corey Schwab - This career backup played for New Jersey for a bit, spent time on Tampa Bay, and then played in Vancouver and Toronto for a hot minute. If you struggle to remember him, then consider he is one of the few Devils goalies (only?) to fight. And he skated the entire length of the rink to beat up Tommy Soderstrom. And the Isles were wearing those uniforms then, too.
- Ron Low - One more infamous goaltender moment. Low was one of the guys the Oilers wrecked in a 4-13 loss to Edmonton that led to Wayne Gretzky calling the Devils a “Mickey Mouse” team. Low was a journeyman goalie in the 1970s having played for Toronto, Washington, Detroit, Quebec, and Edmonton before ending up in New Jersey.
- Wilf Paiement - A Kansas City Scout and Colorado Rockie that reached such statistical highs as a 40+ goal season, a 50+ assist season, and a 90+ point season. He also played for Toronto, Quebec (so Colorado), Our Hated Rivals, Buffalo, and Pittsburgh.
- Lanny McDonald - One of the few, if not the only, Hockey Hall of Famer to play for Colorado.
- 30+ Goal Scorers from 1974 to 1990: Paul Gardner, Kirk Muller, Brendan Shanahan, Sylvain Turgeon (a very obscure Devils-Hartford connection unless you still vividly hate that Verbeek trade in 2023), John MacLean, Paiement, Greg Adams, McDonald, and Pat Verbeek. The 40+ goal scorers were Verbeek, Paiement, and MacLean. By the way, you want the Greg Adams that started in 1984-85, the other Greg Adams never played for New Jersey.
- 40+ Assisters from 1974 to 1990: Mel Bridgmen, Aaron Broten, Tapio Levo (!!!), Mike McEwen (split with Our Hated Rivals and Colorado), Dave Pichette (!), Johnson, Muller, Patrik Sundstrom, Adams, Ramage, Shanahan, John Van Boxmeer (!!), Guy Charron, MacLean, Bruce Driver, and McDonald. The 50+ Assisters include Kurvers, Muller, Aaron Broten, and Paiement. You want relative unknowns? Tapio Levo (only ever played for Colorado/NJ), John Van Boxmeer (Colorado, Buffalo, Montreal, Quebec), Dave Pichette (NJ, Quebec, St. Louis, Our Hated Rivals), and Guy Charron (Detroit, Washington, Montreal, Kansas City) are your men.
- 200+ PIM Players from 1974 to 1990: Ken Daneyko, David Maley, Verbeek, Perry Anderson, Jim Korn, Claude Loiselle, Steve Durbano, and Ramage. If you are like me, you raised an eyebrow at half of that list. Which is perfect for dropping that Uniqueness Score like a rock.
This is not a complete list but you get the general idea. When in doubt about reducing that Uniqueness Score, look to the past. They may have been crucial Devils in history or memorable for the People Who Matter. But to the larger hockey world in 2023, they may just be obscure names.
Know Your Expansion Rosters: Players have been dumped onto expansion teams in the past and the Devils have had to offer out their players to new teams joining the NHL. Knowing these players are great because outside of a few, they tend to end up in the dustbin of the larger hockey history.
- The 1974 Expansion Draft for the Kansas City Scouts. You would have to check to make sure the players the Scouts picked actually played for them and for the team that exposed the player in the draft. Or in the NHL at all. HockeyDB’s list is great to see whom they were picked from.
- The 1979 Expansion Draft - One was held for the four incoming teams from the WHA. From the Rockies, Ralph Klassen, Maynard Schurman, Nick Beverley, Doug Favell, and Ron Andruff were picked. None of them played for the team that drafted them. That said: Andruff was with Montreal and Colorado, Klassen is a rare ex-Seal/Baron and St. Louis Blue, Beverley was a Bruin, Penguin, Ranger, North Star, and King prior to the Rockies, and Favell was a Philly and Toronto goalie before Colorado.
- The 1991 Expansion Draft - This was for San Jose and, for some reason, the North Stars. The Devils’ player picked, Jeff Madill, never played in the NHL outside of a handful of games for the Devils. This draft did include Rob Ramage among other names.
- The 1992 Expansion Draft - This was for Ottawa and Tampa Bay. The Devils lost two players. The first was Brad Shaw, who never played for the Devils but did play for Hartford, Ottawa, Washington, and St. Louis. The second was Laurie Boschman, who did play for the Devils and the Senators that took him. He was a Maple Leaf, Oiler, and Jet (so Arizona) in the 1980s. While not taken from the Devils, some that were Devils for a bit were taken in this draft: Peter Sidorkiewicz, Shawn Chambers, Mike Peluso, Sylvain Turgeon, and, once again, Rob Ramage.
- The 1993 Expansion Draft - This was for Florida and Anaheim. The Devils lost Alexei Kasatonov and Jarrod Skalde to Anaheim. Kasatonov was solid defender who also played for Anaheim, St. Louis, and Boston in his time in America. Skalde never really stuck in the NHL, but did get NHL games with New Jersey, Anaheim, Calgary, San Jose, Dallas, Chicago, Atlanta (so current Winnipeg), and Philadelphia. A journeyman minor-league tweener? You bet. This draft also included those with Devils ties at some point like John Vanbiesbrouck, Joe Cirella, and Bob Corkum. It also had GM Tom Fitzgerald, but he never played for New Jersey.
- The 1998 Expansion Draft - This was for Nashville. The Devils lost one player: Mike Dunham. Dunham went on to have a good career and honestly needed the change since he was not going to play ahead of Martin Brodeur. He was good in Nashville and then played for Our Hated Rivals, Atlanta, and the Islanders. Yes, another all-three-local-team player. This draft also saw Joel Bouchard and ex-associate coach Andrew Brunette as Devils-tie-ins.
- The 1999 Expansion Draft - This was for Atlanta, which means this will count for the current Winnipeg Jets. The Devils lost Kevin Dean, who did play for both teams. He also played for Dallas and Chicago for a little bit too. The only other name I recognize as related to the Devils would be Corey Schwab, but he never played for Atlanta.
- The 2000 Expansion Draft - This was for Columbus and the Minnesota Wild. The Devils lost Jeff Williams and Chris Terreri, respectively. Terreri, you know. Jeff Williams never played in the NHL. You may only know him if you were a big Albany fan in the late 1990s. That said, there were some Devils connections among the picks. Sean O’Donnell (Los Angeles), Turner Stevenson (Montreal), Scott Pellerin (St. Louis), Jim Dowd (Edmonton), and Odelein (Arizona)
- The 2017 Expansion Draft - This was for Las Vegas and it was designed to not give the new team a bunch of scrubs and/or hard-working but limited-talented guys. The Devils lost Jon Merrill in this one. Merrill has since played for the G-Knights and then went to Detroit, Montreal, and Minnesota. Devils related players in this draft include Erik Haula and David Schlemko. No, Tomas Nosek and Colin Miller do not count because they have yet to play a game for New Jersey. Wait until October and you can.
- The 2021 Expansion Draft - This was for Seattle. The Devils lost Nathan Bastian. Who proceeded to play 12 games for the Kraken, get placed on waivers, and claimed back by New Jersey. He would be a popular Seattle-Devils connection. As would Adam Larsson (from Edmonton). Do not get fooled by Vitek Vanecek or John Quenneville as neither played for the Kraken and Quenneville has not been in the NHL since 2020.
The expansion seasons (and the season after) are a goldmine of unexpected connections and surprising seasons. So you can absolutely use these as a jumping off point on top of the Devils involved in these expansion drafts. For example: put some respect on Kelly Kisio’s name for his 52 assists with San Jose in 1992-93. I swear I did not make that player or stat up.
Lastly, Devils Who’ve Had Awards: It is a not so common occurrence, but some grids ask for an Award winner like the Norris or the Vezina. I could see Puckdoku doing Hall of Famers too. To that end, here’s a quick list of Devils and players who were Devils at one point that won some awards - even if they did not win them with the Devils. Update: I misunderstood the rule at Puckdoku. An award only counts if the player won it with the team. So I’ve included which team they won the award with if it was not the Devils. Hall of Famers do not go in by team so any connection counts there.
- Hall of Famers: Martin Brodeur, Scott Stevens, Scott Niedermayer, Dave Andreychuk, Viacheslav Fetisov, Doug Gilmour, Phil Housley, Igor Larionov, Lanny McDonald, Joe Nieuwendyk, Craig Patrick, Brendan Shanahan, Peter Stastny
- Hart Trophy: Taylor Hall, Jaromir Jagr (Pittsburgh)
- Ted Lindsay Award: Jagr (Pittsburgh, Our Hated Rivals)
- Lady Byng Trophy: Bob MacMillan (Atlanta Flames - so Calgary)
- Vezina Trophy: Brodeur, John Vanbiesbrouck (Our Hated Rivals), Bob Sauvé (Buffalo)
- Calder Trophy: Scott Gomez, Brodeur, Stastny (Quebec - so Colorado), Nieuwendyk (Calgary)
- Art Ross Trophy: Jagr (Pittsburgh)
- Norris Trophy: Niedermayer, P.K. Subban (Montreal)
- Conn Smythe Trophy: Scott Stevens, Claude Lemieux, Nieuwendyk (Dallas), Niedermayer (Anaheim)
- Masterton Trophy: Ken Daneyko, Brian Boyle, Chico Resch, Jagr (Florida), Steve Sullivan (Nashville), McDonald (Calgary)
- Selke Trophy: John Madden, Gilmour (Toronto), Rick Meagher (St. Louis)
- William Jennings Trophy: Brodeur, Mike Dunham, Cory Schneider (Vancouver), Roland Melanson (Islanders)
- King Clancy Trophy: Subban, McDonald (Calgary), Shanahan (Detroit), Nieuwendyk (Calgary)
- Rocket Richard: Ilya Kovalchuk (Atlanta 2.0 - so Winnipeg)
Your Take: Whether you choose to get into Puckdoku or have been into it or got involved in similar such games like NHL Grid, I hope this helps you out. And even if you did not, it is worth noting that a lot of people have come through the Devils organization. From its auspicious days in Kansas City and Colorado and before Lou, to its glory years under Lou, to the rebuilding era, and the current and hopefully new era of glory the Devils are entering, a lot of people have came and went. And a simple timekiller like Puckdoku is as good as any reason to remember some guys whether they were heroes of their time or names that fall into obscurity and/or Let’s Talk About Some Guys infamy.
Do you play the game? Did any of this help you out? Are there other Devils connections and angles that would be worth adding to help those who play this game? Please leave your answers and your Puckdoku brags in the comments. Thank you for reading.