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Devils' Stevens retires after 22 years

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- New Jersey Devils defenseman Scott
Stevens announced his retirement after more than two decades in the
NHL on Tuesday, saying a year off showed him that he could live
without hockey.

"I think the game is more mental than physical. You have to be
in tremendous shape, but you have to want to do it in your head,"
the 41-year-old player said. "At this point in my career I didn't
think I could put the mental parts there every day, and that's a
big part of playing this game."
General manager Lou Lamoriello said Stevens, a 13-time All-Star
who won three Stanley Cups with the Devils and played more NHL
games than any other defenseman during his 22 seasons, has "been
an integral part of all the success we've had."
"He's been a leader on and off the ice as a hockey player and a
person. He feels he's accomplished a lot of things and now wants to
devote a lot of time to his family," Lamoriello said.
He added that Stevens, the Conn Smythe Trophy winner in 2000 as
the most valuable player in the Stanley Cup playoffs, will stay
with the organization in some capacity. Stevens said he would
consider helping out new Devils coach Larry Robinson if asked.
Stevens, an unrestricted free agent, missed the final 44 games
of the most recent NHL season, 2003-04, after sustaining a head
injury against Pittsburgh on Jan. 7, 2004. He said Tuesday he is in
good health and that the risk of another injury was not a major
factor in his decision.
Always known for his rugged playing style, the Devils' captain
said during last season's lockout that he expected to return when
the labor dispute was settled. But he said Tuesday that the time
away from hockey and the opportunity it gave him to spend more time
with his wife and three children wound up swaying him.
"There's no question that gave me a taste of what it would be
like to retire," he said. "It was enjoyable. I had a chance to do
things I haven't been able to do in 22 years. It showed me I could
live without hockey, and that definitely helped in the
transition."
Stevens said he wanted to make the announcement before training
camp opened to avoid being a distraction. The Devils begin camp
this week and open their regular season Oct. 5.
"I guess I feel a little relieved," he said. "I've kind of
been dragging my feet on this. Deep down you try to change your
mind, but it was time to let everyone know, to keep the questions
away and let the Devils move on.
"I've done a lot in my career. It's not like I'm chasing a
Stanley Cup. I've been fortunate to have done that, and I know what
it takes. If I was a player who hadn't won a Stanley Cup, it might
be a little different."
Stevens' retirement and the departure of Scott Niedermayer to
Anaheim as a free agent creates a huge void in the team's defensive
corps.
"Obviously, it's a shock right now to hear," teammate Scott
Gomez said. "You knew that day would come. We all thought Scotty
would be back.
"Right now I'm a little bit shocked because he announced
something, but at the same time he didn't play the second half of
the year."
Pointing to the offseason acquisitions of Vladimir Malakhov and
Dan McGillis, Lamoriello said the Devils' defense "is better than
it was last year," referring to the 2003-04 season.
The 36-year-old Malakhov won a Stanley Cup with the Devils in
2000 before playing for the New York Rangers and Philadelphia, and
the 33-year-old McGillis has played more than 600 NHL games with
Edmonton, Philadelphia, San Jose and Boston.
The Devils also will start the regular season without left wing
Patrik Elias, who contracted hepatitis A in the spring when he was
playing in eastern Europe during the NHL lockout. Lamoriello said
Tuesday that Elias is able to do conditioning work but is not yet
skating and would not be ready to play by the Devils' first game on
Oct. 5 against Pittsburgh.
"He's progressing. It's going to take time," Lamoriello said.
Stevens had 196 goals, 712 assists and 2,785 penalty minutes in
1,635 regular-season games with Washington, St. Louis and New
Jersey. He had 26 goals and 92 assists in 233 playoff games.