Former New Jersey Devil (a.k.a. Mr. Devil) Ken Daneyko is the master of storytelling. As I was putting together his contribution to the Throwback Thursday series on his early beginnings growing up hockey, the first part of the interview was so long, it warranted its own piece. That means…there’s a part two to this interview which you will find here next Thursday.
Here’s Daneyko’s story…
“We all take different paths,” Daneyko said. “I did it not out of arrogance, but more out of belief and confidence that I wanted to play so bad. I told my mother 50 times a day since I was seven years old ‘I’m going to play in the National Hockey League.’ She used to pacify me and say, ‘Yeah, yeah, Kenny, I know.’ I used to annoy the heck out of her. It’s not a lie. It’s all I said. I guess back then, if I reflect, I believed it. As a kid, you’re gung ho, saying things and having dreams. It certainly was a dream.
“My third grade teacher…I done pretty good in school. I finished my work quick[ly]. She told my mother that, called her up and she says, ‘You’ve got to tell him he’s really disrupting the kids, because he’s telling the kids he’s going to play in the National Hockey League. They’re not finished their work yet and that’s all he talks about.’ My mom said, ‘Don’t burst his bubble. Don’t burst his dream,’ (even though I knew she felt the same way). ‘It’s a small percentage. I’ll tell him to stop disrupting the class, but don’t tell him he can’t play in the National Hockey League.’
“I went to junior hockey right from Bantam. I played in Saskatchewan. I was the youngest kid in the league at 15. I wasn’t mature enough mentally, I certainly was physically. I wanted to do whatever it took.
“My father was born in Germany and was a soccer guy. He didn’t know a lot about hockey till he came to Canada. He always supported me and never said boo to me. He knew I had an inner drive. I had a day to decide if I was going to move 500 miles away at 15 years old. My mother said, ‘Over my dead body are you going to leave at 15 and go play with 18/19 year olds.’ My father said, ‘I’ll take care of your mother.’
“I got driven by the coach to the team in Saskatchewan. I didn’t tell my mom I was leaving. She wouldn’t have let me. My dad says, ‘Is this what you want to do?’ I said, ‘This is what I want to do.’ He said, ‘Don’t worry, I’ll take care of your mother.’ So I took off.
“She never forgave my dad ever since. It all worked out fortunately. I was drafted in ’82, the original year. I didn’t know where New Jersey was.