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STANLEY CUP FINALS | DUCK NOTES

Murray Sees Respect on Its Way

June 10, 2003|Chris Foster | Times Staff Writer

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J — EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- General Manager Bryan Murray expects the Mighty Ducks to be viewed in a new, and better light, after their run through the Stanley Cup playoffs.

The Ducks' playoff run ended with a 3-0 loss to the New Jersey Devils in Game 7 of the Stanley Cup finals Monday. Still, this has been one of the remarkable turnarounds in sports history.

Murray inherited a team that was a non-factor in the NHL. The Ducks finished last in the Western Conference in 2000-01 and were tied for 13th, 25 points out of the playoffs, last season.

"I think we have gained the respect of the league," Murray said. "By the second round, I think everyone knew that this was a pretty good hockey team. We're among the elite teams. I think the hockey world understands that."

Even in making the playoffs, the Ducks had no one considered for an individual award, other than Steve Rucchin, who is one of the three finalists for the Bill Masterton Award, given to the player for perseverance, sportsmanship and dedication.

"I think when you look at the fact that none of our players were nominated for an individual award shows you what kind of team this is," Murray said.

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Duck forward Steve Thomas, who reached the Stanley Cup finals for the first time in his 19-season career, was drained by the experience and not ready to commit to next season.

"This is my first final and it is going to stick with me a long time, unless I get back to one again," said Thomas, acquired in a trade with Chicago in March.

"I have to reflect on this season first."

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Duck tough guy Kevin Sawyer, who has missed the playoffs because of concussion, nevertheless was a wreck before Game 7. Watching was worse.

"I'm more nervous right now than I was when I had to go fight [Edmonton's] George Laraques," Sawyer said.

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Right from the start, Carol Niedermayer made it known she was rooting for her youngest son, Rob, and the Ducks to defeat her eldest son, Scott, and the Devils in the finals. Her rationale was simple: Scott had already won a Stanley Cup and Rob had not.

"Someone has to win and someone has to hold the Stanley Cup and I was really proud when I saw the two boys give each other a hug in the line," Carol Niedermayer said, referring to her sons' warm embrace during the traditional post-series handshake between the players.

Asked if this was a nerve-racking experience for her, she said: "It was because I'm a private person and I found this [attention] overwhelming a little bit. I didn't realize this was such an occasion for brothers to play against each other, but I've enjoyed it. I traveled with the New Jersey Devils and their families. They teased me, but I think they were very fair and I really enjoyed the whole process, they respected how I felt."

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ABC thought it was a cute story, the one about Steve DeSena pledging at the beginning of this year's playoffs to propose to girlfriend Christina SerVoss if his favorite team, the Mighty Ducks, won the Stanley Cup.

But the Mission Viejo couple probably wished they hadn't told it on television while in the Devils' arena.

Brought to the attention of the crowd when interviewed on camera at the first intermission Monday night by ABC's Sam Ryan, they were treated less than hospitably during the second period.

Devil fans apparently are down on love. "They were pretty hostile," SerVoss said.

"I had guy in a wheelchair hit me," DeSena said.

ABC, which got them into trouble in the first place, got them out of it by moving them to a secure anchor position within the building. But DeSena and SerVoss were wise enough to remove their Duck jerseys.

After the game, ABC brought the couple -- wearing their jerseys -- back on the air, and DeSena proposed to SerVoss.

Randy Harvey, Helene Elliott and Lisa Dillman contributed to this report.

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