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Remembering Jason Arnott, retiring after 18 seasons

Greg Wyshynski
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The 2000 New Jersey Devils’ Stanley Cup championship can be boiled down into three indelible moments: The Larry Robinson tirade, The Scott Stevens hit on Eric Lindros and, most of all, the Jason Arnott goal in Game 6 against the Dallas Stars.

It was one of those moments of hockey lore, in which the narrative writes itself. Petr Sykora, a member of the A-Line with Arnott and Patrik Elias, left the game in the first period after a hit by Derian Hatcher put him on a stretcher. So, naturally, it was Elias and Arnott who honored their fallen teammate in combining to win the game in double overtime, as the former connected with the latter. Elias had Sykora’s jersey with him on the ice when the Cup was raised.

My favorite memory of the goal, as a Devils fan, isn’t watching that play unfold live.

It was at the one of the team’s infamous parking lot Stanley Cup parades, before the players arrived. The large video screen was replaying the second overtime of Game 6. Everyone fan in the crowd knew the timestamp for the tally. As the highlight continued toward the 8:20 mark, you could feel a slow roar building until Arnott potted the puck behind Ed Belfour.

The crowd celebrated like they had just seen it in real time – high fives, chanting, leaping on one another. As if there ever needed to be further validation of its magic.

That’s the defining moment of Arnott’s career, which is nice, because it was a starring moment for a player that always seemed like he could be on the cusp but could never achieve stardom.

There was his time in Edmonton, which began with a 33-goal tease as a 19-year-old center but ended short of stardom, as the Oilers traded a disappointing Arnott to the Devils in a package for Bill Guerin.

When his time in New Jersey ended, slowed by injuries, it was in a trade for Joe Nieuwendyk, who would help the Devils win their 2003 Cup a year later.

In Nashville, he “stepped into a leadership void in 2007 and led the Preds to an unexpected playoff berth in 2008” but he was “often criticized by local fans for a perceived lack of effort or leadership.”

This is what happens when you’re blessed with talent and size, tantalize with some strong offensive seasons, but just can’t seem to get your head about the 30 goal mark but twice in your career.

But his intangibles earned him opportunities, whether it was his postseason heroism or his locker room leadership. Like when David Poile recruited him for the Nashville Predators:

"When David Poile told me they really wanted me because of the leadership I could bring to the team, I felt flattered that a team would want me because of my character and leadership ... not just my size or the goals and assists I have accumulated over the years. I’ve won a Stanley Cup and played on a great line or two. But I was honestly looking for a team where I could be considered a leader at this stage in my career."

In the end, Arnott was probably defined by those intangibles more than anything else.

Well, outside of what occurred on June 6, 2000.

From the NHLPA:

Jason Arnott, a veteran of 18 National Hockey League (NHL) seasons, a Stanley Cup champion, and a 12-time 20-goal scorer – including three seasons when he scored over 30 goals – officially announced his retirement from the NHL today.

Arnott played for six teams – Edmonton, New Jersey, Dallas, Nashville, Washington and St. Louis – in his NHL career. He played in 1,244 NHL games, while scoring 417 goals, 521 assists and 938 points, and recording a plus-minus of +81 and 1,242 penalty minutes. Arnott’s career was highlighted by his Stanley Cup-winning goal for the New Jersey Devils in double-overtime in game six of the 2000 Stanley Cup Final against the Dallas Stars.

“I would like to thank everyone who helped me throughout my NHL career, including my family, friends, teammates and fans. Playing in the NHL was my dream, and I am very proud and appreciative of the fact I was able to play at the highest level for 19 years, with the best players in the world,” said Arnott. “Each of the teams I played for provided me with great experiences and memories, and our Stanley Cup team in New Jersey certainly stands out among all of them.”

A native of Collingwood, ON, Arnott was selected 7th overall in the 1993 NHL Entry Draft by the Edmonton Oilers following his junior hockey career with the Oshawa Generals.

In 1993-94, Arnott achieved immediate results in his NHL rookie season, scoring 33 goals (a career-high total he would later match in the 2008-09 season) and 68 points while recording 104 penalty minutes that earned him NHL All-Rookie Team honours. He scored his first career NHL goal on October 6, 1993 against the San Jose Sharks in his first NHL game. Arnott reached the playoffs for the first time with the Oilers in 1996-97 when he played in 12 playoff games and recorded nine points. After playing four-plus seasons in Edmonton, he was traded to the New Jersey Devils on January 4, 1998.

While with the New Jersey Devils, he had great postseason success. Following the Stanley Cup championship in 1999-00, he helped the Devils reach the Stanley Cup Final again in 2000-01. Over those two postseasons, Arnott played in 46 games and scored 16 goals and 35 points.

Following four years in New Jersey, he was traded to the Dallas Stars on March 19, 2002. Arnott was a key offensive contributor in Dallas, averaging 52 points in 73 games in his first two full seasons with the club before breaking out for a career-high 76 points in the 2005-06 season. He played four seasons in Nashville after signing with the Predators in 2006. During that time span he averaged 57 points, more than 26 goals and over 68 games played each season.

On June 19, 2010 he was traded back to the Devils from the Predators. After splitting the 2010-11 season between the Devils and the Washington Capitals, where he was traded on February 28, 2011, Arnott played the 2011-12 season with the St. Louis Blues. In his final NHL season, he played 72 games, scored 17 goals and 34 points, and helped the Blues reach the playoffs.

Throughout his career, Arnott was one of the top power forwards in the game. Listed at 6’5” and 220 lbs., he used his size to play a physical game that was complemented with a consistent scoring touch as evidenced by his career average of scoring 23 goals each season, along with 145 career power play goals. A two-time NHL All-Star (1997, 2008), he also was a key contributor to successful teams in his career, illustrated by his 64 game-winning goals and the 13 playoff teams he was a part of – including one Stanley Cup winner and one Stanley Cup finalist. Over the course of his career, he played in 122 NHL playoff games, scoring 32 goals and 73 points.

Internationally, Arnott helped Canada win the gold medal at the 1994 World Championship.

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