It’s a stretch to say that the start of the Stanley Cup Finals is a “homecoming” for Willie Mitchell, who was drafted by the New Jersey Devils in 1996. Mitchell only played 18 games for the Devils, and the home games were played in the Meadowlands arena, not the current Prudential Center, but Mitchell does retain fond memories of his time in the New Jersey organization, from 1998 until he was traded to Minnesota in 2001. Mitchell left Clarkson University in 1998 and split the next two seasons playing for the Devils and their AHL affiliate, the Albany River Rats. Today, Mitchell spoke with affection about New Jersey general manager Lou Lamoriello and current assistant coach Larry Robinson, who was an assistant coach and later head coach when Mitchell played for the Devils.
MITCHELL: “It should be fun. Marty (Brodeur) was there when I just came in. I wasn’t there long. In ‘99, I broke my hand in training camp and went to the minors. I played a couple games at the end of that year, then the next year I was actually there for the banner going up for the Stanley Cup. The home opener, me and Turner Stevenson were the two new guys on the team. So I was there to watch the banner go to the roof at the Meadowlands. Me and Turner Stevenson were kind of sitting off the pile, because we didn’t do anything (the previous year). We were the only two new guys on the team. I remember watching that and thinking how cool it was and just learning what it took to win, and here I am, hopefully learning from those great experiences I had with them and having an opportunity to get a kick at it against them. So, it will be fun.’’