The term "class" can be misused quite often. We tend to use it regard someone (e.g. a different team's fanbase) behaving just as we would want them to; we moan for the lack of it when someone (again, a different team's fanbase) does not. Then you have those who use the word to describe how skilled one is, which apparently is confined soccer with the saying: "Form is temporary, class is permanent/forever." Ultimately, context is important when busting out "class" to describe a team. Especially a hockey team since every one is guilty of going "over the line" in some way or form at some point.
Therefore, I think it's more befitting to use "class" to describe incidents rather than a whole team. While I'm not sure which Devils team in history can be properly described as "classy," I am sure of examples of them. So that will be what I'm focusing on. I can recall two examples from 2010-11 New Jersey Devils: one off the ice and one on the ice.
On the Ice Class
Back on January 9, 2010 prior to their game against the Tampa Bay Lightning, the Devils had a whopping 10 wins and were in dead last in the league. They were 10 points behind 29th place, which was then held by the New York Islanders. The initial results under interim head coach Jacques Lemaire weren't good with only one win in his first eight games behind the bench. Some organizations would have just accepted this and just play out the season - and understandably so. 22 points at the halfway mark of a season is a good sign as any to say "this ain't happening" and "just take the high draft pick and reload for next season."
The Devils, of course, are not one of those organizations.
As we know now, the Devils got hot and turned their season around on a 23-3-2 run. It got to a point where they were flirting with the idea of making the playoffs in February and March. That didn't happen, but it was a giant step forward considering where this team was earlier in the season. That in of itself can be described as a mark of class. The Devils were pushing towards the goal of the playoffs regardless of how ridiculously unlikely it would be. They were playing for something even it seemed more like a mirage than anything else. That speaks to the team's character as a whole, all of it good.
However, it wasn't until the Devils were mathematically eliminated from the playoffs that they really showed their class in my opinion. That may sound a bit strange considering they went 2-2 in those final four games of the season. Plus, they played like hot garbage on April 2 - the date they were knocked out of the post season. All signs pointed to them just "going through the motions." And maybe that would have been the smart thing to do, in terms of getting a better draft pick.
The Devils didn't do that in their final four games of the season. Don't misunderstand me. They made their share of mistakes, special team screw ups, and endured a disappointing loss to Our Hated Rivals. However, you couldn't use the words "lazy" or "lackadaisical" to describe any of the Devils' performances (here, here, here, and here) except for the third period at MSG on the penultimate game of the season. That's class right there: putting a full effort even when it is ultimately futile. Playing for pride and actually meaning it. Besides, the draft pick issue became less of a concern since the Devils won the lottery.
What about off the ice? Well, you'd have to go back further in the season.
Off the Ice Class
Back on November 19, Pat Burns died from cancer. Per this NHL.com article, Lou Lamoriello had this to say:
"On behalf of the ownership, management, staff, and players of the New Jersey Devils, we are all deeply saddened by the loss of Pat Burns. Pat was a close friend to us all, while dedicating his life to his family and to the game of hockey. He has been part of our family here in New Jersey for eight years. Today, the hockey world has lost a great friend and ambassador. Our thoughts and prayers are with his wife, Line, and the entire Burns' family."
-- Devils' President/CEO/General Manager Lou Lamoriello
This was proven as the Devils team went to Burns' funeral on November 29 per this post by Tom Gulitti. The entire team including the injured players.
Granted, the Devils didn't have a game that day, making such a decision possible. Still, I think it was a very touching that the whole team went. It would have been totally understandable if it wasn't the whole roster. Most of the 2010-11 team never played under Burns. Those injured could have stayed behind and tended to their injuries. Patrik Elias just became a dad for the first time two days prior. Yet, they all went. That's how much Burns meant to this organization. The only one who didn't go was Jason Arnott, and that's only because he was sick per Gulitti. Were he healthy, he would have gone.
And even if it turned out to be a, say, non-voluntary decision for the players to go, then that further justifies the above quote. Burns meant that much to the Devils organization that it was imperative that all involved pay their respects. No matter how you look at it, doing so as a whole team was a classy move by the Devils.
These are just two examples and just from this past season's team. Again, I'm not sure what team could be adequately described as "classy." Though, I'm sure in pointing out examples of it. Perhaps you can recall some other examples of class by a Devils player or a past team. If so, please share them in the comments. Thanks for reading.