You may have heard that this summer for the New Jersey Devils has been the strangest and most busy since that summer the team got a guy named Ilya, who isn’t in the new The Man From U.N.C.L.E remake. It’s exciting and interesting and a little bit frightening, especially for a team whose former 28-Years-As-GM‘s typical response to any Devils question was to respond, “(everything is) status quo.”
For the last two years I was, what I deemed a half-half season ticket holder (13 games, really 12 games + 1 free). However, they have gotten rid of that for something called Flex Membership and the language used is completely different. But, as people with a better knowledge of math & finance have said in much better way than I, I’m not entirely sure how viable it will be for most low & middle income brackets (if you don’t click on the Forbes link, the most important thing from that article is “Devils fans can create a type of bank account with the team, with a minimum $2,500 deposit”) to continue to enjoy the splurge of seeing hockey live.
My seats, for both years, were pretty close to the middle of the arena, behind the benches (so, as a weirdo goalie-lover, I got to see Nabokov, Rinne and Lindback riding the bench for their respective teams). Before the game, I’d be there when the arena opened their doors, either out in the cold of the corner of Lafayette in the beginning of the season because I am Elsa, and the cold never bothered me anyway. Or inside at the corner of Edison because those security guards know what they are doing and you’d get in way faster (Devils Fan Secret #1). Towards the middle of last season, they finally realized that this game might’ve been the first time people my parents age have been in Newark since the 70s, so they had volunteers telling people where to go on the Lafayette corner.
Once inside, I would head straight for the Devils program lady (you can hear her from almost everywhere in the arena screaming “Let’s Go Devils!” and hi-fiving everyone) and depending on who was on the program, spend the $3 on yet another Jagr program that I am planning on selling to Czech relatives. In some other arenas, the programs are free and in some other ones it’s just a slip of paper that tells you what the matchups are for the week. I do enjoy that every Devils program tends to be more book-like with a few long form articles on the players usually written either by award-winning hockey (as well as NYC subway) historian Stan Fischler or one of his seasonal interns.
Now that I’ve got my program and it’s still an hour to go until pre-skate, I’ll walk around. Even though 8 years ago, I bemoaned the fact that I was losing my precious Devils arena in the Meadowlands that brought us 3 Stanley Cups and a million of memories — even Rangers & Islanders fans talk about how great the Prudential Center is. This year, there were some new food items that were hits (why was I the only one eating the Piri Piri chicken?!) and some were misses (a pulled pork sub was …. soggy. Pulled pork should never be soggy). And on the second floor, there is a “down the shore” vibe going on, where you could get cotton candy, taffy, fried shrimp, fried oreos (my favorite forever) or zeppoles so that in the middle of one of the worst winters in a long, long time, for a brief second you could pretend you were on the beach in Seaside or LBI or (pick your favorite New Jersey beach here). And Newark Beers are also upstairs somewhere, but I don’t drink so I’m not entirely sure if it’s upstairs near the fake beach or on the main floor.
The games themselves, unless they went to dreaded shootout, were pretty ok. Especially since for the most part, I’d usually have a row all to myself, both years. I enjoyed being able to watch Adam Larsson’s transformation from a tiny man-child-deer who looked scared to skate or to hit back (or even hip-check!) into a pretty decent defenseman. I’m never having children, so Larsson is as close to getting to be a hockey mom as I’ll ever get. Some of the reason for the delay was because of Peter DeBoer’s coaching style and some of it was also that when he first started, he was a very shy 18-year-old playing in the NHL.
I also got to experience my favorite player, Patrik Elias, play with his “Czech twin” Petr Sykora and his Czech best friend Marty Havlat. This year, he might be playing with the rookies Vojtech Mozik (D) and Pavel Zacha (C) if they get called up some time this season. I was also there for Elias’ 1,000th point and 601 assists against the Oilers (thanks to a fluke and I was actually able to get to a Monday night game). I also screamed “HAIL HYDRA” at being at the first game where my wonderful and glorious team was coached by three coaches at once — Lou Lamoriello, Scott Stevens & Adam Oates.
I’ve had some magical memories in these last two years and I’m hoping that the Devils will be making some more this season for the fans.