Atlantic City. While the initial reaction of this famous Jersey Shore resort gambling town may not bring to mind thoughts of cold, ice, and sports entertainment, last “weekend” proved that hockey can thrive just about anywhere as long as the fans are satisfied.
Fellow Devils Army General Kevin Lankey and I had the incredible opportunity to attend all of the events for the annual AHL All-Star Classic held in historic Atlantic City last weekend and early last week. It was the first year in the modern history of the AHL that the All-Star Classic was held outside of a member city, and what an excellent choice it was!
Atlantic City is no stranger to hockey, as Boardwalk Hall served as home to the former ECHL Atlantic City Boardwalk Bullies from 2001-2005. In addition, the close proximity to so many teams in so many markets in the area provided a diverse mix of AHL, NHL, and ECHL fans from Maryland to Connecticut and beyond. And of course, the overabundance of fun activities, delicious restaurants, scenic ocean views, and convenient walking-distance closeness to the action provided an atmosphere unlike any other.
The festivities kicked off on Sunday, January 29 with the 2012 AHL All-Star Skills Competition. There were seven Skills Events, including a Puck Control Relay, Fastest Skater, Rapid Fire, Hardest Shot, Accuracy, Pass and Score, and a Breakaway Relay. Prior to the Skills Competition, Kevin and I had the chance to interview a couple of the AHL East All-Stars, including Albany Devils player (and New Jersey Devils prospect) Alexander Urbom, who was a last-minute addition to the All-Star roster. While Urbom didn’t win his Skill (Hardest Shot), he definitely received quite an ovation throughout the entire weekend from the crowd, which included many New Jersey Devils and Albany Devils fans. All in all, the Skills Competition was a lot of fun, with all of the various AHL Mascots rallying support for their players throughout the arena stands. Despite the initial rounds of the Skills Competition being extremely close between the East and the West, the West ended up taking the W, with a final score of 18-10.
Following the Skills Competition, Caesars hosted the Post-Skills Party at the Palladium Ballroom. What a blast it was being able to mingle with other local hockey fans as well as the AHL All Stars themselves! Considering something like 93% of AHL All-Star Classic participants have competed in the NHL, the Post-Skills Party was a unique opportunity for the fans to chat and take pictures with the next Zach Parise (2005 participant). The All-Stars definitely seemed truly excited, proud, and humbled to be there, and the fans were just as excited to be able to meet them. If that wasn’t enough, there were plenty of things to do for fans of all ages, including dancing, air-hockey, and video games. And who can resist the words “All-You-Can-Eat”?!
The next day was another jam-packed, event-filled day, which included the State of the AHL Press Conference, Hall of Fame Induction and Awards Ceremony, and the All-Star Game.
The 2012 AHL All-Star Game was probably my favorite event of the weekend. The game itself was your typical high-scoring All-Star affair, despite it being the lowest scoring game since 2007. The first period was dominated by the East, who scored 6 goals in the first 17 minutes. The second period was dominated by West goaltender and former New Jersey Devil Yann Danis, who stopped all 11 shots against him, allowing the West to cut the East lead to one. Of course the game ended up going into a shootout, as the third period ended in a tie after the West scored 2 goals to the East’s 1 (which was assisted by Alexander Urbom!). The Best-Of-5 Shootout was eventually won by the West, who scored twice against Tyson Sexsmith, as West goaltender (and MVP of the game) Ben Bishop stopped 5 out of 5. It was an entertaining game, with some of the more fun moments coming during the intermissions. First intermission included a Mascot game that had it all–fights, a penalty shot, even a synchronized Tebowing session. The second intermission included a Chuck-A-Puck Contest, where fans throw hundreds of red rubber pucks onto a bullseye on the ice, and the closest puck wins cash.
It was a great experience, a great opportunity, and something I would absolutely love to do again. If you ever have the chance to attend an event like the AHL All-Star Classic, don’t pass it up! It’s a great way to get up close and personal with some of the hottest stars of tomorrow while enjoying the game we all love so much with people from all over the area. The AHL really knows how to organize a fun, fan-based event, and I can say that every fan in attendance had a great time, regardless of NHL affiliation. That’s not something you see very often.
Last Friday, the Devils retired former captain Scott Niedermayer’s #27 into the rafters of the Prudential Center for “Niedermayer Night” as fans gathered to see the Devils take on the Dallas Stars. There was initially a little bit of controversy amongst fans and critics over whether or not Niedermayer was deserving of the honor, but anybody who watched the ceremony and highlights of his career as a Devil and knows his impressive resume can have little doubt that this was more than well deserved. And what a night it was!
For those of you that did not get to see the ceremony, you can view it here:
From a fan’s perspective, the whole evening was fun, exciting, and memorable. The entire place was decked out. Number 27 was everywhere, from the banners outside of the Rock to the boards at center ice inside the arena. Interviews and highlights of Niedermayer’s career were displayed on the jumbotron throughout the evening. Some of his stats were displayed in the rafters of the main concourse. Fans entering the building received a mini replica banner, and fans exiting the building received a numbered 8×10 collector’s card.
The energy inside the arena during the ceremony was intense. Fans were cheering, screaming, standing, whistling, chanting, and applauding when the banner was raised to the rafters. The sellout crowd was a big part of the excitement of the night, as everybody was respectful and gave Niedermayer his due credit. Even the staff at the Prudential Center seemed more friendly and happy than they usually are. There was just an air of excitement throughout the arena that everyone seemed to share.
The Devils went on to win 6-3 against the Stars, with a goal and 3 assists by captain Zach Parise. It was a perfect ending to a perfect night, and everybody went home with a giant smile on their face. It was one of my most fun-filled nights as a Devils fan, and the win helped seal it as one of my proudest memories as a Devils fan.
During his short but humble speech, Niedermayer reflected upon his time as a Devil and said, “These memories, I will cherish the rest of my life.” Likewise, Scotty. What was your favorite part about Niedermayer Night?
What could be more fun than hanging out with a group of fellow hockey fans, enjoying delicious discounted food and drinks, meeting NJ Devils alumni, playing exciting games, taking home fabulous prizes, and watching your NJ Devils take on the reigning Stanley Cup champs on a giant 80 inch HD projector?
Why don’t you come find out for yourself? Next Tuesday, November 15, the Devils Army Generals will be hosting our second viewing party of the season as the NJ Devils travel to Beantown to take on the Boston Bruins. As we continue our quest to bring the Devils Army to all corners of New Jersey and beyond, we’re venturing into the heart of the Garden State, to the North Brunswick Pub on Route 1 in North Brunswick, NJ.
The North Brunswick Pub is known for its tasty pub grub, reasonable prices, and friendly, casual atmosphere. With multiple large flat-screen TVs, two 80 inch HD projectors, and more, it’s the perfect place to recreate that “at the game” feeling. This location was actually suggested to us by a member of the Devils Army on Twitter, and is a favorite among many of my own family and friends.
As always, there will be contests and giveaways, raffles, a silent auction, and an appearance by a member of the Devils alumni – 2003 Stanley Cup Champion Grant Marshall.
If wings are your thing, you’re in luck—Tuesday nights at the Pub are “35 Cent Boneless Wing Nights” from 6pm until close! Be sure to check out some of their mouthwatering new sauces, including Mediterranean Feta, Creamy Pesto, Red Pepper Basil, and Garlic Parmesan! There will also be discount pitchers of domestic beer and other food and drink specials to be announced.
The fun starts at 7pm. Come join us at the North Brunswick Pub, located at 1864 Route 1 (on the northbound side) in North Brunswick, NJ. For directions, click here (I have provided directions from the Prudential Center—please make sure to change the starting address to your own).
For more information, please check out and RSVP to our Official Facebook Event. Bring a friend, Get Your Jersey On and we’ll see you there!
Have an idea for a possible viewing party location? Leave your comment below!
Tonight at the Prudential Center, as the Devils host the San Jose Sharks, and in several other NHL arenas across the United States, hockey fans worldwide can unite in a fight that goes beyond fists and gloves. I’m sure by now most of us have seen or heard the public service announcements and print flyers featuring several NHL stars urging us to “join the fight” against cancer by supporting the Hockey Fights Cancer initiative.
To promote the month-long initiative, each of the 30 NHL teams has dedicated one night in October as “Hockey Fights Cancer” Awareness Night. Ours is tonight! There will be several things happening tonight at the Prudential Center to benefit Hockey Fights Cancer and to encourage those who have been affected firsthand by the disease. The National Anthem will be sung by Samantha Dango, a cancer survivor’s daughter. Young patients and other children affected by the disease from the Devils’ and Prudential Center’s local hospital partners (the Barnabas Health System, Atlantic Health System, St. Joseph’s Healthcare System and Holy Name Medical Center) have been invited to attend tonight, some of whom will be participating in Zamboni rides during intermission.
The Devils will once again hold a Mystery Puck sale to benefit Hockey Fights Cancer. Each signed puck will be gift-bagged so that you don’t know whose signature you have received until after you buy it. The pucks will go on sale in the main concourse when the doors open. Be sure and arrive early to reserve your place in line for this fun and worthwhile opportunity.
In addition, collections will be taking place for donations at entrance points throughout The Rock. Hockey Fights Cancer merchandise will be on sale tonight at the Devils Den. Devils’ coaching staff and broadcasters will be wearing ties, hats, jackets, and other official apparel. The Hockey Fights Cancer PSAs will be aired throughout the evening, some featuring Devils players. Devils and Prudential Center staff will be wearing Hockey Fights Cancer pins and lavender ribbons to show their support. The Devils homepage and social media pages will all keep with the Hockey Fights Cancer theme. All proceeds from tonight’s events will be donated back to the Devils’ and Prudential Center’s local hospital partners.
Hockey Fights Cancer was founded in December 1998 by the NHL and NHL Players’ Association as a way to raise money and awareness in cancer research, prevention, and care. The initiative has raised over $12 million so far. Hockey Fights Cancer is a part of the NHL’s “Biggest Assist Happens off the Ice” campaign, which consists of several initiatives designed to address and improve social issues affecting people worldwide.
I’m sure we all know or know of somebody who has been affected by cancer. As we work and progress towards finding a cure for this disease, let’s all remember that we are ALL on the same team. Devils Army, let’s unite and fight against a common enemy. Tonight will definitely be a memorable, fun, and touching evening. I hope to see some of you there!