Category Archives: It’s A Jersey Thing
I’ve learned over the last couple of years that when you come to love hockey and follow a team closely, sometimes it’s hard to occupy yourself in the off season. After coming down off the roller coaster ride of excitement, I start to get slightly depressed thinking about how much I miss the atmosphere of game day and being with all the great people I’ve become friends with throughout the season (and now, years!).
After experiencing my first playoff run to the Stanley Cup Finals as a fan, it was especially awesome knowing there were people around me who understood the various emotions bursting out. I never imagined I could get so overly emotional over a GAME. Having experienced it first hand NOW, I think I’ll handle myself better in the future, but at the time it was all raw, new and exciting. The upside of all of it is that the bonds I formed with my friends are stronger than ever before, and THIS summer we all made it our mission to see each other more often to ease the boredom and depressing aspect of waiting.
For the fifth time in franchise history the New Jersey Devils will be playing in the Stanley Cup Finals. I was fortunate enough to be at Game 7 of 2003 when the Devils won their most recent championship. I stood next to my Dad as the seconds ticked down and Gary Bettman walked out, grabbed Lord Stanley’s Cup and handed it off to Scott Stevens. If you ask me what my best Devils’ memory is, well without a doubt, it’s that game. Now, when you ask my father, he’s often quick to say watching me watching the Devils win the Cup. That always resonated with me.
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.
It was officially announced yesterday that Formula 1 racing will be coming to the Garden State. In June of 2013, the air will be filed with the sound of screeching tires and roaring engines as F1 racecars speed around the streets of Hudson County. Specifically, the towns of Weehawkin and West New York will place host to the race. Now, I know what you’re saying. “But Doug, there is no room there build a race track.” Well, that’s been addressed. Much like the world famous Monaco Grand Prix, the cars will race on the city streets.
The track combines the tight turns of a city track with a long straight offering a spectacular view of the city. That view is not for the drivers though. When driving at 200+ miles per hour, taking a glance at the city skyline is not exactly a safe idea. Speaking of driving at 200+ MPH, it must be pretty fun to drive that fast past a 25 MPH sign. I don’t know about you, but I’d get a good laugh out of that.
Oh, and did I mention this is a ten-year long agreement we are talking about? That’s right. Starting in June 2013, you can expect a race every summer for ten years. The economic benefit is impossible to deny. While a full economic impact study by Formula 1 is still in the works, the region can expect to see millions in economic development. A quick quote from Governor Christie sums everything up: “The three-day event will bring very positive economic activity to the region, while giving fans of the sport in our region and around the world an exciting, new venue to experience Formula 1 racing. This is another example of how New Jersey remains a leader in hosting marquee national and international sporting and entertainment events like the Super Bowl, NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament, and the Ironman Triathlon in various parts of our state.”
I’m sold. I think this is a great idea, and I may even splurge for tickets when the time comes. We could use the economic boost. And bringing more and more unique sporting events can only bring positive attention to the state. What do you think? Maybe now members the Devils Army will turn into racing fans.
Alright Devils Army – here’s the first installment of Feeding an Army, a series of posts where “Cowbell” Steve and “Crazy” Jaime (me!) give you the breakdown on the various restaurants located around the Prudential Center area for your pre-game and post-game meals!
Our first adventure began on Saturday, October 8th which was the night of the Devils home opener, when we hit up Hell’s Kitchen Lounge for some pre-game festivities. Our group started arriving around 3PM and there was already a decent showing, but by 4PM the place was packed with Devils fans – inside and out! As will always be the case, Hell’s Kitchen was not aware of what we were doing, and we received no special treatment whatsoever and paid for our food and drinks out of our own pockets.
But enough about the fans, what about the food? Well, we started off with appetizers of course, Steve ordered the hummus with flat bread (we recommend the extra flat bread option… you’ll thank us later!) and I ordered some buffalo wings that were, as you would expect, HOT! These are two of our favorite dishes at Hell’s and there is usually not a night that goes by where we don’t order them. It’s a nice little “hold me over” before your dinner and enough to share for a whole group.
Moving on to dinner, we’ve both eaten a lot of burgers in our lives, but I always say that Hell’s Kitchen has some of the best I’ve ever tasted. The Brick City Burger is my personal favorite, and how can you go wrong with a half pound of beef, cheese, chorizo, onion rings & their signature meat spackle? It definitely hits home with that “Taste of Newark” feel, but that’s just one of their many burgers and sandwiches. In addition to the Brick City burger, they also offer the Guinness Burger with marbled Guinness bacon and cheddar (YUMMY!) and the Taylor Ham & Cheese Burger… talk about the New Jersey attitude! Let’s not start the taylor ham versus pork roll debate though (we all know it’s TAYLOR HAM)!
Steve decided to choose one of Hell’s Kitchen other options and ordered the Chorizo Sandwich, which gives you great big slices of grilled chorizo on a locally baked Portuguese roll along with peppers and onions and a side of fries. You can also substitute sweet potato fries on any of their dishes, which we both have a preference for. You cannot go wrong with any of these choices, as neither of us has ever had a bad burger or sandwich at Hell’s Kitchen. In fact, I think that each is better than the previous. I know your mouth is now watering and you’re trying to figure out just how fast you can get down there!
Hell’s Kitchen offers beer towers and as well as a variety of bottled beer and beer on tap. They also have other alcoholic beverages available, as well as non-alcoholic beverages. Don’t forget their specialty drinks either, my two personal favorites being “Lucifer’s Lemonade” and “Angels and Demons”. Please just remember to drink responsibly!
Hell’s Kitchen has an eclectic atmosphere and 1950’s era style where Las Vegas meets the traditional pub. On game nights they open up their doors to a couple hundred hockey fans of all ages, but on non-game nights they’re a little more adventurous. Check out their website for more details!
Where: 150 Lafayette Street
Distance from The Rock: .3 miles (6 min – walking)
Distance from Newark Penn Station: .3 miles
Recommendation: Make Reservations on Game Nights, Check their schedule for fun on Devils’ off-nights.