Game Time: 7:30 PM
TV: TSN, NBCSN, MSG+
Radio: 1130 AM
Thursday night, your New Jersey Devils (15-17-10) will look to finally snap a 10-game losing streak as they travel to Philly to take on the Flyers (19-21-3) for the fifth and final time this season. The Devils have gone 0-6-4 in their past ten, virtually knocking them out of the 2013 playoff race. The Flyers, on the other hand, have gone 6-4-0 in their past 10, moving one point ahead of the Devils in the standings as they try to piece together a season that got off to a rocky start for the Philadelphia team.
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.
Classic barbecue food, music, games for the kids and a chance to chat with your favorite New Jersey Devils – I’d say that’s a great way to spend a Sunday afternoon. This past weekend the Devils hosted their second annual Devils Family BBQ and Fan Fest at the Prudential Center. It’s one of the cool events season ticket holders get to be a part of and a great way to kick off the season.
Anxious fans lined up outside of The Rock waiting to get in and meet their favorite players. They opened up the main concourse of the Prudential Center and let the fans roam. Lunch was served in the Fire & Ice Lounges. If you were lucky you caught Zach Parise behind the counter suited up to serve with an apron and chef hat. Rumor has it that Ilya Kovalchuk was handing out cookies. Bryce Salvador was taking care of the sodas with Nick Palmieri and Andy Greene.
There was plenty for the younger kids to do between shooting pucks into inflatable nets, hanging out with NJ and dancing with the Devils Dancers. All the players were happy to take pictures, share stories and even play a few rounds of floor hockey with the kids (and some of the adult fans, too). Parise and David Steckel played a couple games of hockey, followed by another game around the corner with Jacob Josefson, Mattias Tedenby, Alexander Urbom and Henrik Tallinder – only a few men short of a Swedish National team. Dainius Zubrus and NJ were hanging around the inflatable goalie nets watching our youngest Devils Army members practicing their slap shots.
Lines formed for both our veteran players and new additions to the team. Cam Janssen and Adam Larsson were pretty popular, as were Martin Brodeur and Patrick Elias of course. Even Lou Lamoriello and our new coach, Peter DeBoer, made appearances on the concourse. Every where you looked you saw a Devil in their jersey. It was surreal to see them on the concourse and to be honest, kind of weird. You learn a few things about the guys being so close. Did you know that Janssen loves to dance in place? David Clarkson seems tough on the ice but his face lights up when you mention his little girl (who will not be a hockey player). Clarkson is also a huge Jets fan and has a helmet signed by the team. Tallinder is a bit of a goofball, he was caught sneaking into pictures with other players and teasing Tedenby and Josefson when they lost their hockey game. Oh, and Rod Pelley has no front teeth – but you’ve probably noticed that before.
It’s great getting a chance to talk to the players and see them off the ice. Everyone had a great time and made sure to wish their favorite guys good luck during the season. There was tons to do and lots to see. Check out more photos from the BBQ on the Devils Generals Flickr page. Let us know if you find your face!