New Jersey Devils: Reflections on St. Patty’s Day Hockey


Jan 26, 2014; New York City, NY, USA; New Jersey Devils right wing Michael Ryder (17) passes the puck away from New York Rangers defenseman Marc Staal (18) during the third period of the Stadium Series hockey game at Yankee Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Ed Mulholland-USA TODAY Sports

I was sitting at my desk here this afternoon with the St. Patrick’s Day Parade on the TV downstairs, and I reflected on all of the games I have seen the New Jersey Devils play on this day through the years. The memories came flooding back and the ideas for this article flowed out.

The Devils and hockey on St. Patrick’s Day have almost been synonymous with one another throughout the history of the team in the Garden State. The team has played some memorable and intense games on March 17th throughout their history especially when they have been in the playoff race.

In my high school years, I remember watching the games on television while my mother cooked and prepared the traditional corned beef dinner that most of us, whether Irish American or not, will feature for dinner on that holiday. The house was warm and cheerful, as are those memories as I recall them today, all these years later.

Eventually, I began going to games in person to see the Devils play an assortment of teams over the years. The crowd was lively and energetic, I recall how much fun it was to be in attendance.

I remember going to a game with my mother and my sisters on St. Patrick’s Day back in the 2001-02 season. We had seats right behind the goal about 15 rows up in the old Continental Airlines Arena for their game that season against the Vancouver Canucks. It was a wild game in which New Jersey lost in Overtime by the score of 3-2 and it remains a great memory that I have of sharing two things I love: my family and the New Jersey Devils.

Recent Years

In the past 5 years or so, I have gone when the Devils have played at home on St. Patrick’s Day with a friend of mine who lives out of state and is a Pittsburgh Penguins fan. When those two teams get together, we try to make it to a game at The Rock, and I wear my Martin Brodeur jersey and he wears one of his Penguins jerseys. It is a lot of fun, and we playfully rib each other over the play of our respective teams throughout the course of the game.

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He and I have been friends for 10 years now, we met at a training session for a job I used to hold in another industry at that time. We have stayed in touch ever since, and our shared passion for hockey is something that we talk about often when we connect over the years by phone or text. Our trips once or twice a season to The Rock were sometimes the only times we would see each other for a whole year, but it is like we just saw one another yesterday.

I remember going to the game in 2010 against the Penguins when the Devils pulled out the retro jerseys which have become a St. Patrick’s Day tradition ever since. Those uniforms which the team used back in their early years, with the hallmark green accents, sent me back in time to games with my Grandfather and my Dad back in the 1980s at the Meadowlands. I recalled instantly Kirk Muller scoring a wrap-around goal, Bruce Driver sending a rink wide pass to Pat Verbeek, and Ken Daneyko laying a vicious check along the boards.

This season, my friend and I both wanted to get to the game tonight and continue our annual visit and catch our two favorite teams play on St. Patrick’s Day. However, circumstances in both of our lives made it not possible this year. In fact, my friend after years on the waiting list is a season ticket holder for the Penguins this season. He is in the midst of a job transfer from where he lives to Pittsburgh where he starts his new position on March 23rd so he could not possibly come down to see me tonight. My own life is rather busy right now as well with so many obligations both for work and my family.

Our conversations now center on the fact that my wife and I can come stay with him in Pittsburgh and we are anxiously awaiting the NHL schedule for next season to plan a road trip for a visit and a hockey game.

Until then, I am left with the memories that I have: of good friendships, my Grandfather’s excitement at watching me cheer for my favorite team, my Father’s love, of my wife’s first reaction when we were dating and I took her to her first hockey game, and to driving back home after that game in 2001 with my Mom and my sisters 6 months before all of our lives would be changed by the 9/11 attacks.

This St. Patrick’s Day I will relax with my wife and my in-laws and have a family dinner, which is where I have been in recent years if I am not at a Devils game. I have the memories though of all those games in the past, the hopes of the games to come in the future, and the knowledge that I am blessed and fortunate to have everything that I possess in my life.

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