It was party time at this 10-year-old barn, a barn that Scott Bertoli helped build. On Saturday night, New Jersey's capital city gave back to the man who did so much for this ECHL franchise and the city of Trenton, and still does to this day.
Bertoli -- who played for the Trenton Titans from the franchise's inception in 1999 until the very last day the nickname existed in 2007 -- rightfully had his No. 19 raised to the rafters prior to the Trenton Devils' game against the South Carolina Stingrays.
"It was nice," Bertoli said. "It brought back some old memories. It's the first time I've been back here since I stopped playing. It was fun. I enjoyed it. It was nice to be honored this way and recognized by such a first-class organization like the Devils. I spent a lot of good years of my life in this building and had a lot of fun."
Emceed by former New Jersey Devils defenseman Ken Daneyko -- whose No. 3 hangs from the rafters atop the Prudential Center just up the road from here -- Bertoli was honored in front of his wife, parents, brother and several former teammates. Among those were Trenton coaches Rick Kowalsky and Vince Williams, who skated alongside Bertoli during the run to the 2004-05 Kelly Cup championship.
"I had the unique privilege of knowing Scott throughout the length of his career," Kowalsky said. "I got to know him as an opponent, as a teammate and lastly as his coach. What I'll always remember most about Scott was his ability to take his game to another level. The bigger the game, the better player he was. He was the quintessential big-game player."
Indeed he was. In 507 career games, "The Franchise" notched 182 goals and 344 assists. His 526 points are tied for 18th all-time in ECHL history. One would have to think the next stop for Bertoli will be the league's Hall of Fame.
"Scott was the first player we recruited in the first season of the Trenton Titans," said ECHL Commissioner Brian McKenna, who was the club's first general manager. "It is only fitting tonight that the first player recruited is the first player to have their jersey raised to the rafters at Sovereign Bank Arena. He was one of the most consistent performers in the history of the ECHL."
After several video tributes that were capped by a message from current Chicago Blackhawks assistant coach Mike Haviland -- who guided Trenton to its lone championship -- Bertoli finally addressed the raucous crowd and provided it with one more memory.
"I thank you all for being here tonight and supporting me," said Bertoli, who had 79 points in his final season -- the most in his career. "This is something I'll always remember. It's a special evening. It was great to be a part of such a great franchise."
As his No. 19 was going up, tears started to form in the eyes of his dad. Hugs were exchanged at least three times between the two in a moment father and son likely won't ever forget.
"It was an important night for them," Bertoli said of his parents. "They've been a big part of it. They helped get me to where I was. They taught me a lot about life and the difference between right and wrong and being a good teammate."
Always able to keep his emotions in check during his playing days, Bertoli managed to get through the ceremony without the aid of some Kleenex. However, he did admit to nearly losing it once.
"I almost did when Killer was talking," Bertoli said of Kowalsky, who was the captain of the 2005 title team. "I think him and Whitey (former Trenton defenseman Kam White) were the two teammates I respected more than anything. They were guys who fought for you and would stick up for anyone. They were the ultimate locker-room guys. For Killer to recognize me and make those remarks, it means a lot to me."
"There was always talk about it," Kowalsky said. "The Devils approached me and asked me what I thought about it. There's people who think maybe it should have been done right away and maybe it should have been done last year, but this organization makes sure they do things right. I think Scott would agree. I thought it was done right."
Haviland certainly would have been present for the festivities if not for the fact that his Blackhawks were playing in Dallas on Saturday. Haviland was Trenton's assistant coach from 1999-2001 before returning as head coach three years later. His relationship with Bertoli goes back a decade.
"You meant so much to the franchise for so many years," Haviland said on the video. "This is something that is certainly well-deserved and something you'll remember forever. You should enjoy it and you should be proud of yourself. I'm certainly proud of you, not only to coach you but to be your friend."
Bertoli made plenty of friends during his phenomenal eight-year run. Some of them -- White, Andrew Allen, Jerramie Domish, Alain St. Hilaire and Les Haggett -- made it back to New Jersey's capital city to stand by his side one last time.
"This is such a special night, not only for myself, but for my family, my friends, my teammates … I thank them all for making the effort to get back here."
Contact Brian Compton at: email@example.com.