If New Jersey Devils fans were getting anxious during the summer to see some live hockey action, Development Camp served as the cure on Wednesday afternoon.
On Day 2 of camp, doors were open to season ticket members who were decked out in their favorite Devils gear. The stands at RJW Barnabas Health Hockey House were filled with adoring fans, both young and old, as the annual 3-on-3 tournament was set to begin.
Before the tournament began, spectators were surprised with special guests Andy Greene, Cory Schneider and Kyle Palmieri welcomed the crowd. The three Devils walked to center ice, where Schneider spoke to the and expressed thanks and gratitude on behalf of the franchise for all the support they received last season.
With the crowd buzzing from seeing some of their favorite Devils' make the tournament introductions, the group of 33 development camp players stepped onto the ice and was ready to generate excitement on their own.
Split into four teams, the round-robin style tournament provided ample entertainment for the crowd, who watched as big goals were scored and flashy saves were made. Between the Brodeur, Elias, Niedermayer and Stevens rosters, only one team remained undefeated. Team Elias, backed by 2018 draft picks Akira Schmid and Ty Smith, proved victorious, winning all four of their mini-games to take home the trophy.
The crowd was then treated to one final surprise, as Mr. Devil himself, Ken Daneyko stepped out on the ice to award the trophy to Team Elias. Daneyko took the opportunity to encourage the young players to keep working hard and elaborated on the privilege of playing for the Devils franchise.
During the afternoon, current members of the Devils joined the prospects for lunch, imparting wisdom and answered questions from the prospects. Palmieri, Schneider, Greene and Ben Lovejoy sat with the young NHL hopefuls' and bonded over their meals.
Following lunch, the veterans and prospects all joined together to listen to former NHLer Kevin Stevens. Stevens shared his battle with addiction, an intervention and his story of loss and survival on his journey to sobriety. The message was clear to all in the room and his speech served as a lesson to the young minds. Stevens message pushed the Devils to continue to make the best decisions in life, especially as they navigate the world of the NHL.
By 4:30 p.m. the skates were traded in for casual footwear as the Devils prospects boarded a bus to Citi Field where the club bonded over a New York Mets game. The Devils' players, coaches and staff were all treated to a luxury box-experience, where the hometown team defeated the Philadelphia Phillies on Thursday night.
The baseball game gave the players a chance to get to know each other while taking part in one of America's favorite pastimes.
• In the Devils Ping Pong tournament, the top seeded team of John Quenneville and Mike McLeod were defeated by Blake Speers and Nathan Bastian. The finals will be played on Friday, pitting the top offense team vs the top defense team.
• On Thursday players will do their part for the community, helping build bikes that will be donated to young, underprivileged children.
Eating right. Bright and early on Thursday morning, players will learn how to build a healthy omelette and create great tasting and healthy smoothies.
Players will stay off the ice on Thursday, and take part in off-ice workouts followed by a trip to Top Golf in Edison, N.J.