The diners at Hobby’s Deli might have come in for the brisket on rye, but what they got was an even rarer treat: a visit from Martin Brodeur.
The Devils goaltender stopped by the Newark institution on Tuesday to deliver season tickets to Marc and Michael Brummer, whose father Sam bought the place in 1962. Over the past week, Devils players have been personally handing off tickets to plan holders as part of the Frozen Over program for new accounts and early renewals.
Michael Brummer has been a part of the ticket holder family since 2000, and was thrilled to host Brodeur for lunch. He prepared a special setting – table No. 30, of course – for the goalie with the most wins in NHL history. On the wall above, Devils memorabilia and posters proved that at this eatery, Jersey’s Team spirit is always on the menu.
“He’s the New Jersey Devils,” Michael said. “To have the Devils here in Newark, to have him walk in our store to bring us the tickets – it’s great.”
Said Marc Brummer: “We’ve been in Newark a long time. Hobby’s has been here almost a hundred years. We’ve seen the ups and the downs. My father bought it in 1962. He’s a Newarker from way back; my mother graduated from Weequahic High School. They were here for the great times through the difficult times, and we never left when many did. To see the Devils make the commitment to Newark was very encouraging and thrilling. To see what it has meant to the city is tremendous. It’s certainly meant a lot to our business. We’re thrilled to have the Devils and very thrilled to have Marty here.”
Brodeur polished off a California grilled chicken sandwich, and sampled an improvised “poutine” of french fries topped with cheddar cheese curds and gravy.
“You never have enough of seeing some of the people who appreciate what you do, seeing their faces, especially in a setting like that: a lot more laid back,” Brodeur said. “Usually it’s in a crowd and you try to get it done and please as many people as you can, but now to be able to go out and spend more than a minute with somebody – that’s pretty rare just because of the way things work out usually. It was definitely a nice afternoon.”
And the poutine, a staple of Brodeur’s native Quebec, was pretty tasty.
“That’s as close as you get to Quebec poutine, that’s for sure,” he said. “I’ve never tasted any in the States like that, so that was good. But the original’s always the original.”
Brodeur was joined by the Brummers and several of their friends. Naturally, the conversation revolved around hockey.
“It was such a tight-knit place,” Brodeur said. “Their friends all showed up when they heard that I was coming. But it was pretty cool to see how interested they were about me being there and hearing about some the questions they were asking. It was cool.”
Any player guest would have been special. “But he certainly is one of the players that we hoped, when we heard we won, that we would get,” Michael said.
Brodeur was a central figure in Michael’s favorite Devils moment: the 1995 Stanley Cup championship. It’s been 15 years since a 23-year-old Brodeur led New Jersey through the playoffs to a stunning Finals sweep of Detroit. The Brummers were fortunate to have been there when the Devils hoisted hockey’s Holy Grail for the first time.
“I got a phone call from a friend who had season tickets at the time,” Michael recounted. “He said, ‘I can’t go, why don’t you go?’ I turned him down because we were so busy the next day, and Marc said to me, ‘What are you doing? We gotta go.’ I called him right back and said we’d take the tickets.”
He continued: “Having been to so many games and then finally seeing them win the Cup was great. The second highlight was Opening Night when they opened the arena here. It was electric. The dining room was packed, and over there it was absolute bedlam.”
Pregame gatherings at Hobby’s have flourished in the seasons since. After the Devils’ arrival in Newark in 2007, Hobby’s began staying open for dinner for the first time in 40 years. Located at the corner of Branford Place and Halsey Street, Hobby’s also operates a stand behind section 119 on Prudential Center’s upper concourse.
“It’s a nice crowd – it’s not the wild nuts,” Marc said of the main restaurant on game nights. “It’s people who enjoy good food, the camaraderie of Devils fans before a game. It’s becoming a family. A lot of people know each other; we’re all Facebook friends. There are people who come every night, other people that we see four, five, six times a year. It’s a family – a nice crowd – and it’s growing.”
After the chat, the food and the new memories, the best part of meeting Brodeur boiled down to bragging rights within the Brummer household.
“For me, my daughter is such a big fan, that I’m here with him and she’s at school,” Michael said.
He used his Blackberry to snap a picture of himself with Brodeur, and sent it to his daughter. The text messaged reply came minutes later: “OMIGOD OMIGOD OMIGOD!”