The New Jersey Devils celebrated the region’s Polish community Wednesday night with Polish Heritage Night at Prudential Center as the team hosted the Calgary Flames.
Before the game, and during the first intermission, fans were treated to traditional Polish music and dancing by the Polish American Folk Dance Company, which featured singing and instrumental numbers using string and wind instruments, and an accordion. Fans also saw Krakowiak, a dance that originates in southern Poland involving men and women dancing in colorful traditional outfits with elaborate head coverings and rich colors.
Red and white, the colors of both the Devils and the Polish flag, took over the concourse as fans put their heritage and hockey pride on display with scarves, flags, hats and more. A child wore a Polish national soccer team jersey, while one man in the crowd sported a one-of-a-kind Polish national hockey jersey featuring a Devils logo sewn onto the left sleeve.
One of the driving forces behind Polish Heritage Night was Polonia for Kids, an organization that raises money to assist handicapped children. A portion of tickets sold for the night’s festivities will circle back to the organization, to help fund prosthetic limbs for a two-year-old boy named Philip.
The evening may have also convinced a Polish dignitary based in New York to become a Devils fan, as Urszula Gacek, Consul General of Poland in New York, attended a NHL game for the first time.
“I found out the guy who plays in the number 14 shirt, Adam Henrique, has a Polish mom,” she said. “How could I not be here?”
Gacek’s district, which stretches as far north as Vermont and down to Delaware, covers an estimated 3.6 million people of Polish origin. A former ambassador to France, Gacek describes her role as assisting polish citizens in the United States when it comes to dealing with Polish bureaucracy and, more importantly, promoting culture, business, and fostering good Polish/American relations.