United States Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Michael McCann has been coming to New Jersey Devils games since he was five years old, the same age he was when he knew he wanted to become a Marine. Now 20, and in his second year with the Marine Corps, the Devils honored McCann as Hero of the Game on January 7, as the team hosted the Boston Bruins.
McCann, a Woodbridge native, enlisted in July 2013, fulfilling a childhood dream and carrying on a family tradition. Between his grandfather, great-grandfather, and great-uncles, the Marines had a strong pull, even as both of McCann’s parents served in the Navy. McCann said he chose to join the Marines because he viewed it as “one of the best” branches of the military.
A year after enlisting, McCann attended recruit training at the Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island, in Port Royal, S.C., Following recruit training, McCann was sent to Camp Lejeune, N.C., for infantry training. Since January 15, 2015, McCann has been based at the Marine Corps Air Station Kaneohe Bay, at Kāne'ohe Bay, Hawaii.
While based in Hawaii, McCann was deployed in June of last year to serve for six months in Japan and South Korea, where he helped train members of the Korean military in American styles of combat. The deployment took McCann to within a mile of the Korean Demilitarized Zone, and to an island off the coast of North Korea, which McCann described as “tense.” On the island, McCann provided further assistance by training his South Korean counterparts based on the island.
In his short time of service, McCann has already received a number of accolades, including the National Defense Medal, Global War on Terrorism Service Medal and the Korean Defense Service Medal. The National Defense Medal came for enlisting and completing his training “during a time of war.” The Global War on Terrorism medal is awarded to service members who perform service in the War on Terror.
McCann also received the Sea Service Ribbon, which along with the Korean Defense Medal were awarded for his service deployment to Korea. For his skill with a rifle, McCann holds a Rifle Expert badge that he received “by firing from distances as close to 25 yards to distances up to 500 yards.”
“It’s truly an honor to be recognized by the team,” McCann said after being thanked for his service by a fan. Attending games with his family since he was a child at the former Continental Airlines Arena, McCann has seen many service members recognized before tonight.
With more than a decade of attending games, it’s no surprise that McCann calls himself a major fan of the game. At John F. Kennedy Memorial High School, McCann played the sport, “bouncing around” between forward, defenseman and occasional goalie. McCann said he started off as a forward before switching to defense, and mostly served between the pipes in emergency situations.
McCann calls Eric Gelinas his favorite player. “When he first came to the Devils, he was the new guy, the underdog,” McCann said. “I just liked what Gelinas did when he first got here.”
McCann’s family sits in a section with the same people that they did when the team played in its former home in the Meadowlands. For McCann, his best memory of the Devils is of being at the games with his family. “The friends we have made, and the memories we have together,” McCann added, make Prudential Center a special place.