newjerseydevils.com – Brian Rolston turned an ordinary weekday into a special occasion for lifelong Devils fan Jeffrey Gendel.
On Wednesday, Rolston traveled to Scarsdale, N.Y., to deliver Gendel's 2009-10 season tickets in person. Gendel arrived on a Metro-North train from Manhattan and found Rolston waiting to hand him a Devils package containing his tickets.
"It's fantastic," said Gendel, 42, as he was greeted at the train station by his son Jared, 6, and daughter Audrey, 5. He then wowed them with a pair of customized Rolston jerseys and Devils pucks that he had bought earlier at the NHL Store in midtown.
Several Devils players will be hand-delivering tickets to select lucky season ticket holders over the next week. The Devils open the regular season at home against Philadelphia on Saturday, Oct. 3.
Originally from Summit, N.J., Gendel has held season tickets since the club's 1982 arrival in the Garden State. He attended the first regular season game in Devils history with his father on Oct. 5, 1982, and has been hooked ever since.
Like so many other Devils fans, Gendel's favorite hockey moment is Game 4 of the 1995 Stanley Cup Finals, when he saw Jersey's Team sweep Detroit to capture its first title.
"It stills brings tears to my eyes today," he said, recalling how he later watched the footage of Mike Peluso crying on the bench as time ticked down in regulation. "That is the singular moment that will always stand out in my mind."
Rolston was there, too – as a 22-year-old rookie on the '95 squad.
"When you've been a season ticket holder as long as you have," Rolston told Gendel, "seeing the Stanley Cup is amazing."
Gendel described spending some of the best times of his life at Devils games with his father. He sat in section 110 at Continental Airlines Arena, then moved to section 22 when the club came to Newark's Prudential Center, where he currently shares the tickets with his father and brother.
"I want to be able to have that with my kids," he said. "To the extent that you can further endear them to the game or to the players, that's priceless. You can't put a price tag on the time that I had with my dad."
For all his own Devils memories, the face-to-face meeting with Rolston was something Gendel wanted his children to remember for years to come.
"When the players can get out there and interact with the fans, fans can see they're real people," he said. "It lets them see the players on a different level, and hopefully it makes them fans for life. That's what I want them to be: fans of the game, and fans of, hopefully, my team."
Gendel's wife, Wendy, arrived at the station just as the visit wrapped up. Even their relationship had a devilish twist: his friends knew she was going to be "the one" when Gendel presented her with her very own Devils jersey.
As much as the '95 Cup meant to him, Gendel proudly celebrates all of the Devils' achievements. He still loves watching the highlights from the championship runs in 2000 and 2003 – Scott Stevens' hits on Eric Lindros and Paul Kariya are his particular favorites.
"Those moments are etched in my mind and I smile when I think about it," he said. "When I go to the arena and I look up at those Stanley Cup banners, I say, 'They can never take them away from us.' We're so fortunate to have had the success that we've had as an organization."
He's hoping to be in the stands for a fourth Cup in 2010.