Like the players he roots for, N.J. Devil has a busy day when the Devils take the ice, and it starts long before the puck drops. From pre-game to post-game, NJ is in near constant movement; and unlike the players on the ice, he doesn’t get a break at intermissions.
In the afternoon of a game day, NJ is hard at work . With his assistant, he’s in his locker room rolling t-shirts for the t-shirt toss, gathering pucks for the mites-on-ice game during an intermission, and preparing gift bags for the night’s suite visits or other planned appearances. A typical night will have 2-3 visits for the fun-loving Devil, but NJ says on occasion he visits five in a night.
“Every night I plan out where I’m going to be throughout the game” NJ said, explaining how he prepares for the night with the help of his assistant. At times, NJ has to perform during the TV timeouts or at events during the intermission, and he always checks the night’s script as he gets ready for the game. If he needs to sharpen his skates, which happens every few games, that is also done ahead of time.
Below is a snapshot of a night with NJ from his first appearance through the end of the game.
NJ arrives at the Zamboni tunnel, almost ready to skate onto the ice during the pre-game 3D presentation. Rather than walk in skates on what would be a very long carpeted path from his locker room to the ice, NJ travels most of the way with skate guards that turn his ice skates into roller skates. The special skate guards allow NJ to move quickly and efficiently, gliding between the ice and his locker room. Once he has the skate guards off and has his Trident in hand, for the pre-game show, NJ skates onto the ice with two youth skaters. NJ is about to make his first of many appearances of the night.
After the 3D opening, NJ heads to his locker to swap his skates for sneakers. As much as he loves skating, his blades wouldn’t go over too well on the concourse.
6:00 in the First Period: NJ interacts with fans as he waits for the first TV timeout. As the PA announces goaltender Cory Schneider’s selection for the 2016 All-Star Game, NJ heads to a platform, banging his drum loud enough it can be heard on the opposite end of the arena.
6:53-8:00 in the First Period: NJ is in constant celebration. The Devils have scored two quick goals. Between goals, NJ takes photos with fans, and offers a raincheck to the fan he was about to stand with when the Devils scored the second goal of the game. After pumping up the crowd, NJ returns and stands for a few more pictures.
10:00 in the First Period: NJ heads into the seats behind the Devils’ bench to meet fans and dance during the next TV timeout.
11:00-15:00 in the First Period: After the Devils score their third goal of the night, NJ heads to the platform behind section 16, where a sausage eating contest is being organized, to visit the contestants and help them prepare for the challenge. After high fiving and energizing the contestants, NJ presents a fan with an iPad, awarded to a randomly selected season ticket member who renewed his membership for the 2016-17 season. “It’s always fun to reward season ticket members,” NJ said afterward, “especially when they don’t expect it.” After looking at the time, NJ runs to join a family about to compete in the night’s Puck Shuffle competition. Once that’s over, NJ needs a quick break and a sip of water, and heads towards his locker room.
|Posing for the camera, NJ attends the Premio Sausage Eating Contest during the first intermission of a game. Beyond supporting the contestants, NJ helped make sure everything was done by the book. Photo by Patrick Dodson |
First Intermission: Back at the section 16 platform, NJ presides over the Premio Sausage Eating Contest. The competition is intense, and NJ helps make sure everything is fair. Alongside the Devils’ host, NJ roots for everyone. Once a winner is crowned, NJ celebrates with him before heading back downstairs to get ready for the second period.
“It’s fun and it’s different,” NJ said of the contest. This was the first contest of its kind this season, and NJ enjoyed the spectacle even if he would not compete himself.
1:00-6:00 in the Second Period: NJ and his crew visit the Party Zone, above the 200 level, and take pictures with the children having a great time at The Rock.
7:30 in the Second Period: NJ meets a little girl with a poster from The Devils Kids Zone. After signing the poster for her, NJ visits Pete Cannarozzi, the Devils’ organist.
Second Intermission: NJ is on the ice for the Human Puck Race. On weekend games, NJ says, he spends most of the intermission outside of the Kids Zone, taking photos with families and fans of all ages.
1:00-5:00 in the Third Period: NJ heads to the upper concourse, where he hangs out and takes pictures with fans. The Devils are up 5-1 and NJ is shaking The Rock with fans who are ready to see the Devils take their win streak to three in a row.
6:00 in the Third Period: Enough time has passed that the first TV timeout of the period is ready to go. Whenever play stops, NJ is ready to join the crowd in the Wheel of Dance. Unlike the fans, NJ dances atop a concourse table.
“There’s nowhere I won’t dance,” NJ explained. “If I have to go up into the catwalk, that’s what I’d do,” the mascot said, explaining that he tries to place himself where the most fans will see him.
10:00-12:00 in the Third Period: After dancing his heart out and taking more photos with fans, NJ is ready for the next TV timeout. On an upper concourse platform, directly behind Schneider and the Devils’ net, NJ unloads a bag of t-shirts and shows the child who will help him how to throw. NJ and his helper toss every shirt they have, and on the jumbotron the video alternates between NJ and the Devils’ host, who is tossing t-shirts at the other end of the arena.
“I’ll direct the fan to throw shirts where the fans are loudest,” NJ explained. “I’ll also make sure they throw somewhere safe, like not on the ice and not where people may lean over railings.” With kids, NJ explained he often has the kid point in a direction and wait for fans to get energized before throwing a shirt.
14:00 in the Third Period: Ready for the final TV timeout of the game, NJ takes his spot near a camera and performs as soon as play stops. Fans around the arena perform on digital drums.
16:00 in the Third Period: Up 5-1, NJ heads to his locker get his skates on for the end of the game. Since the team is up by a wide margin, NJ can safely assume he’ll be skating again. When the Devils win, NJ rushes onto the ice waving his Devils flag and high fiving members of the team who earn Star of the Game recognition. While the game is not over yet, NJ must be prepared and the 5-1 lead gives the mascot confidence.
18:00 in the Third Period: NJ returns to the Zamboni Tunnel with his skates and flag, ready for the team to win.
End of Game
The Devils win and NJ heads out onto the ice, waving his flag and celebrating the team’s success. After a quick lap around the ice, NJ takes his spot, ready to high five the stars of the game. Travis Zajac, Joseph Blandisi and Kyle Palmieri are the three selections, and NJ celebrates with each of them before they toss a few pucks to the crowd and head back to the locker room.
|Waving his flag is one of NJ Devil's favorite activities; it means the team won. On this night, NJ celebrated the Devils' 24th win of the season and 11th in at home this season. Photo by Patrick Dodson |
As MSG does its post-game on-ice interview, NJ heads off of the ice, puts on his roller-skate skate-guards, and heads to his locker room. After a busy night that included more than 4,000 steps, plus dance moves and ice time, he’s earned his rest. The Devils just completed their final home game before the All-Star Break, and NJ needs to start packing for his trip to Nashville.