The New Jersey Devils celebrated the life of U.S. Navy Machinist’s Mate and Devils Season Ticket Member Joey Aurigemma, who passed away in August, by naming him Hero of the Game on November 25 as the Devils faced the Columbus Blue Jackets. Aurigemma’s family attended the game, receiving the recognition on his behalf.
Originally from Staten Island, Aurigemma and his wife, Millie, met in 1986 when he was stationed in Hawaii. He chose the Navy because “he definitely didn’t want to be in the Army, and he didn’t have the discipline for the Air Force,” Millie said. Within the Navy, he joined a rare group of sailors in the submarine service. “To have the wherewithal to be in an enclosed tube underwater for all that time takes a special kind of person,” she said.
Aurigemma’s service set an example for his family. His brother, Sal, followed him into the Navy’s submarine corps, serving for 20 years, and his son, Dan, is a 26-year-old first lieutenant in the U.S. Army based in Fort Bragg, North Carolina. “He inspired me to join, early in life,” Dan said.
“Real stern, but had his values,” Dan said. “He taught us from the get-go to make our own way, so that’s what I did.” Aurigemma’s daughter, Michele, described him as the life of the party. “Wherever he was, everyone knew he was there,” she said.
After nine years of service, Aurigemma moved to Hazlet, New Jersey in 1991. Two years later, he attended his first Devils game. “He went to his first game back in 1993 and followed the Devils ever since,” Millie said. Aurigemma was not an athlete or a sports fan in general, but he loved the Devils, and counted former goaltender Martin Brodeur and forward Patrik Elias as his favorite players.
With both of his children hockey became a significant bonding opportunity. “Every time we had a phone call, even if it was five minutes long, the one thing we’d bring up was how the Devils were doing,” Dan said. Both of his children recall going to as many games as they could and attending the celebration following the Devils’ 2003 Stanley Cup Championship. “It was probably one of the best memories of my life,” Michele said.
“It’s unbelievable,” Dan said of his father’s recognition. “He wasn’t one to want a lot of attention from a lot of people, but he definitely deserved it.” Michelle said it felt awesome to see him celebrated at The Rock. “To have him honored at one of his favorite things to watch…and a big part of his life is so amazing.”