Jerri Rettig is a die-hard Devils fan who's been a season ticket member for almost 30 years. Once a month, she will recount stories of her adventures of fandom over the years.
Hard to believe that I've been in the stands for three full decades. To be exact, 31 years now and this season marks year 29 as a full season ticket holder. Every fan has their version of why and how they got there - this is mine.
In 1987-88, I was as far from a hockey fan as one could be. I had no interest or understanding of the game. Towards the end of the season, I noticed people around the office talking about the Devils. After Johnny Mac's forever-acclaimed OT goal against Chicago that drove them into the playoffs for the first time, the Devils were the talk of the town! Wanting to be in the know and take part in the buzz, I became a "bandwagoner." I caught a few games, read the sports page every morning, took part in the conversations and felt like a real fan for the playoff run.
In the beginning of the 1988-89 season, I made a career change and became an Executive Recruiter (Headhunter) which was commission based. Not knowing what that might look like, I took a part-time job as a waitress at a newly opened sports bar in West Orange called Spectators. Spectators was located in the Turtle Brook Inn Hotel. Back in the day, the Devils were pretty much sequestered to a hotel during training camp. You guessed it…none other than the Turtle Brook Inn. During training camp, the players had a pseudo curfew placed on them which culminated in frequent poker games in one player or another's room. What would a poker game be without room service? Enter moi. I regularly delivered all the essentials and in doing so, I had the opportunity to meet most of the players and forge friendships with a few. When the players were hanging around the hotel or bar (watching games), I also had the opportunity to learn a bit about the game and rules firsthand. In addition, they helped me to develop a hockey vocabulary to include; five hole, coast to coast, slot, point, biscuit (puck), grinder, deke, barn (arena), chiclets (teeth), etc.
Once the season started, I continued to see some of the players. The majority lived locally and frequented my home away from home - the Landmark Bar in my town - the Cedar Grove Inn (CGI). A couple of them offered me tickets and with my new appreciation and understanding of the game, I took them up on it. I was officially a real fan.
In both the 1989-90 and 1990-91 seasons, I bought 20-25 games per season and just coincidentally sat in Section 104 (the wives/girlfriend section). Not only did I get to enjoy the action on the ice, but had the added bonus by what I overheard and/or eavesdropped on (the lines are a little blurry there) to learn a bit about what the players were doing off the ice/at home. By the end of the 1990-91 season, I was officially hooked and pulled the trigger to buy season tickets for 1991-92.
My first full season I had my eye on Section 107 (center ice), but wound up with tickets in Section 106 and with the intention of moving the following season. Never happened…I met my new "Devils family" in Section 106 and remained there until the last game played at Continental Arena. Over the years some of them moved away, passed away, gave up tickets and a few I still sit with at The Rock (center ice of course). I have countless, priceless memories and will be forever linked to my "106 family." By the way, the little guy below (Jake Pergolizzi) is now 22, comes to every game he can get to from college and I am still sitting with his father and mother (John and Lisa).
Having been a true fan for three years going into that season, it was most definitely the turning point for me. I undoubtedly transitioned from a passionate fan to a bonafide "diehard." The tell-tale signs are when you start scheduling everything in your life around the season schedule and when referring to the team, use the words "US", "WE" and "OUR" rather than "they" or "them." We say things like "they're all over us," "we can't let them beat us to the puck," "we need another goal," "we are going to make the playoffs," "our team," and "our cups" (because after all, they are and were). These words connect us to the team and players - pretty much like we are laced up and out there on the ice with them.
In my next article, I will share a few personal experiences that I feel very lucky to have had. They absolutely helped to solidify my status and guide my journey through the stages of fandom.
So, here I am three decades later. A diehard Devils fan who bleeds red, black and white. I hope you enjoyed my story. I would love to hear and write about yours. Please share them with me. I can be contacted by filling out the form below. Looking forward to your responses.
View the form