Now that I have shared my journey through the various stages of Devils fandom (in my first article), it's your turn. A number of you responded (with how you became Devils fans) and I am happy to pass on some of your stories. As noted by the title of this article, you don't need to be in and/or from New Jersey to be a Devil inside.
Marc Palau (Barcelona, Catalonia, Spain) - In 2000, a demo of the 2001 PC EA Sports NHL game fell into his hands - Dallas Stars vs. NJ Devils "fighting for a cup called Stanley" as Marc put it. He was 13 at the time and had never heard of the NHL. He picked the red team and by doing so, was introduced to players like Arnott, Elias, Sykora, Rafalski, Stevens and Brodeur. He was so impressed by the demo that he bought the full PC game "and since then, I went crazy for the NJ Devils," he remarked. The game itself wasn't enough for him at that point - he was hooked and started following the real team by way of Devils radio broadcasts. The time difference made it difficult to tune into all of them, but he caught as many as he could. In 2003, he was able to watch his first NHL game live on TV - all of the home games for the Devils/Ducks final. "I saw MY team winning the Stanley Cup live on TV!" exclaimed Marc.
In the summer of 2017, Marc and his girlfriend took a trip to the US and although it wasn't hockey season, made a visit to Prudential Center to see the home of his favorite team, Championship Plaza and The Solute. In 2018, he attended the Global Series in Gothenburg (Devils/Edmonton) and said "It was the most exciting thing I have ever seen as a Devils fan. It was an amazing experience." For Marc, that experience went beyond the game - he was able to meet other Devils fans and also had the opportunity to meet John Hynes, Ken Daneyko and Patrick Elias. His big dream is to see the Devils play at The Rock. Marc - dreams come true and we hope to see you here soon!
Matt Perch (Northampton, PA) - As a child, Matt was at a birthday party and wound up in the basement where there was a hockey game on TV. He didn't know much about hockey at the time but decided to be a Devils fan during that game. Two things drove that decision; 1) the family vacationed at the Jersey Shore and 2) in order to form a rivalry with his brother who was a Flyers fan. That first game was none other than the infamous Stefan Mattau heartbreaking Devils/Rangers game 7 in 1994. In the next round, he was routing for Vancouver and against the team that beat his "newfound favorite team." Matt was present for the Stanley Cup win in 2003, attended the first game at The Rock, has been at the past two season openers and tries to get to as many games as he can. He stated that "he has done his best to share hockey with anybody willing to come to a game with me, as long as they aren't Flyers fans."
Alex Davidoff (Texas) - Has been a Devils fan all his life and attended his first Devils game at six years old (1983). His parents passed along their passion for hockey to him and agreed that a neutral team was the best way to go. As shared by Alex, "You see, my father grew up being a Rangers fan (we forgave him) and my mother, a Bruins fan as she was from outside of Boston. As that would not make for a good marriage, we all became Devils fans."
Alex has jerseys for all of his favorite players - as he referred to them - "Hit Em with your mustache" Mel Bridgman, Doug "Killer" Gilmour, Kristof "The Hammer" Oliwa and his all-time favorite, Ken Daneyko.
His favorite memory was when his father was given access to the company box right behind the press box. As a diehard family, they were always very vocal (mom with cowbells and all). For the first two periods, Alex was screaming, yelling and cheering - not common for a corporate box. During the 2nd intermission, one of the gentleman in the press box got up, turned around, put a pin on the wall and said "I'm glad you are enjoying the game." That man was Lou Lamoriello. Alex fought his family members for that pin and still wears it on his jersey today.
His family is now scattered - parents/sister in Florida and Alex in Texas, but "the colors still run red, black and white." Alex has passed his passion onto his oldest daughter, still catches every New Jersey game he can and once a year, they make the pilgrimage to Dallas to watch the boys play the Stars. "If you look close enough, you should be able to pick out a family at the Dallas game in Devils gear. I'm the one that looks like he has been doing this for almost 40 years" added Davidoff.
DJ Schmertz (Caldwell, NJ) - DJ has been a NJ Devils fan for 34 years and has been present for many memorable events. As stated by him, "My story as a Devils fan begins essentially from the day I was born. My father was, and still is a Devils fan and that's where my love for Jersey's team started."
He has a photo of himself at six months old garbed in a Devils red, green and white outfit. DJ recounted how his father almost killed him when he was a young child - the night the Devils made the playoffs for the first time. When Johnny Mac scored the goal that sent them into the playoffs, DJ was asleep on the floor, his dad jumped up and came dangerously close to stepping on him.
His father and godfather split season tickets at Brendon Byrne and today, DJ is a season ticket holder himself. He added, "I have always been loyal to the Devils - through the good and the bad times. I hope to someday share the love and passion for the Devils, and hockey in general, with my son or daughter just like my father did with me."
Mona Berger (Montville, NJ) - In 1994, Mona didn't know how to spell hockey, however, her daughter was a diehard Devils fan. It was game 6 of the Eastern Conference Quarter Finals against Buffalo - a win that night would have given the Devils the series. Mona's daughter was at a sports bar watching the game and she decided to surprise her, stop in for one drink and go home. This was a far cry from what ensued. When Mona arrived, the score was 0-0 and remained so until the end of regulation time. Mona bid adieu, but her daughter wouldn't have that - being ultra-superstitious, exclaimed "You can't go anywhere. That would be bad luck. You need to stay until the end of the game." Mona was held captive until the conclusion of the tilt. The first OT came and went, as did the second and then the third. The bar was closing and her daughter refused to leave until the game was over. She called the manager over, gave him a credit card, asked him to get her a room upstairs in the hotel, go up, turn the TV on before the next OT started and then she would move. The manager relented and let them stay. Mona could not believe what had come to pass by stopping in for a quick drink, but she was transfixed on the game. The Devils wound up losing 1-0 in the fourth OT, but won game 7 for the series. Mona had watched her first hockey game (actually two as it was seven periods) and that was the beginning. She followed the team in 1995 by both, radio and TV. On June 24th, 1995, Mona's daughter took her to her first, live hockey game - the night we won the Stanley Cup! Doesn't get better than that…needless to say, she is now a fellow diehard and I recruited her. I was the "superstitious, crazy daughter" at the sports bar and Mona is my mother.
A few additional fan stories I would like to share include; Steven Moczydlowski who has followed the team since 1982, attended the playoffs in 1988, the Cup Final in 1995 and has been a season ticket holder for the past five years; Dan Crispano became a fan when he was at a local bar (The Allendale Bar and Grille) and had the opportunity to kiss the Cup-"Our Cup". That was where it all started for him; Patrick Ramsey started following and became a Devils fan when prompted by the "Great One" (Wayne Gretzky) and the statement that he made calling the Devils a "Mickey Mouse organization"; Felony Van Horn who is a Devils fan from Philly - a true diehard, as well as, a hockey historian and known by many as the "Philly Devil". Felony became a fan of the sport in 1980 when she started following the CCCP Soviet National Team. After reading articles in both, the Hockey News and Hockey Digest, she started to follow a few different NHL teams (the Devils were one of them). Felony herself played as a goalie and in 1985, had the opportunity to watch Chris Terrari while on the Providence team make 55 saves against the opposing team (Kiev). There was no looking back. On that day, Felony became, and always will be, a Devil inside. The true "Philly Devil."
Thank you for your responses. I enjoyed reading and sharing them. In the December article, we will be moving on to "Our 1995 Cup Run." Once again, it would be great to hear from you on this. I'd be very interested specifically in hearing about any special, personal and/or family experiences you may have had throughout that run.
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