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Fans, friends and family paint Prudential Center ice

by Gordy Stillman / New Jersey Devils
An annual tradition, Season Ticket Holders and their friends and family filled the Devils' ice with messages of support, love and all things hockey. Photo by Courtney Gfroerer

On Sunday afternoon, Devils Season Ticket Members, along with their friends and families, took to the Prudential Center ice not with skates, but with paintbrushes as the Devils hosted their second annual Paint & Skate presented by Lawns by Yorkshire.

Near the Zamboni entrance, more than 300 fans picked their paint colors before wading onto the ice to find a blank canvas of space to fill in. As can be expected of Devils fans, red was a clear favorite, but blue, yellow, pink and green were also used to make their masterpieces.

One fan that took the chance to use multiple colors was Melissa Kelly, a young fan in attendance with her parents. Kelly said she was a big fan of the Devils retro jerseys and used their red and green color scheme as inspiration for her message. The entire Kelly family filled in a circle in the Devils’ offensive zone with messages for the team and their own hockey jersey numbers.

Melissa’s father, Kevin Kelly drew his own version of the Devils’ logo, with his initials and section number—Section 10— and the Stanley Cup. The 47-year-old from Manalapan, N.J. said it was his family’s first time at the event, and called it awesome. This past season was the Kelly family’s first in Section 10, having previously sat in Section 3 and Section 6 over the last four years, occasionally changing seats when the opportunity arose.

Some fans chose their spots carefully, including Ron Nirenberg and his wife Karen Gravina, from Kenilworth, N.J. In the offensive goalie crease—the side the Devils attack twice— they wrote “Zeus Tude” saying it was a nickname of theirs, along with the words “Playoffs Next Year,” a drawing of the Stanley Cup and their section and seat locations. Nirenberg, 48, said they chose the spot because the red paint would contrast with the blue ice and that they could look at the spot from their seats in Section 2 next season, remembering the day’s events. Nirenberg explained that the playoffs message was meant to convey the hope for next season.

Vin O’Mara, from Fair Lawn, attended for the first time, bringing his daughter Rachel, who last year came with her sister. Wearing a No. 23 Clarkson jersey sporting 19 signatures on the back numbers, Rachel, with some assistance from her father, wrote out “Rachel Loves Hockey” in blue and red. To highlight the word “hockey,” the O’Maras added a second layer, putting a red outline around the blue letters. Last year Rachel wrote “Rachel Loves #17,” referencing Michael Ryder and saying she had also been an Ilya Kovalchuk fan when he was part of the Devils.

While most people stuck to messages that were hockey-related, some fans veered off the theme. Possibly one of the most entertaining pieces of art on the ice was a drawing of Batman with the words “I’m Batman” in blue, signed by Jacob Green.

Painting the ice was the afternoon’s main event, but was not the only activity available for fans. On the concourse, floor hockey stations were set up where kids and their parents enjoyed facing off against each other. In the Ice Lounge, attendees could grab a snack from the Rita’s Italian Ice cart or a pretzel from the concessions booth. Fans also had the opportunity to skate on the Devils’ practice ice at AmeriHealth Pavilion. Skate rentals were available for fans without hockey skates, and from kids to adults, people had fun gliding around the rink.

One such skater was Robert Scanlon, a 19-year-old from Hopatcong, N.J. After painting a heart with his and his girlfriends’ initials, with a pair of hockey sticks crossing through it, Scanlon made his way to the practice rink to skate. Scanlon studies broadcast journalism at Sussex County Community College and aspires to cover hockey, saying “I’d love to one day work with Ken Daneyko and Steve Cangialosi.”

Scanlon excitedly spoke about the chance to skate, mentioning, “I’ve seen the Devils play for so long, it’s like a miracle to be able to skate on the same ice that the professionals skate on.” While he doesn’t play the sport, Scanlon described himself as a super fan looking to skate more often, starting with today’s event.

By the end of the day, there were smiling faces all around the main ice and practice rink. Fans filled the space with art, messages, and symbols before saying goodbye to the ice for the offseason.

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