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Jersey Tour hits Hoboken

by Eric Marin / New Jersey Devils
Dowd and Daneyko chat with a fan at the Jersey Tour visit to Hoboken.
From the shimmering beaches of Long Branch last week, the Jersey Tour reached Hoboken on Thursday, as the Devils continued to canvas the Garden State with their popular new community initiative.

Fans packed the Hoboken Bar and Grill for the latest event, which featured Devils’ Chairman/Managing Partner Jeff Vanderbeek, as well as alumni Ken Daneyko, Jim Dowd, Bruce Driver, and Grant Marshall. Sherry Ross, the Devils’ radio analyst for WFAN, served as the emcee.

Passersby could see the Devils’ presence from the street. At the bar’s entrance, a pair of Devils flags waved lazily in the August heat, while red, black and white balloons greeted visitors near the doorway. Even as the summer temperatures hovered in the low 90s, the fans were ready to talk hockey.

The Devils open the 2010-11 season at Prudential Center on Friday, Oct. 8 against Dallas. Over the next two months, Vanderbeek, the team’s owner since 2004, will be busy spreading the Jersey’s Team message.

“What we’re trying to do on Jersey’s Tour is to meet our fans on their home turf,” Vanderbeek said. “We think we’re gaining some nice momentum.”

A lifelong New Jersey resident, Vanderbeek has been passionate about his commitment to the community and to bringing a fourth Stanley Cup to New Jersey.

“Certainly, we’re not happy with the last five years with the early playoff departures,” he said. “I think you’ve already seen changes this year, and there probably will be more. We have the active record of all four sports – 132 teams, football, basketball, baseball and hockey – of the most seasons over .500. It’s 18 in a row.

“That’s something to be very proud of. We set a very high bar every year. We are going to continue to set that bar very, very high. We wouldn’t want it any other way, and I know you wouldn’t either.”

It was Dowd’s first visit on the Tour, which will continue at St. Stephen’s Green Publick House in Spring Lake on Aug. 12. The Brick, N.J., product was the first New Jersey native to play for the Devils, winning the Cup in 1995.

“I can’t tell you how proud I am to be back with the organization,” said Dowd, whose 16 NHL seasons included stints with the Canucks, Islanders, Flames, Oilers, Wild, Canadiens, Blackhawks, Avalanche and Flyers. “The best thing that happened was in 1982 when the Colorado Rockies moved to New Jersey and we didn’t have to root for the Rangers any more.”

Vanderbeek with Hoboken Mayor Dawn Zimmer.
Dowd was drafted by the Devils in the eighth round, 149th overall, in 1987, during his senior year at Brick Township. After four seasons at Lake Superior (CCHA), he made his NHL debut in 1991-92. He went from having posters of Driver, Daneyko and John MacLean on his wall to hoisting a Cup alongside them.

“I’ve lived the best life,” he said. “Getting drafted by the Devils my senior year of high school, then actually getting a chance to play with those guys six years later… not only play with them but win a Cup in my home state – it’s a fairy-tale life.”

The Devils were still in their original red and green uniforms when Dowd broke into the League, and Vanderbeek confirmed Thursday that the team will sport that retro look again for the March 18 matchup with Washington. Driver made a lighthearted appeal to see white restored as the home jersey, which earned loud support from the Hoboken crowd.

“Then you get a chance to see all the different colors of jerseys,” Driver said. “Now, all you see is us in red and the other team in white.”

Daneyko, the Devils’ all-time leader in games played, remains a big fan of the green.

“I love our jerseys with black, red and white – it’s unbelievable,” Daneyko said. “But it’s kind of neat that they brought the old ones back. It brings some fond memories back. I know we weren’t that good in those days, but in ‘88 [the Devils’ first playoff appearance], we turned it around.”

Will the Devils look into wearing a third jersey?

“Not at this time,” Vanderbeek said. “We’re pretty traditionalist in that regard.”

Another topic was the possibility of an All-Star Game in New Jersey or a Winter Classic in the Tri-State.

“I certainly expect, over time, to have both,” Vanderbeek said. “Over the years, we’ve talked to the League about it. All new arenas get the All-Star Game. We’ll get ours in due time. Certainly, the Winter Classic, it’s just a matter of time before it comes to the Tri-State area. That’d be great for the area, and I feel confident that we’ll be involved.”

Hoboken Mayor Dawn Zimmer had a front row seat for the Q&A session, and asked about bringing the Street Devils street hockey program to Hoboken. Mayor Zimmer enthusiastically backs the only pro sports team with “New Jersey” in its name.

“I think it’s fantastic,” Zimmer said. “We’re absolutely thrilled to have them come to Hoboken. As someone was saying, it’s a great day for New Jersey and a great day for Hoboken. I want to do what I can to support the New Jersey Devils.”

The crowd of Devils fans was all too familiar for Hoboken Bar and Grill owner Mike Citarella. His restaurant ranks among the best spots to watch games during the season (besides the Rock), and features a wall of framed photos of current and former Devils, and of past Stanley Cup celebrations.

“I think it’s great,” Citarella said of the Tour. “It’s really good to see the team really trying to get out there and get more fanbase. We have some of the best players in the League.”

He has plans to become a season ticket holder in 2010-11.

“We have Arnie [Jason Arnott] back, Patrik, Zach, Travis, Zubrus, David Clarkson, who can bang the boards. A tough guy in Leblond, who’s coming around. I think we really have a solid well-rounded team that’s going to be exciting to watch.”

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