Fans were offered a local treat Saturday night when the Devils celebrated Portuguese Heritage Night at Prudential Center during the team’s game against the Florida Panthers. From elaborate costumes to traditional performances on the concourse, hockey fans got a taste of the culture that Newark’s Ironbound District is known for.
At the center of it all, the Devils honored two fallen Portuguese-American soldiers who passed away in Afghanistan and Iraq. The families of Staff Sergeant Jorge Oliveira and Sergeant Humberto Timoteo represented the servicemen as the Heroes of the Game.
Oliveira’s brother, Marco, said his military service was an extension of his commitment to law enforcement. In addition to serving four tours of service, Oliveira worked as a detective for the Essex County Sheriff’s office.
“He always loved that whole lifestyle, so the military was a starting point for him to learn everything he needed to come back as a law enforcement officer,” Marco said.
Oliveira was a Devils fan his entire life. “When my mom would get us tickets, we would come to games by ourselves and we’d get there early, and we were pretty much the last ones to leave because we just loved being at the games,” continued Marco.
Oliveira died in Patoka province, Afghanistan in October 2011 when insurgents attacked his unit with an improvised explosive device.
Timoteo’s sister, Dina, says he too was drawn by the appeal of service. “He was very active; he wanted to travel and serve his country. He was always very proud to be an American.”
The Timoteo family immigrated to the United States early in his childhood. When he enlisted, Dina said his parent’s didn’t quite understand. “They felt like he should be home, working and starting a family, but for him it was all about being out there and serving the country.”
Timoteo died in Baghdad, Iraq in June 2004 when a roadside bomb hit his armored vehicle.
Beyond the saluted heroes, Ironbound native Margareth De Jesus performed the Star Spangled Banner in what she described as her biggest sports performance. She had previously performed at Metlife Stadium in 2014 during a soccer match between the Portuguese national team and Ireland.
Before the game, and during intermissions, fans enjoyed concerts from Newark’s Banda de Nossa Senhora de Fatima, a local marching band associated with the oldest Portuguese church in Newark; Bombos da Casa do Minho, a drum unit from a Newark social club; and three postgame performances, including one by “Portugal Has Talent” participant Eduardo Marques.
Adding to the festivities, the Devils gave back to the Portuguese community, with tonight’s 50/50 raffle benefitting Uniao dos Clubes Luso-Americano de New Jersey, a nonprofit that organizes Newark’s Portugal Day. Tonight’s raffle took in $16,085, a portion of which goes to UCLANJ.