Ashley Stanfield's world flipped on the day she was supposed to graduate college. The New Jersey Devils were there to help alleviate a small portion of her pain.
Stanfield and her fiance Patrick Duffy watched the inside of their Lavallette, N.J. apartment burn on May 26, just hours before Stanfield was set to graduate from Ocean County Community College, wearing a homemade Adam Henrique mortarboard.
The fire ruined, in addition to most of the couple's possessions, her cap.
Yet, when Devils forward Adam Henrique heard about their predicament, he reached out and offered the 24-year-old a signed jersey to cheer her up.
"I always joke with Pat that if I wasn't marrying him, I'd go for [Henrique]," Stanfield told NHL.com. "He has always been my favorite player. This was the first glimpse of happiness I have seen [since the fire]."
After the Devils found out about Henrique's gesture they upped the ante, offering Stanfield and Duffy tickets to their home opener.
Stanfield was graduating a day after the fifth anniversary of Henrique's game-winning goal in overtime that lifted the Devils past the New York Rangers in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference Final and to the Stanley Cup Final. She had put "HenRique, it's over!" on her cap as a nod both to her finishing her associate's degree and Mike Emrick's call of the goal on NBC, with the 'R' capitalized to mark her ascent to Rutgers University in the fall.
But shortly after finishing a ride-along with Duffy, a volunteer firefighter in neighboring Seaside Heights, at about 1 a.m., the smoke detector went off in their apartment. The result was a catastrophic fire that irreparably damaged their apartment and nine other units in the complex.
Duffy actually saved Stanfield, helping her out the window of their second-story unit and to safety, then went back into the burning building to save their neighbors. They re-entered the apartment, after the fire was put out, around 5 a.m. where they found a slew of charred remains including Stanfield's cap, which reminded her it was nearly time for her to graduate.
"While Pat is too humble to admit it, he really was a hero that day to me and to our neighbors," Stanfield said. "With nothing to wear, no shoes, no cap and gown, we found a way.
"Covered in ash, no sleep for 48 hours, I proudly received my diploma. Pat was there every step of the way."
Stanfield's hockey fandom started through Duffy, and she called Devils games at Prudential Center "their date night of choice."
Devils memorabilia, including coins of former Devils goalie Martin Brodeur and pins from Devils television analyst Glenn "Chico" Resch, were among the items the couple kept in a safe that were saved from the fire.
When Henrique asked where to send the jersey, Stanfield initially was at a loss since they no longer had an address [she ultimately decided to have it sent to her mother's house]. The endeavor has strengthened the couple's bond, and their fandom of the Devils
"After facing such adversity, we have become stronger as individuals and as a couple," she said. "The Devils organization is truly amazing. All of these things have filled us with such happiness."