NJ Devils Stadium Series win celebration 21724

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Bruce Springsteen’s “Glory Days” blared over the loudspeakers after the New Jersey Devils’ 6-3 win against the Philadelphia Flyers on Saturday. One line felt perfect: “I hope when I get old I don’t sit around thinking about it, but I probably will.”

This was a glorious day for New Jersey, one the Devils will sit around thinking about far into the future. Hosting an NHL outdoor game for the first time, they drew 70,328 to MetLife Stadium in the 2024 Navy Federal Credit Union NHL Stadium Series. It was the largest crowd in their history, the largest crowd in Stadium Series history and the fifth largest crowd in NHL history.

“It was such a fun game,” said Devils captain Nico Hischier, who had two goals and an assist. “I think after the game, after we knew we won, I just tried to soak it in as much as I could, because those are games you will never forget in your career. And I think, yeah, the win makes it even better.”

The Devils rose to the occasion, and so did their fans.

“It’s incredible, and I don’t think enough gets said about our fans here, and that showed it, and that was on display, and that meant a lot to us,” said Devils defenseman Brendan Smith, who had a goal and an assist. “They were our seventh man out there, and it was great.”

The fans arrived hours before face-off, packing the parking lots to tailgate as if this were a New York Giants or New York Jets game. People threw footballs, but also played street hockey. Devils and Flyers flags flapped in the wind. There were NHL jerseys everywhere.

“I mean, it was awesome, really,” Devils coach Lindy Ruff said. “What a night. I think everything was done to a T. To have 70,000 fans here. To pull up with your bus, and you’re driving through, it’s 30 degrees, and you probably had 40,000 people in the parking lot drinking Diet Coke, probably.”

The Flyers stepped off the bus as if they were stepping out of a “Rocky” training montage -- black knit hats, black Chuck Taylor sneakers, gray sweatsuits, towels around their necks, tape around their knuckles. Captain Sean Couturier shadow boxed and jogged into the stadium. His teammates followed. The only thing missing was the song “Gonna Fly Now.”

The Devils couldn’t have been more Jersey. As if this were an episode of “The Sopranos,” they wore Fila tracksuits. Some wore gold chains too.

The Jonas Brothers took the stage in their home state about 90 minutes before face-off, with fans on the field and players kicking soccer balls to warm up. The mascots were in the middle of the madness, NJ Devil jamming, Gritty jumping to the music.

“Yeah, I was out there for maybe one song,” Devils forward Erik Haula said, “and then I was, ‘All right, I better get out of here.’”

Jonas Brothers at Stadium Series

Giants quarterback Tommy DeVito, a New Jersey native, narrated a video love letter on the screens. He said people make fun of New Jersey, but they have nothing on “us.” He had the final word: “Fuhgeddaboudit.”

Max Weinberg of Springsteen’s E Street Band drummed up a “Let’s go Devils!” chant. Saxophonist Jake Clemons performed the U.S. anthem. Legendary Devils goalie Martin Brodeur dropped the ceremonial first puck.

It was 30.6 degrees at face-off, and it was all of 32 seconds before Hischier scored and The Gaslight Anthem, another New Jersey band, played the Devils goal song, “Howl.”

The band was busy all night. Forward Tyler Toffoli gave New Jersey a 2-0 lead at 13:30 of the first period. Smith made it 3-1 at 16:36 of the second. After forward Nathan Bastian extended it to 4-1 at 17:48 of the second, he celebrated with the same Italian hand gesture DeVito uses when he celebrates touchdowns.

“I guess it’s kind of funny, because normally guys who score once every 15 games don’t plan celebrations,” said Bastian, who entered the game with three goals this season. “But I had a good feeling tonight.”

Hischier gave New Jersey a 5-2 lead at 2:48 of the third, and Bastian made it 6-3 with an empty-net goal at 18:15. Rookie goalie Nico Daws, who made 45 saves, finally could relax.

“The last minute, I kind of looked around and just took it all in,” Daws said. “It’s a really special thing.”

There were so many little things to savor amid the spectacle: the field designed to look like a park in a New Jersey town, with grass, paths and plants -- even park benches and picnic tables. Kids played ball hockey on NHL STREET rinks. People jogged, rode bikes, pushed strollers, wiggled hula hoops and walked dogs. The mascots got into mischief all night, Gritty going streaking at one point after NJ Devil stole his clothes.

The Gaslight Anthem played in the first intermission; the Jonas Brothers played again in the second.

“It’s bright lights,” Haula said. “I don’t know. It’s a big stage and for sure a moment that a lot of the guys are going to remember. It was just so much fun to enjoy it, having family and people here, seeing guys before the game excited, saying, ‘Oh, this is sick.’ And then being able to perform on the ice as well and do what we came here to do is awesome, so it feels good.”