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Why Playoff Hockey Games at the Rock are Surreal

I’ve been fortunate to be able to attend several outstanding sporting events in my lifetime. A baseball game at Wrigley Field as well as two World Series games at Yankee Stadium, including the clinching game six in 2009, an NBA finals game, in which Kenyon Martin leaped onto my mom’s lap to attempt to keep a ball in bounds, a football game at West Point, a Big East Basketball Tournament, a soccer game in Madrid, and several U.S. Opens to name a few.

What can I say; I’m a man with connections.

Also, I’m lucky that my dad is almost as big a sports fan as I am, and is willing to put in some extra hours at the office so we can attend events like these.

But after going to game six of the NHL’s Eastern Conference Finals between the Devils and rival Rangers at the Prudential Center in Newark, which the Devils won in overtime, securing a finals birth, and game two of the Stanley Cup Finals, (once again in NJ with my Devils falling to the LA Kings), I can honestly say that playoff hockey, at least at the Prudential Center, aka The Rock, is arguably the best sporting event to attend, excluding events such as the World Cup that are every four years.

First off, let me start with the Prudential Center itself. The arena is the nicest of its kind I’ve ever been to. It’s beautiful, spacious, has amazing food, and even silent auctions. Madison Square Garden has nothing in comparison.

I mean, come on, I was eating great dumplings at a hockey game. That sounds pretty legitimate to me.

Game-wise, well really pre-game wise, the intro is unreal. The crowd is already roaring. The lights go out, red glow sticks get waved around the upper deck, adding to the intimidation, and the gong-like music starts to pick up. Rally towels are being thrust around in circles all throughout the arena. Then, after everyone is truly ready for some playoff hockey, the visiting team enters the ice, greeted with some pretty horrible boos.

Seconds later, out come the beloved Devils. The lights slam on, as does an intense guitar solo, and the crowd erupts.

If a fan isn’t on his or her feet and screaming by now, he or she shouldn’t be there.

Then, the game. Especially against the Rangers, but even against other teams, the chant of “Let’s go Devils,” led by the drum-banging mascot, N.J. Devil, is often followed by “Rangers suck.”

Again, if a proclaimed Devils fan is there who doesn’t hate the Rangers, that someone should also just get up and leave.

There is also the Baumann Chant, which is led by Mark Baumann (who sat right in front of me for game two), the Devils’ equivalent of Fireman Ed or Mr. Goodrich, which is the typical spelling of the team, then three chants of, “What’s that spell? DEVILS!” And finally, the crowd goes right back into the “Let’s go Devils” chant, picking up the intensity each time and rattling the opponents.

How about when the Devils net a goal. The fans are already on the feet, as per usual, when there appears to be any chance at a scoring. Pretty much everyone sees the puck go into the back of the net; there isn’t a bad seat in the house.

Suddenly, everybody jumps up, screaming, yelling, high-fiving strangers who they’ve now come to know and love, and of course, waving those towels.

But my favorite part: the goal chants. There are two. The first, with Gary Glitter’s “Rock and Roll Part II” playing on the loud speakers, goes, “Hey! You Suck!” (Devils fans are kind of gruesome; NHL games aren’t for little kids, although it’s not much more explicit than that). The latter portion is obviously directed at the opposition. Then, after several renditions of that, either the Rangers suck chant begins, are the opposing goalie gets taunted beyond belief.

And for game six against the Rangers in particular, the overtime winner was one of the loudest hey you sucks I’ve ever heard. Being a part of that celebration was priceless.

And even though the Devils lost the finals game I went to, it was still almost as great.

But not as great as taking down the Rangers.

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