Besides, you know, the game and the result, I'll remember today's trip to the Islanders-Devils game for a long time.
I decided to bring my three boys with me and take in the complete game experience as a fan. The joy started at the Rockville Centre train station when I spotted at least a dozen fans with Islanders jerseys getting on the 10:12 am to New York. My sons - 9-year old Aidan and 7-year olds Luke and Cole - actually seemed a bit disappointed. When I told them we were going to an Islanders road game in New Jersey, I think they thought we were going on the chartered aircraft and they'd be the only NYI fans lucky enough to see the game.
When we got to Penn Station around 11:00 am, it seemed like there were more Islanders fans walking over to NJ Transit than there usually are at Islanders-Rangers games at the Garden. When you consider that each year there are more and more Islanders fans filling seats at MSG, this is saying a lot. The 15-minute ride from Penn Station NYC to Penn Station Newark was crammed, noisy and wonderful.
The Rock, if you haven't checked it out yet, is priceless. Sure, there are always a few things you could knit-pick, but my biggest compliment is that it truly feels like the home of the New Jersey Devils. Everywhere you walk on the concourse, anywhere you sit in the stands, you know you're in the Devils' barn. Good for them, and congratulations to Lou Lamoriello, Mr. Vanderbeek and the entire staff for pulling it off.
(We really gotta get ourselves one of those, don't ya think? www.lighthouseli.com)
Until the third period, the kids and I had a blast. We were in the same row with two of the moderators from Islandermania. I think they couldn't believe I didn't have better seats. Aidan sat next to a Devils fan who seemed to enjoy going back and forth with him:
Devils Fan: Marty's better than Ricky.
Aidan: Is not.
DF: Is too.
Aidan: Marty stinks.
DF: Marty has three Stanley Cups.
Aidan: I'm 9. I don't care. DP's better now.
We were one section over from 116 loud and proud members of the New York Islanders Booster Club who made the journey. From beginning to end, they gave their hearts to the NYI. I can tell you for a fact the guys on the ice heard them and appreciated it.
A Devils fan nearby started the whistle-thing that in the Garden leads to the chant of "Potvin sucks." But today it led to a boisterous "Rangers suck." My boys were touched that Islanders and Devils fans could be brought together in harmony for the greater good.
Despite the packed house, we never had to wait any of the 16 times we went to the men's room. Nor did we ever wait more than a minute to get Aidan's Nathans hot dog, Cole's pizza, Luke's chicken fingers, my BBQ and their Carvel. Between today and my kids' visits to the Coliseum press box (free snacks, private john), my kids still have no clue what it's really like to take in a hockey game as a fan at an old barn.
The train back from Newark was a fire hazard and unpleasant, but I'm sure if the Islanders had won (and my wife wasn't away the last seven days visiting her father) I wouldn't have been so whiny. I perked up when I saw three of the Blog Boxers at NYC Penn Station and they were so pumped about the trade deadline on Tuesday. Later on, the conductor on our train invited me and the boys to sit in his private compartment. He's been a huge Islanders fan for years and it turns out I used to give him my tickets from time to time when he was a teenager. Even when he told me he's now 30 years old, it didn't depress me. It was that kind of soul-stirring day.
I know every team thinks they have the best fans in the league, but in the case of the Islanders, it's true.