Devils Miscellaneous News and Notes

Just a few notes from April that I wanted to get to that have not gotten their own entry.

Back on April 8, the Devils announced via a press release that the team and United came together to “donate 225 pairs” of skates to the Newark community. They also announced the opening of the Ironbound Rink Community Skate and Skate Kiosk.

The Devils and the airline also worked with Mayor Ras J. Baraka and the City of Newark on this endeavor.

The Ironbound Rink opened last Saturday, April 9 at 1:30 PM (or approximately as the pregame was going on the air for the Devils game in Dallas on that day) and is located at 226 Rome Street.

The hockey skates were also donated “making it more accessible to youth and families to learn and practice the art of ice-skating.”

In attendance at the ribbon-cutting ceremony were Recreation, Cultural Affairs and Senior Services Director Patrick Council representing Newark, retired Devils defenseman and two-time Stanley Cup champion Colin White and various executives from United and Devils Arena Entertainment.

The dedication ceremony included “two Community Skate sessions, led by the Devils mascot, Mr. White, New Jersey Devils employees, and Hockey in New Jersey volunteers, for residents and attendees.” Other family friendly activities were offered as well.

Mayor Baraka said: “We are excited for opening day and to provide Newark residents, particularly our youth, with access to a first-class ice-skating rink, enabling them to stay active and healthy, while creating incredible experiences for the whole family to enjoy. Working with many partners, we have created outstanding recreation facilities, which have improved the quality of life for all our residents. I thank the Devils and United for being true supporters and for their commitment to Newark.”

Rodney Cox, who is United’s Vice President of Airport Operations at Newark added: “At United, we believe in connecting people and investing in the communities where we live and work. Our partnership with the New Jersey Devils to renovate the Ironbound Community Skate and Skate Kiosk is not only focused on ensuring local youth engage in healthy activities, but that we break down barriers and inspire future generations.”

Finally, Jake Reynolds, Devils and Prudential Center President said: “The New Jersey and United are proud to introduce Newark residents to the sport of ice skating with the opening of a newly remodeled skate kiosk in the Ironbound Recreation Center rink. We continue to be committed to our Newark neighbors – aiming to improve the quality of life in the communities where we live, work and play. Not only does this help promote physical fitness, it makes ice skating and learning the game of hockey more accessible to the families and young people of our City.”

In other, on ice news from the Devils organization, the Utica Comets have been pretty busy over the month of April.

On April 4, AJ Greer, who has since been recalled to the Devils and has been playing in the NHL for the last two weeks, was named the American Hockey League Player of the Week for the period ending April 3, 2022.

The press release posted by the Comets to their website noted that in that previous week, he had ten points over four games (four goals and six assists).

Greer equaled a personal season high when he had four points that previous Monday in a game at the Hartford Wolf Pack. He had a goal and three assists in the Comets’ 7-3 win.

That Wednesday, he had a hat trick (including on the power play, shorthanded and at even strength) and a career high nine shots on goal in a Comets loss at the Rochester Americans, 4-3.

Finally, that Friday, he had three assists (his third straight games with at least three points) in a 5-3 Utica win over the Syracuse Crunch.

The 25-year-old forward in his sixth season of professional hockey has recorded career highs in goals (22), assists (28) and points (50) over 50 games to that point in the AHL with the Comets. He is in his second stint at the NHL level with the Devils currently.

The Joliette, Quebec native was a second-round draft pick of the Colorado Avalanche in 2015 and was acquired by the Devils from the Islanders last season.

Over his previous AHL career which has spent with the Utica Comets/Binghamton Devils, Bridgeport Sound-Tigers, Colorado Eagles and San Antonio Rampage.

He has played 275 games in the AHL and has 85 goals, 108 assists totaling 193 points in that time.

His rookie season of 2016-17 saw him elected to the AHL All-Star Classic. That year, he also won the Yanick Dupre Memorial Award as he was recognized as the AHL Man of the Year. He won the award “in recognition of his outstanding contributions to the San Antonio community” where he was playing with the Rampage at the time.

The Comets followed that up by celebrating Marty Brodeur Night at the Adirondack Bank Center in Utica on April 6.

The Comets lost that game in overtime to the Belleville Senators 4-3.

Marty was on-hand to drop the puck for the ceremonial faceoff in the pregame. The Devils legend and three-time Stanley Cup champion was being honored where his Hockey Hall of Fame pro career began.

He played for the Utica Devils during the 1992-93 season in the AHL.

The Comets most recent big moment came on April 9 when the team clinched a 2022 Calder Cup Playoff spot.

Utica currently stands in first place in the North Division with a 40-18-7-1 record and 88 points over 66 games. That is a .667 points percentage. They also stand in first place overall in the AHL’s Eastern Conference.

They are fourth overall in the league standings behind four Western Conference teams: the Stockton Heat of the Pacific Division, the Chicago Wolves of the Central Division and the Ontario Reign of the Pacific Division.

The next closest Eastern team to the Comets, in fact, are the seventh place Charlotte Checkers, who are first place in the Atlantic Division – showing just how dominate the West has been in the American League this season.

And finally, as we close this out, my condolences to the friends and family of Islanders great Mike Bossy, who lost his battle with lung cancer today.

The Hall of Famer was truly one of the all-time greats and one of the greatest pure goal scorers in NHL history. He was one of the lynchpins of the Islanders 1980’s Stanley Cup dynasty.

Rest in peace Mike Bossy.

Jaromir Jagr Helps to Raise Money for Ukrainian Refugees in Czech Republic

NHL legend Jaromir Jagr, who during his long hockey career spent about a season and a third with the Devils from 2013-14 to 2014-15, recently organized a charity game to benefit Ukrainian families who were seeking asylum in the Czech Republic.

The game was played between the Kladno Knights – a team in the Czech Extraliga that Jagr owns and, at 50 years old, plays for – faced HC Sparta Praha at the O2 Arena in Prague this past Tuesday.

As reported by ESPN’s Greg Wyshynski, the game, which was an Extraliga regular season game, was orginally set to be played in Kladno’s arena (which has a capacity of about 5,200). Wyshynski wrote that Jagr announced last Thursday via Facebook that his intentions were to make the game a benefit for Ukrainian families who were seeking asylum in the Czech Republic. Gate proceeds would go directly to those families who were impacted by the Russian invasion of the Ukraine and had come to the Czech Republic as per Jagr.

The O2 Arena has a capacity of 14,512 spectators according to Wyshynski and the game was a sellout. It had been officially moved to that site on Friday.

Wyshynski noted that the fans in Prague were united in their support for the Ukrainians, as they chanted and waved Ukrainian flags. He said that in the pregame, the Ukrainian anthem was played and players from both teams were “lined up together, rather than on their own blue lines.”

In addition, Wyshynski said that, using “transparent blue and yellow placards,” fans turned “the lower bowl of the arena into a 360-degree Ukrainian flag.” Fans also stayed quiet as recorded “[m]essages from Ukrainian refugees were played during the game.”

Finally, behind the glass were two Ukrainian flags with the words “Rivalita Stranou” written over them. Wyshynski said that this loosely translates to “rivalry aside.”

Jagr commented on his Facebook page that “I am very happy to confirm that everything was successful, even in such a short time. Now our only wish is to sell out the O2 arena. Buy a ticket and help those Ukrainian families in the Czech Republic!” once the game was moved officially to Prague.

Wyshynski said that once the game was moved to the O2 Arena, Jagr got in contact with the NHL and the league made a donation of $68,000 to the cause. This is a reference to Jagr’s famous jersey number 68.

As a sidenote, the story behind Jagr’s jersey number has a very personal meaning. It is a reference to the Prague Spring which saw the Soviet Union and other members of the Warsaw Pact invade Jagr’s native Czechoslovakia in August of 1968 in an effort to suppress liberal reforms being made by Czechoslovak First Secretary of the Communist Party Alexander Dubcek that year.

Jagr’s grandfather passed away that year in prison, where he had been for opposing collectivization of his farm when the Communists took over Czechoslovakia post World War II. Jagr has explained in the past that his wearing the number is not due to any ill will towards the Russian people. It is worn simply to show his disdain for Communism and its policies.

Getting back to the NHL’s donation, Wyshynski quoted commissioner Gary Bettman as saying: “Jaromir, for three decades we have marveled at your talent, dedication and passion for our game. Tonight, we salute your generous heart and commitment to improve the lives of [those] displaced from their homes. The National Hockey League is proud to support you and the great Czech fans in this effort.”

Sparta HC won the game 4-1 over Kladno.

Jagr has played in Kladno the past five seasons following his career in the NHL and KHL. He played in the NHL with the Penguins, Capitals, Rangers, Flyers, Stars, Bruins, Devils, Panthers and Flames between 1990 and 2008 (with Pittsburgh, Washington and New York) and 2011 and 2018 (with Philadelphia, Dallas, Boston, New Jersey, Florida and Calgary). In between he had a stint with Avangard Omsk of the Kontinental Hockey League from 2008 to 2011. He won two Stanley Cups in his first two seasons in the NHL (1990-91 and 1991-92) with the Penguins.

He finished his time in the NHL with 766 goals in 1,733 games – third in league history all-time. Alex Ovechkin currently stands just behind him with 764 goals in his 1,252 games played.