Devils Introduce PK Subban at Prudential Center Events

I was lucky enough to get to attend the events earlier this evening introducing PK Subban to Devils fans at Prudential Center. The events consisted of a Q&A session with season ticket holders and a press conference. Subban was picked up in a Draft day trade by the Devils from the Nashville Predators.

The Q&A session was really interesting as season ticket members came out about 200 or so strong. The event was held near the new Lofts area at the Prudential Center, if you are familiar with where MSG Networks used to tape the pre and post game shows from.

Subban made his entrance wearing a jacket that was given to him by some fans at an event in Hoboken yesterday. The jacket featured the Devils logo on the back, his trademark number 76, a patch of the Canadian flag as well as quotes like “let’s go!” written on it. PK later revealed that he put a Devils “Hockey is for Everyone” pin on it, because he just liked it.

Questions were fielded by Devils radio play-by-play man Matt Loughlin and ranged from harder hitting (one gentleman wanted to know where PK saw himself slotting in on the defense corps) to relative softballs for PK from younger fans.

One young man wanted to take up hockey, but was a little older at about 10 years-old. PK encouraged the young fan and told him a story about his brother Malcom, a goalie with the Vegas Golden Knights. He mentioned that Malcom, although he took up hockey young, did not become a goalie until he was 12 years-old. He then went on to get drafted into the NHL, even though he took up goaltending at a relatively older age.

His advice for the young fans was to “dream and put in the work.” He emphasized that working hard is how athletes get to where they are and dreams fuel that hard work.

When asked who his idols were growing up, PK said that he generally idolized his parents, who helped three boys play hockey at a high level and put two daughters through college. As far as sports were concerned, he said that top achievers like Tiger Woods and Michael Jordan were favorites, but that his hockey idols included Scott Stevens.

He then told a funny story about laying a big hit on someone in his rookie year in Montreal. He got back to the bench laughing and former Devil Scott Gomez immediately chastised him, telling him that Scott Stevens would never laugh when he hit an opponent. Subban questioned him, saying that he saw the famous video of Stevens laughing down the bench and pointing towards the Red Wings in the 1995 Stanley Cup Final. Gomez quickly told the rookie to be quiet and listen to the veterans.

He was asked about his charitable work and he confirmed that he will continue to work with the community here in Newark and that he always felt it was his duty as a pro athlete to give back to those less fortunate.

Following the Q&A session, the season ticket members were brought into the main bowl of the arena where they were joined by other fans (and prospective season ticket holders) and office staff for the Devils and Prudential Center as well as some other special guests.

This was the press conference portion of the evening and it was very entertaining.

A drum line made up of kids from area schools played on a stage with large letters spelling out “DEVILS” before PK made his entrance to The Rolling Stones’ “Sympathy for the Devil” along with an intro by Devils public address announcer Kevin Clark. Loughlin also emceed this event as well.

This part of the event also featured Devils head coach John Hynes and Devils front office member/legend Martin Brodeur. Both talked about how great it was to have PK aboard as well as the Devils’ other changes this offseason, such as getting Jack Hughes with the first overall pick and signing free agent Wayne Simmonds.

Both Marty and Hynes felt that the future is bright for the franchise and Hynes even joked that getting guys like PK makes things harder for him as he always complains that they need a player to fill a gap and when they finally get that player, that is when the hard work really begins.

Marty told PK that he will be really impressed with New Jersey as a place to live and grow. Loughlin asked PK if he will be living in the city or the suburbs and PK responded that he likes the privacy and quiet of living in the suburbs and started doing that when he was with Nashville.

After Marty and Hynes vacated the stage, the Devils brought up Vice President of Community Investment and Grassroots, Jeff Scott. He spoke to PK’s great community outreach and asked if he would meet with a few young fans representing such area institutions as Hockey in New Jersey’s clubs in Newark, Jersey City and Montclair, the YMCA and Covenant House.

The youngsters were given Subban jerseys, but PK upped the ante when he asked for a pen to sign them for the kids. One of the youth representatives of Hockey in New Jersey then presented PK with his own Hockey in New Jersey jersey.

But there was still one more gift to be given. This one was “from the fans” and reflected PK’s love of pro wrestler Ric Flair, who himself has become an icon amongst Devils’ fans due to his signature “woooo” being played after goals. After playing the Flair pump up video on the big scoreboard, mascot NJ Devil handed him a Ric Flair robe complete with feathers, sparkles and a Devils logo and his nickname “the Subbanator” on the back.

From there, the event ended and PK signed autographs for kids in the front row. This was not a staged thing, either, as the kids all ran up to the stage following the conclusion of the event.

From there, Subban would go on to do “NHL Tonight” on the NHL Network and a real press conference for the media.

It was an entertaining night all around. I know that this comes as no surprise to anyone, but PK Subban is an amazingly engaging and charming person when you see him. He is not putting on an act, as he is naturally charismatic and great with the fans. But he is also a great hockey player and will hopefully fulfill his dream of winning a Stanley Cup in New Jersey.

He knows the history of the franchise and he is willing to do all he can to get the team to glory. As he put it: if I score 70 points and we don’t win, what good is that? I’d rather score 50 points and win a Cup than 70 and not win anything.

Devils Present A-Line Reunion and Q&A

Earlier this evening, the Devils held a question and answer session along with the reunion of the fabled A-Line of Petr Sykora, Jason Arnott and Patrik Elias ahead of Elias’ jersey retirement on Saturday. I was fortunate enough to attend and see three of the greatest line combos in Devils history reunite.

The three entered to a rousing ovation from the crowd of a few hundred or so season ticket holders and people who bought tickets specifically for this event. Emcee and Devils radio play-by-play man Matt Loughlin asked the three men some questions before turning the floor over to fans.

Covered by Loughlin were topics like “what are you doing in retirement.” All three said that they are busy being dads. They miss a lot of their kids milestones early on while they are still playing, but now they get to be there for them due to the nature of being able to retire at a relatively young age. Sykora’s family has even moved back to New Jersey due to his son’s youth hockey career. He felt that the quality of youth hockey was pretty good in New Jersey and admitted he did not want to move to Minnesota or Canada.

To that, Arnott (who is Canadian) immediately quipped “what’s wrong with Canada?” The comeraderie and friendship that these men shared was very evident. They were more than just linemates on a hockey team, they were pals away from the rink.

Later in the question and answer period from fans, one question came regarding who was the best player they ever played with besides each other. Sykora joked that he played on a line in Anaheim with Paul Kariya and that Kariya may have said hello to him twice during their entire time together.

The amazing thing is that Sykora and Elias’ chemistry made sense. After all, they were countrymen and had played together on Czech national teams earlier in their hockey careers and, thus, were familiar with each other. But the way that they took in the Canadian Arnott was amazing and led to the three’s great chemistry.

This topic of chemistry answered one of the biggest questions from the line’s biggest goal: the Stanley Cup clincher in double OT of game six against the Dallas Stars in 2000. Arnott (who now, ironically, lives in the Dallas area) says that Patrik did see him and knew where he was passing the puck.

One of the main questions that Elias and Arnott both get from hockey fans is if Patty knew that Arnott was where he was when he passed the puck or if it was a blind pass. The two admitted that Patty had taken a look over his shoulder and had seen Arnott where he was when he hit him with the pass.

Sykora, of course, was not a part of the ensuing celebration, having been knocked out of the game with a concussion from a check earlier in the game. He was in the hospital and told a funny story about how there were two nurses attending to him. Once the goal was scored on TV, he began to cry and celebrate the Devils’ win. One nurse broke down crying because the Stars had lost and the other started crying because she was so happy for Sykora.

Arnott mentioned an interesting story about when he was first traded to the Devils from Edmonton. He was being quizzed by then-assistant coach Robbie Ftorek, who asked him to list the top offensive and defensive teams in the NHL. Arnott listed the usual late-90s offensive powerhouses: Detroit, Colorado, etc. Defensively, he said he figured the Devils were number one because they “played the trap.” Ftorek said that yes, they were first defensively, but that they were also number one offensively.

It just went to show that the Devils teams of that era, while very stingy defensively, were not quite as “boring” as the media in certain cities would have you believe. Key to that offense going forward from there was the A-Line. To paraphrase Arnott, if being boring was the sacrifice they had to make to win Stanley Cups, then sign him up.

The second part of the event featured the full screening of the documentary “26: Elias.” The Devils had been releasing it in parts on social media, but this was the full documentary, which runs about a half an hour. It covered topics such as his childhood, getting drafted by the Devils in 1994, the Stanley Cup years, battling Hepatitis A and returning to play hockey when doctors were telling him he would never play again, free agency and almost signing with the Rangers and his team record-setting years.

The most fascinating part about this, I think, was the final word on what almost happened when he signed with the Rangers. Lou Lamoriello basically told him to test the free agency waters, that he was one of the best players in the league and will be making a lot of money. Money the Devils could not give him.

The bidding came down to the Los Angeles Kings and the Rangers. The Rangers, however, were unwilling to grant him a no trade clause in the new contract and talks stalled. Finally, Patty called Lou personally and Lou was now willing to give him and his agent a contract worthy of what he deserved.

Elias joked that he did not know if it was some kind of test that Lou was putting him through or what, but the deal got hammered out pretty quickly after the two talked.

Another great story from the documentary reflected on Elias not actually choosing to wear number 26. He started out with 22 and was also given 24 before the team settled on giving the rookie 26. It was the decision of an equipment manager to give him his iconic number, not Patrik’s choice.

Overall, it was a great night. All three men are class acts and it was nice to see Jason Arnott and Petr Sykora get a little bit of respect as we get set to honor Patty’s career on Saturday. Although they may not be getting their numbers put up in the Prudential Center rafters, they played a huge part in Patrik Eilas’ time in New Jersey and deserve to be recognized just as much as he is.

Good luck to Patrik Elias on Saturday as his number 26 goes up to the rafters for all time