I drove down from North Jersey with my family and arrived in Atlantic City around 5:15. We waited until around 5:30 and walked onto the boardwalk standing in the cold for a half hour with many other anxious fans until the doors finally opened. I was amazed at how many different teams’ jerseys I saw, most of which were Flyers. Walking in I could feel a buzz in the crowd, some people started “Let’s Go Rangers” chants and much louder chants for the Flyers. After getting our tickets scanned, I went and bought a t-shirt for the event, to be sure I could get one before they were sold out. Everyone throughout the arena was friendly and excited, looking forward to finally seeing some hockey.
The arena was very neat, being that there was a stage at one end, and every seat felt close to the ice. For warm-ups I walked down to the glass and along with many other Rangers fans (I was on the team NY side) were pounding on the glass cheering on our favorite players (many of which acknowledged us as opposed to a regular game). After warm-ups were over, we headed back to the seats and waited for the game to begin.
They began by announcing the starting line ups, and it was clear that team Hartnell was preferred among the fans. The loudest boos were for James Neal and Coach Vinny from the Jersey Shore. After the National Anthem Hartnell and Richards addressed the crowd from center ice, thanking us for our support and saying how impressed they were with the response they got from sponsors, players, and fans in such a short time period.
See the pictures that Andrew took, HERE.
The game began and right away something was evident: Lundqvist came to play. Team Hartnell had many early chances and Lundqvist denied them all. This would be a pattern that would be repeated many times throughout the night, as Lundqvist left many players shaking their heads and all the fans in awe. After a sprawling save, a Flyers fan sitting in front of me turned around and said “Man it must be nice knowing you have this guy in net night in and night out, he looks in mid-season form.” After each save whether it be a breakaway, penalty shot, odd man rush, deflection, or a shot through traffic the whole arena would applaud in appreciation. Hank was truly putting on a show.
As for the rest of the game, it was a very unique environment. Pretty much the entire arena would join in on taunting Martin Brodeur, as well as joining in on some random “Crosby Sucks” chants. However, the most powerful chants were “Fire Bettman,” “Bettman Sucks,” and multiple “We Want Hockey” chants, including a very loud one during a standing ovation at the end of the game. All the fans were so appreciative to be able to see a hockey game of this caliber, and I think it made us all realize how much we truly missed it.
In terms of gameplay, it was a much slower tempo than a normal game, and players sometimes were running into each other because they couldn’t clear out the area with a big check. However, this did not make it any less entertaining at all. There were many breakaways and odd man rushes (due to the lack of defense), and it was very exciting for the fans. Asham and Carcillo were going at each other at many points throughout the game, and at one point the refs gave each of them a penalty (meaning they each got a penalty shot). Nothing ever came of it, but nonetheless, it was very entertaining. There were some very nice passing plays to set up goals, and players were always looking to make the extra pass as opposed to being selfish.
The fans were so appreciative of the players, but this was also true for the players to the fans. After an announced sell-out crowd of 10,792, all the players rose and tapped their sticks in appreciation of the fans. Along with this multiple players signed jerseys, towels, and pucks throughout the game. Along with this, many players (Lundqvist included) tossed their sticks into the stands after the game, and unlike usual NHL games, the fans didn’t fight over them, whoever caught it was left alone.
With the very diverse fan base, one could think that it could be a recipe for disaster, however, this game was about the game of hockey itself, not individual teams. The players were there as a united group, as were the fans. Most importantly, everybody there was supporting a great cause, trying to rebuild New York and New Jersey from Hurricane Sandy. I really enjoyed this game and it is and experience and environment that I will never forget.