Let's hear it for the boys
Devils parade Cup in parking lot in front of 20,000 fansPosted: Saturday June 14, 2003 4:45 PM
Updated: Saturday June 14, 2003 9:01 PM
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) -- Outside the arena where the New Jersey Devils claimed possession of a third Stanley Cup, the celebration was empty of formality but loaded with the sort of revelry only a blacktop affair could provide.
Thousands of fans jammed Continental Airlines Arena's parking lot Saturday for a rousing tailgate party and to salute the 2003 champions, who only days ago vanquished the Anaheim Mighty Ducks in seven games.
"This may be a parking lot, but it's the only parking lot that's got the Stanley Cup," comedian and New Jersey native Joe Piscopo, who emceed the event, declared.
Sweltering in a presummer muggy 80-plus degrees, fans from throughout the region rocked to a band's cover versions of tunes by Green Day, Guns 'N Roses, Bon Jovi and Aerosmith. They hoisted homemade Cups in the air, sipped beer, ate stadium fare food, reminiscing about the season and cheering highlights reels shown on giant screens. They yelled giddily anew at the scoring action of Game 7, a 3-0 shutout of the Ducks on June 9 that made the Cup theirs.
But the loudest round of cheers was reserved for the Devils themselves, who stepped onto the stage one by one as they were introduced by name, number and accomplishments on the ice.
Fan favorites were defenseman Scott Stevens and goaltender Martin Brodeur, both drawing deafening cheers and applause. But it was Brodeur's ascent that also elicited chants of "MVP, MVP, MVP ..." Moments later, the Cup was unveiled under bursts of red, white and blue confetti, then held high in triumph by the players.
Gov. James E. McGreevey, whom Piscopo presented to the crowd as a big Devils booster, declared the day "Devils Day," but drew a chorus of boos from the crowd that drowned out his remarks.
No matter. Dignitaries and speeches weren't why fans flocked to the low-key, somewhat pedestrian tribute, the third such on Meadowlands' blacktop. "Everybody talks about how they don't have a parade. This is better. Everybody just hangs out and parties," said Peter Sasso of Rockland County, N.Y., who brought his son Peter Jr.
Joe Aurigemma of Hazlet agreed. "We talked about that at work. During a parade, once it goes by that's it. This is best. Everybody gets to see the players. Everybody's here; everybody's enjoying themselves," said Aurigemma, who was joined by his son Danny, 14, and daughter Michele, 10.
Perhaps the most die-hard fan in the crowd was Nancy Roepke of Pompton Plains. A hat topped with the Stanley Cup replicas with the years 1995, 2000 and 2003 was perched on her head.
"Soon as they won, I started working on it," said Roepke, who went to every regular season home game, all the playoff matches and the finals. "The night they won, we stayed until 3:30 in the morning until they came out. They brought out the Cup. We touched the Cup."
For some, like Rider University student Bryan Thompson of Brooklyn, the number 3 held special purpose: It's the Devils third cup and each victory over the Ducks was decided by a three-goal margin. "It must be something," Thompson said.
His friend, Katie Keenan also of Brooklyn, wore an autographed Devils jersey tied around her waist. The New Yorker credits her dad for her river-crossing taste in hockey. "He took me to a Rangers game when I was like 4 or 5, and there were all these old guys drunk and swearing. He said 'I can't bring my daughter to something like that.' We came to the Meadowlands, and it wasn't like that," Keenan said.
The celebration could be fans' last at the Continental Airlines Arena. The Devils and Nets are part of the YankeeNets conglomerate, which has been trying for several years to reach a deal to construct a new professional sports arena in downtown Newark.
Hours after the celebration, three 21-year-old fans found their way inside the arena and thrilled themselves by sliding around on the ice.
"How much would we give for a camera right now? This will be a barroom story," said Michael Sinnott of Elizabeth. He was joined by Anthony Zignauskas, of Elizabeth, and Scott Walezyk, of Roselle.
Walezyk said when the team won the championship, the three friends were sitting behind the goal where the Devils mobbed Brodeur.
Eventually, arena security asked the three men to leave, and they happily did so.
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