Growing up in New Jersey, I’ve been a fan of the New Jersey Devils since it’s inception in 1982. I fondly remember going to games as a kid and being granted the special privilege to get into the locker room and given free merch thanks absolutely to a neighbor who worked at the then Brendan Byrne Arena. In my 4 decades I’d seen every high and low, from the laughable 80s to the team’s rise following the heart breaking 1994 Game 7 Eastern Conference Finals overtime loss to the Rangers. In addition the team had a quiet run of 15 playoff appearances in the 17 years that followed, including 5 trips to the Stanley Cup Finals and 3 Championships. Truly an impressive run that ended in 2012, capped by the club’s (eventual) revenge against the Rangers by winning at home in game 6 in the Eastern Conference Finals in overtime for it’s final trip to the Stanley Cup Finals.
However, in the decade since, it’s been a downhill slide for my team. One solitary playoff appearance in the years since and placing higher than 6th in the division only twice in that time. It is a club with the 3rd most losses (including a league worst 111 losses in OT) during that 10 year period, as well as 3rd fewest goals (forgetting expansion Vegas and Seattle in this case) and a league worst 28 shots per game on average. In the perpetual shadow of a more recognized New York Rangers squad and it’s own faster rebuild, the pressure is on “Jersey’s Team” to show it can compete in the increasingly superior Metropolitan Division.
Is there hope? I hope so. I’ve done commercials promoting this team. I’ve been trolled by Ranger nation for doing commercials for this team and stood by them as the Hudson River Rivalry came at me directly (all good, fans gotta fan). But it’s getting tougher. There’s a difference in the recent years versus those laughably bad days from the 80s when the club missed the playoffs yearly. There was a certain naivety back then and a quirky charm. The difference between having had and lost versus never having had at all. And it’s time to start shedding that recent past and build a new exciting future. First step for my team this year: Playoffs.
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