For every reason I can give the NHL to #BringDownTheBarricade at The Prudential Center, I know they can give me a million reasons why it should remain. So, again, people ask me (and I’m forced to ask myself), “What’s the point?”
Then a story like Michelle’s hits my inbox…
Michelle grew up a Devils fan. Unfortunately, her family did not have the opportunity to be season ticket holders. The Devils played at The Meadowlands back then, and the trek to the arena from where she lived was a good ninety minutes. Seeing a game live would be a rare treat for Michelle, but the TV was always tuned in to the Devils game at home.
Some of Michelle’s earliest hockey memories are of sitting in front of the TV, enamored by the Devils and mesmerized by their rookie, Scott Gomez. She told me she can clearly remember turning around and shouting, “MOM! He can RUN on the ice!” Other fans were focused on Brodeur, Elias or Stevens. However, for her it was always about Gomez. Precision passes, speed on the ice, and his ability to bait a goalie and let a shot fly, Michelle couldn’t stop being amazed by (or describing to me) how amazed she was (and still is) at his skill.
Michelle always dreamed of seeing Scott play in person, but every time her family made that ninety minute trek to the Meadowlands, he was injured or a healthy scratch. She would never see him play in a game there.
Eventually, she moved to Tampa to attend college. Whenever the Devils were in town against the Lightning, she would either have work or a class to attend.
Then, every Devils fans’ nightmare occurred. Scott Gomez signed with the Rangers (for a lot of money, I might add). Michelle reluctantly accepted that she might never see him play with the Devils, but she held out hope she would someday see him play elsewhere. So, while most Devils fans were cursing his name, she was merely sad to see him go. Though disappointed, she couldn’t help but feel happy that his talent had been recognized in a big way.
Eventually, the day came when Michelle moved back to New Jersey. Around the same time, Scott got traded to Montreal. Then, he went to San Jose (who The Devils would not see at home that year). Michelle was beginning to lose hope that she would see her favorite player on anything other than a television screen.
Fortunately for Michelle, her luck would begin to change. Scott was signed to a team back on the east coast, The Florida Panthers. She had also, finally, become a season ticket holder. The Devils were scheduled to play the Panthers, at home, twice that season. She and her friends declared January 11, 2014 “Scott Gomez Day.” Overwhelmed with excitement, she set the date on her calendar and prepared for the big day.
Jamie sends Michelle a text on the big day.
January 11 arrived, and (of course) Scott was scratched from the line up. Not ready to give up hope yet, she held her head high and went to the visitors’ entrance. Injured or scratched players often travel with the team, it couldn’t hurt for her to see if he had made the trip. She and her friends stood at the waist high crowd control barrier in the pouring rain, but there was no sign of Scott.
A disappointed Michelle has a pre-game drink after waiting in the rain, finding out Scott was scratched from the line-up, and having been unable to meet him at the visitors’ entrance.
It was time to head inside The Prudential Center for the start of the game. She and her friends did a few laps around the arena, soaking wet and dreary, just to see if he had wandered down from the player’s suite. Sadly, there was no sign of Scott Gomez.
Michelle expresses heartbreak on instagram.
The game ended, and Michelle was ready to throw in the towel. It was no longer raining, but it was cold and windy, and she felt she had suffered enough disappointment. Her friend Jamie, figuring there was nothing worse than regret, suggested they go out to the visitors’ side one more time, “just in case.”
Clemmenson, Mottau, player, after player filed by the gathered fans. The girls had positioned themselves at the end of the line, away from the group so they wouldn’t miss anybody. It was starting to look like he had not traveled with the team that day.
For Michelle, the rest is a bit a blur…for wouldn’t you know it? The last team member out the door would be Scott Gomez! Head down, minding his own business (since most Devils fans wanted nothing to do with the “traitor” who went to the Rangers), he almost walked right past Michelle and her friends. Jamie was ready though, and she called his name.
Startled that someone WANTED to see him, he looked up at the girls and saw Michelle, hugging his old Devils jersey. A huge smile spread across his face and he walked over to them. Michelle can’t remember exact details, but she said he expressed surprise that anyone in New Jersey still had his old Devils sweater. She nervously replied that she had waited fourteen years to meet him, to which he joked that she shouldn’t tell people that, because it made him feel old! Michelle was instantly put at ease by his sense of humor. They exchanged a few words, he signed her jersey and posed for a few photos. She doesn’t know exactly when, but during the exchange she started to cry with happiness. She was finally meeting her favorite player, and not only was he kind to her, he genuinely seemed happy for the experience.
Michelle gets to meet Scott, after all!
Over the summer, Scott would be invited to attend the Devils training camp. Eventually, he would be signed and play for New Jersey once again. Of course, Michelle would be one of the first to purchase his NEW Devils sweater! Exactly one year after meeting him for the first time, Michelle would have the opportunity to attend an autograph event as a Season Ticket Holder.
Michelle with Scott at the New Jersey Devils Season Ticket Holder Event on January 11, 2015.
The universe makes up for fourteen years of rotten luck and bad timing.
Michelle with her NEW Scott Gomez jersey. Now, complete with an autograph!
I’m glad that Michelle will always have these memories.
If the NHL and the New Jersey Devils #BringDownTheBarricade, everyone has a chance to enjoy such a special and heartwarming experience.
Have a story for me? A photo or a quick note? Look for me on Twitter (@shadowpwny) and use the hashtag #BringDownTheBarricade