Seeing History In The Prudential Center
Written by Jeff Ramella on March 3, 2020
By Matt Orth
It was just any other Saturday afternoon. I was anticipating the time where I can leave my dorm and the annoying people on my floor and head to the Student Recreation Center to wait for the bus that would help me make some personal history. I would be going to the first hockey game of my life; I know, you must think I am crazy that being in this area now, with devoted fanbases like the New York Rangers, Islanders, and the New Jersey Devils, I have never been to a hockey game. I’m a basketball and football fan for the most part; hockey was just simply never a main interest for me, although it was for a lot of my friends back home and my brother, who got to witness the Flyers (my team) go to the Stanley Cup Finals against the Bruins almost a decade ago with my dad. At that point in my life, I was not even that much into sports in general, but now, I want it to be my profession, and seeing a hockey game in real life would help propel me to where I need to be. I even made a new friend while on the way to the game, driving through a warm and culture-rich Newark. He was a Philadelphia sports fan, a rare breed in a New York-centric school like Montclair State.
Walking to my seats, along with fellow students and a fellow Sixers fan, I was in awe. Seeing the ice, the players practicing, the vibe and the energy being produced by the die-hard Devils fans as they packed into “The Rock” (side-note: I have no idea why they named the arena after Dwayne Johnson but I guess it’s better than my arena being named after a bank), waiting to face off against a powerhouse in the Metropolitan Division; the Washington Capitals. The big story of the game was not even based on the home team trying to gain some positive momentum after a lackluster season; the big guy on the Caps, Alexander Ovechkin, was one goal shy of crossing a feat only seven other NHL players in history have had a chance to cross: 700 goals in their career. After scoring a goal against the Canadiens two days prior, he has set himself up (and me in the process) to give the fans a show, and I had no idea what was coming my way
The game started off slow, some shots at the net and some back and forth defense, but there was never any electricity or fierceness shown in the beginning, and that was alright; it was Spongebob Squarepants Day and I was just living in the moment, having my best day ever. The first period ended; the Devils were up one after the player crossed up the goalie like he was Kyrie Irving and flicked it into the net. I went to pay 22 dollars for some chicken tenders, fries, and a drink realized how ridiculous that sounded, and went back to continue this new experience. Each team scored a goal and thanks to their more aggressive play, the Devils were still in the lead after forty minutes of play and countless SpongeBob references, which will never get old. Just like the defining moment of the 3rd period, and quite possibly the whole NHL season.
Ovechkin was not capitalizing on shots and kept on giving his teammates a chance prior to the 15-minute mark in the 3rdperiod, and then it happened. Ovechkin had the puck in his possession, he took a slapshot, and my initial thought was that the shot he took was going to go wide. But then it got past Mackenzie Blackwood into the net, and The Rock was rumbling in a royal manner; he did it. The Capitals celebrated around him, a graphic was put up on the scoreboard to congratulate him, and the fans were proud of him and proud to be hockey fans and experience this moment with the loved ones around them. I got to experience it with fellow students from Montclair State, who were all probably just looking for something to do over the weekend and ended up being included in a part of sports history. And because of that, there was still a game going on, and he tied the game. It stayed that way until around two minutes left in the game. I was prepared to stay in my seat for another five minutes of play, but the Devils got another puck past the goalie, the arena went crazy, got their “woos” out, and in the end, the Devils spoiled Ovechkin’s historic night. But ultimately, I was glad to not only experience a hockey game for the first time and see history fabricate in front of my eyes, but I was with my campus community in the process. Even though I lost my seat about four-time, it was one of the greatest experiences of my life, and I am grateful for Montclair State for giving the students this opportunity. Now I need to go see Gritty and watch the Flyers dominate on Broad Street.