They came from all over the Northeast. They were Devils, Rangers and Flyers fans. For one night however, they were all on the same team. It has been almost a week since a simple idea from the minds of Philadelphia Flyers and New York Rangers forwards Scott Hartnell and Brad Richards turned Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City into a hockey showcase. It was an idea that would be very successful for many reasons.
Last Saturday, November 24th, was a day many hockey fans won’t forget for a while as Atlantic City became hockey heaven for one night. Nothing has come easy to hockey fans in the Northeast lately. Between a lockout that keeps the NHL on the shelf, to Hurricane Sandy which devastated many parts of the shore, including parts of Atlantic City. It has been very difficult for the entire area lately and this was a night to help those affected by that storm. It was all about them.
Of course, the fans all came for the opportunity to see some of the NHL’s best on the ice and finally get their fix for live hockey. However, they also all knew that their money was spent on a way to help those who lost everything because of Sandy. Some shore towns, mostly in northern New Jersey, were almost completely destroyed. This event was for them and it showed with the incredible support from the nearly 11,000 fans who sold out Boardwalk Hall.
It was a mix of Flyers, Rangers and Devils fans, each who loudly supported their team’s players as they were introduced. The atmosphere was electric. The excitement was there, big time. You could feel it before the game even started. When both teams arrived on the ice to warm up, cheers erupted from the stands. The crowd let their voices be heard in other ways as well, with chants such as “We want hockey!” and “Fire Bettman!” echoing throughout the sold out venue. The game truly had the feel of a regular season NHL game.
The 32 players came from various NHL teams. Obviously the Flyers and the Rangers were heavily involved, but other players included old Flyer favorites such as Los Angeles Kings forwards Justin Williams and Simon Gagne. Other players such as Devils forward David Clarkson and Tampa Bay Lightning superstar Steven Stamkos helped round out a very impressive roster of players, all who united for a common goal. Goaltenders included Henrik Lundqvist of the New York Rangers and Martin Brodeur of the New Jersey Devils. It was Lundqvist who would steal the show, stopping 50 of 56 shots and continuing to frustrate Flyers fans everywhere.
The game started with four straight goals from Team Richards, with hated Penguin James Neal scoring the first two goals, followed by Mike Komisarek and Cherry Hill, NJ native Bobby Ryan. Down 4-0, Team Hartnell came storming back early in the second period with three straight goals from Simon Gagne, Wayne Simmonds and James van Riemsdyk. Neal then gave himself the hat trick with another goal right after to make it 5-3, but Gagne scored yet again to make it 5-4. However, Ottawa Senators captain Daniel Alfredsson and Rangers forward Brian Boyle scored back-to-back goals to make it 7-4. From then on, the game really didn’t matter. The fans just seemed to be enjoying the atmosphere and the experience of finally witnessing live hockey. (PressOfAtlanticCity.com)
The game was finished. The end result was a 10-6 win for Team Richards, but this night wasn’t about that. After the game, the players lined up at center ice, took a group photo, shook hands and saluted the crowd of 10,792 who continued their chant of “we want hockey”. It was a moment that made Scott Hartnell get a little choked up. He said “(I) got choked up hearing 11,000 people chant they want hockey back. We want to be playing and it’s unfortunate that we’re not playing right now. But the energy in the building… was pretty incredible.” (Philly.com)
It really was Hartsy. It really was.
Press of Atlantic City:
Philly.com:Brad Richards, NHL, Operation Hat Trick, Scott Hartnell