Back when the New Jersey Devils were at the Meadowlands, the scene before Stanley Cup Final games resembled that of an NFL Sunday. It was a tailgating culture, with flags and beer and grills and Jersey rock blaring from car stereos.
At Prudential Center before Game 1 on Wednesday night, the tailgating was minimal. Fans crammed a large square in front of the arena to hear Jersey rock (Springsteen and Jovi covers, ahoy), buy beer and mingle. The Edison Ale House across from the arena was packed, as was Dinosaur BBQ, which just opened a block away from The Rock.
The photo featured above was taken steps away from the BBQ joint, as Devils fans approached their jewel of a building down streets of shuttered businesses, either for the night or forever. There remains a surreal juxtaposition between a gorgeous arena and its surrounding area. Hopefully they continue to grow together as they did in Washington, DC.
But once the fans arrived at Prudential Center, the party was on before Game 1. Here's a look at the painted faces, crazy fans, Jersey Fouls and other sights on Wednesday night:
A few quick points of interest in the photo tour …
• Big Scary Red Painted Head Guy walked over from the parking lot and made a beeline directly for a TV camera filming the pregame scene, screaming a "Don't Mess With the Devils"-like testimony that made David Puddy sound like a low-talker by comparison. The fact that his head remained red through all of his perspiration made us suspect he was, in fact, Hellboy's cousin.
• Jersey Fouls! "LUCIFER 666" is a Foul, mainly because it's numerically daft: Everyone knows you do the 6-6-6 by wearing No. 6 and having the number on your sleeves. (At least anyone that's daydreamed about Miro Satan as a Devil.) "MCNAB TURGEON" is also a Foul because it features Sylvain Turgeon.
• The crazy bar scene is the Edison Ale House, a pub located across from the arena a nice pre- and postgame watering hole.
• Hey, is that Devils owner/man of the people Jeff Vanderbeek pointing at the party area?
• The graffiti you see was on a large letter "D" in the party area that fans could sign or draw on before the game. It was not hard to find the expected anti-Rangers messages.
• One of the photos depicts the single dumbest idea in the history of dumb ideas for arena aesthetics: The video screen on the side of the building, which is build out of long rectangular pieces that don't connect so the windows behind them aren't blocked out. This has rendered the video on the screens nearly unwatchable.
• Finally, Pierre McGuire, Bob Costas and Gary Bettman had a meeting of the minds before Game 1. We assume whoever started the conversation just continued until the other two walked away. But we are happy Pierre found a situation in which he's the Chara.