An Unexpected Gift

  

On Sunday April 13th, 2014 I witnessed something that quite frankly I thought I would never see. The New Jersey Devils had a matinée game vs. the Boston Bruins at the Prudential Center in what appeared to potentially be Martin Brodeur’s last game as a Devil.

The game itself, including the postgame, were filled with many mixed emotions that any Devils fan could only appreciate. Even more unexpected to me, was what I had encountered on this past gorgeous Easter Sunday.

“Mar-ty! Mar-ty! Mar-ty! Mar-ty…” The infamous Devils’ fans chants after anytime Brodeur had ever made a spectacular save or play.

The “Mar-ty” and, “Marty’s better!” notorious roars originated in East Rutherford, off of the New Jersey Turnpike exit 16w, and migrated over to the beautiful Prudential Center in Newark, “The Rock.” Those were the only waves of chants players could hear on April 13th at The Rock.

They were same chants from Continental Airlines Arena that had fans gasping in laughter and disbelief after Marty would make a cartwheel glove save. They were the same chants that made an unforgettable smile and laugh visible from underneath Marty’s classic white caged mask. They were the same chants that rung like church bells throughout The Rock; that had you and the person sitting next to you smiling, more than excited, and high fiving each other saying, “Did you see that? WOW, what a save…”

As soon as the both teams took the ice, what was technically a meaningless game on paper, had the feeling of a playoff hockey game atmosphere. Everyone in the building, whether it was someone’s first NHL game or not, knew the significance of the game that day.  The Devils end of the ice for warm ups was full of more fans than usual. Fan-made signs were placed against the glass in both corners for Marty. All eyes were on him. It was his game and day to take.
marty 552Although, the Bruins didn’t dress most of theirtop players it was still a typical and vintage Devils victory.

The Devils outshot the opposing B’s, played defensively sound, and won a tight one goal game 3-2. I think the obvious way to see Brodeur leave would be, “To go out on top,” with a championship. But, from a hockey fan’s point of view, this potential farewell and appreciation for Marty was fine by me.

The “Mar-ty” chants started from the second our country’s national anthem ended, and never died down. They grew louder and stronger as the game went on, and as the Devils beat up on the Bruins, playing out of pure respect and emotion for the greatest goaltender of all time.

Once the game had ended is when reality kicked in for me, “That damn, this very well could be it for Marty…”

The ear piercing horn sounded to end the game, and Devils players excitedly hopped over the boards to eagerly congratulate Marty on potentially his last game in a Devils uniform. Every fan immediately rose and began his more than well-deserved ovation. Not a single soul left their seat to exit the arena, not even the Bruins fans.

The “Mar-ty” chants began to literally ‘Rock the Rock’ louder than ever. The team skated to center ice to solute the crowd for their farewell. But, was Marty going to solute the crowd for a farewell too?

My seats were located 13 rows up, to the right side, behind the Bruins net. You could see Deb Kauffmen step on the ice across the way by the Devils bench with the MSG camera crew; and then on the jumbo-tron you saw Patrick Elias approach Marty and whisper something in his ear. You knew and could feel something had to be up, right?

Marty was slow to move away from center ice, where the whole team formed a line against the boards where their bench was. He was now alone at center ice where the crowd was louder than ever with mixed chants. Chants of, “Mar-ty,” and others just screaming and cheering at the top of their lungs just to make noise out of true emotions.

Marty slowly skated around the center ice circle, with his mask lifted up, turning to every direction of the crowd. He stared out into the sea of fans dressed in red and waved with a sentimental look on his face. It was a look of gratitude, thanks, and appreciation for the years of support the fans had given him.

He heartily held his stick up in the air for seconds at a time, and slowly skated off the ice where his teammates followed him in single line formation. But, that wasn’t the last of ovations, or Marty.

brodeur final game

He was then announced as the game’s first star, and was interviewed on the ice by Kauffmen, for the whole arena to hear. He expressed nothing but love for the organization and the fans, and how New Jersey would always be, “Home.” The crowd’s noise did die down though when the big question was asked if he had made up his mind about returning for another season.

He left the impression that he would like to continue to play, and it would be sad if this were to be his last game as a Devil. But, the fans still showed support and love for their beloved future Hall of Famer. You could tell, the fans understood and could feel for where Marty was coming from. I then began to reflect…

Memories quickly flashed through my head. Being that I grew up and became a Devils fan at such a young age, Brodeur was my first true idol in sports. Everything about him I admired, and I wanted to be just like him. It’s funny, I played goalie for two years of my hockey career because of him.

The first time I ever saw him play was in the mid 90’s, and I just thought he was beyond awesome. I loved the way he carried himself, how the fans and team embraced him, and how he appreciated the fans just as much as they appreciated him.

He was born to be a New Jersey Devil. His style was classic; with his designed goalie mask that should be in the Hall of fame one day because it’s that cool and original looking, and he always had the coolest design schemes for his equipment too. I wanted all his equipment that he wore simply because it was Marty. Funny little memories of playing floor hockey against my dad and my friends appeared in my head. Even in something as silly and fun like floor hockey I would mimic Brodeur.

The same cartwheel glove saves he used to make, I performed in my living room against my buddies. And then would imitate commentator Doc Emerick’s voice shouting, “Oh! What a save by Brodeur!” My buddies and I would then look at each other with that same look the fans would give after Marty actually made that save that started up the, “Mar-ty” chants. Other little memories appeared like making a “glove” save and adding some flair to it, and excitingly asking my dad, “Dad! Dad! Did you see that Brodeur save I just had on Zach?”

Memories of getting my first Brodeur jersey as a birthday present appeared in my thoughts too. Unwrapping a gift not knowing what to expect, and holding up a red and black Devils jersey with the white letters spelling out, “Brodeur” and number 30 on the back, made by KOHO, felt like yesterday. I had a smile on that day that made my face even redder than that jersey itself.

Unexpectedly, I experienced that same smile, beat red feeling, and flashback of memories this past Easter.

I spent Easter Sunday at a golf course with my father’s side of the family. I walked into the pro shop there where I had an unexpected conversation with a fellow Devils fan. Let’s just say he is friendly with Martin Brodeur, which also struck up more to talk about.

We exchanged stories with each other, our knowledge, and opinions on certain subjects of the sport. Knowing me, I spoke my mind and asked as many questions as I possibly could to pick his brain. He could tell right away I was a genuine Devils fan, and a big supporter of Marty. He was more than friendly and had a high hockey IQ, a really down to Earth guy.

As I was eating and as the night went on I thought to myself, “Wow what are the chances I would have had such a great conversation about the Devils and Marty today?” Especially since it was one week after I may have just witnessed his last game.

It was much unexpected to say at the very least. He definitely inspired me even more to write this blog I had been planning in my head for a couple of weeks now. Yet, he gave me further inspiration as I was just about leave.

As we were getting ready to leave he said, “Hey Kyle, I’ve got something for you in the pro shop.” I nodded my head and proceeded to follow him into the shop. Honestly, I had zero clues on what to expect. We were up at the counter, where the register was, when he put a piece of white twine from a hockey net in front of me which rested on a signed Brodeur Devils game-night program.

Before I could ask what it was he looked at me and smiled and said, “That’s a piece of the net from when Brodeur won 552, when he got the all-time wins record.” My face was in shock at first and beat red. I smiled, plus laughed in disbelief and explained that I couldn’t accept this rare piece of history. He insisted that I did, “I want you to have this, really,” he said. I thanked him and was still in shock and taken back by all of it.

Brodeur’s 552nd win gave him the most wins of all time for any NHL goaltender. Ironically enough I had been at that game which was back in the spring of 2009. They beat the Chicago Blackhawks 3-2 that night. It was a night that had the Prudential Center filled with the same emotions and chants from the April 13th game.

After that game there was an ovation and ceremony for Marty as well. One of the things he did during the post-game ceremony was cut the net down from which he defended for two periods. It was similar to when a team in the NCAA March Madness tournament cuts down the netting from the hoop after advancing to the final four.

It was a sentimental ceremony that was pretty damn cool to witness in person. Now, I have a piece of that net, that not too many people possess. It’s a piece from more hockey twine that will one day be present in the Hockey Hall of Fame in Toronto, Canada.- A dream come true…

Having the honor and opportunity to grow up and watch Martin Brodeur play for my favorite sports team is something that will stay true to me for the rest of my life. I was fortunate enough to be at his 552nd win in 2009, and then recently for his potential final game as a Devil.

Those unique atmospheres from those games only happen once in a blue moon in sports.

It’s not just the big picture about those games that makes them so memorable, it’s the little things. It’s the little things that make sports so incredible. It’s the little things in life, like simply being friendly and personable, that carry an unexpected conversation into something so much more. It’s the little things, like giving a lifelong fan a thoughtful unexpected gift, which made him smile and turn just as red as he did when he was 13 years old and received a jersey. It’s the little things like meeting that man on Easter and receiving that gift that inspires me to write, and yeah-reminds me that I’m a firm believer in fate.

I hope Marty stays with the Devils…

Going Vegan?

mavs cow

About 5 years ago I heard the term, “Vegan,” for the first time, and honestly I had no idea what it meant. Recently, I have been attending local vegan events and potlucks, where I have experienced and learned some new and interesting things.

A vegan is someone who does not eat any animal products. When someone first explained that to me years ago I was definitely confused at first, it caught me off guard. I can remember thinking to myself, “Why would anyone torture themselves into committing to something like that?”  But, in reality it’s the humans that are doing the torturing to others.

Over a month ago, for school, I was encouraged to do a practicum for a vegan group, which is led by a Professor of mine. Being that I’m always open to new ideas I said, “Sure why not…” It seemed interesting, and I was eager to see what being vegan was all about.

The Monmouth Area Vegetarian Society is the nonprofit vegan group I have been participating with. They meet once a month, on Sunday afternoons, at the Magill Commons Dining Room at Monmouth University. MAVS events are free and open to the public. They just ask to try and contribute a vegan dish that also includes a list of its ingredients. MAVS events usually entertain about 30-50 people, include close to 20 vegan dishes, and the last two meetings have had a guest speaker.

Being that I’m not vegan- has actually made going to these events even more interesting and educational. I see and understand a vegan’s perspective now, why they have chosen this “different” lifestyle. I was inspired to write about MAVS and my take on veganism by MAVS most recent guest speaker, Jon Camp.

Jon Camp is a vegan and is the Director of outreach for Vegan Outreach. Vegan Outreach is another nonprofit vegan society that aims to expose and end animal cruelty through the distribution of literature. He has personally handed out over 1 million of his pamphlets to people about Vegan Outreach. Come now, that’s “f’n” legit.

What I admired and learned: To start, just take a second to think about this. MAVS and people all over the world are vegan for all the right and feel good reasons. They use their time to meet, discuss, learn, etc…about raising awareness and finding new ways to better our environment. Whether it’s saving animals’ lives, or attempting to keep our precious thing we call Earth cleaner. Everyone who shows up to MAVS is very friendly and super passionate about being vegan, and most importantly all about protecting animals. Most of people in this world could give two shits less about knowing where our food comes from, and how the whole process of how the animals are treated-NOT these people.

Although MAVS members are all very friendly, talking about the killing and how animals are brutally treated is definitely a sensitive and personal subject for them. When people ask questions and participate after the guest speaker speaks, you can hear the tone in their voice change, when animals are brought up. From what I have noticed, I’ve heard two different tones; you hear a tone of love, care, and nurture. Then there’s a tone that portrays some anger, sadness, and disappointment. Both tones are out of pure love and appreciation for animals. The second tone hits people harder, for someone like me, because it’s one thing to be proactive and express love for something… but, people take things deeper when characteristics of the second tone are present. What would get someone to stop smoking more, someone positively expressing how they’ve lost someone close to them to it? Or, someone telling it in a way that shows emotions of sadness and a broken heart?

I guess my point from that example is that I didn’t fully realize just how personal this was for people. Someone being vegan is more than just a decision in life, it’s also a mission. When I see and hear people speak at MAVS I can relate and feel their passion and love for being vegan, and wanting to, “Save the animals.”

They see things through the eyes of animals. They realize that animals are much smarter than people tend to think. They realize that animals such as pigs, which was recently brought to my attention that they are one the cleanliest and smartest animals, suffer day in and night out. Suffer to the point where they are not able to communicate with each other, move around, or peacefully chill in the sun on a gorgeous day- so they can slowly die for our consumption because of money making oriented corporations.

It was also brought to my attention by fellow students that pigs put mud on their bodies for protection from the sun, it’s their sunscreen. When I heard that I was mind blow, ha. Vegans realize these animals have true feelings. People show up to MAVS events with their own reusable plates, forks, knives, and bottles. Honestly, I admire and appreciate what they do, because they’re selfless.

They put the feelings of animals before themselves. They have the thought of doing little things like bringing reusable plates to a MAVS event, because it’s realistically helping preserve the environment. One other thing they stress, even though they are so passionate and committed to veganism, is that they don’t want to press or force being vegan on anyone. I like that style and approach a lot. It was shocking to hear that people have said negative and mean things towards vegans, seriously why would anyone waste their time to be so low like that? They would rather inform/educate and inspire people, almost like leading by example, like Jon Camp.

When I heard Jon Camp speak he made a lot of great and valid points. He had a great way of explaining how to approach people and inspire veganism on them. First off, the way he spoke to his audience and in conversations with others was in the friendliest way someone could exemplify. I was definitely moved by his session. He had a smart point; their number one target audience should be college students-GENIUS. College students are at the point in their life where they are learning so much- Learning and experiencing about life, who will they turn out to be, what they actually value. College students are always looking to find out something new, or get involved with something. Plus, most are cooking and getting food on their own. With veganism growing, college students are also the immediate future to keep that trend going up. They’re so easy to reach too, with technology and social media. As a college student myself it made me think…

Converting to be a vegan is something that is not going to happen overnight for most people, or at least for me. If I am to end up being a vegan it’s going to take a lot of time. For me the best way to convert is by going to these events. Hearing speakers like Jon Camp is both motivational and inspirational. Seeing vegans share their interests and viewpoints is affective.

Having the option to try more and more vegan dishes is very important. Someone can’t become vegan if they don’t know what they are able to eat and consume. At MAVS last event, I loved the food. I had about 3 plates worth. I was like a kid in a candy store grabbing and trying anything that caught my eye like tofu wraps, rice’s, pasta, and the vegan form of mac and cheese. I was more than content with the food, and it strongly made me reflect if I could do this for good.

Time and experience is what it would take for me to become vegan. It’s definitely something that has recently been on my mind. It is tough though, because I love eating all sorts of different foods. I love things like seafood and meat. I like going out to eat at restaurants, and being able to have all the options on a place’s menu. Going to a sporting event and having a cheesesteak or hot dog, is something I’ve always enjoyed.

Can I let those things go? Of course I can, but I’m not sure if I’m ready to just yet. Perhaps somewhere down the road you’ll be able to hear me say, “Hey, I’m a vegan.” It’s the little things about those events and vegans that will contribute the most though; like simply hearing Jon Camp speak. I’m going to continue to attend MAVS events…

DP5

derek

Coach Derek Percy:  At age 14 I became his “Student.” Not only was I his student of the sport of hockey, but also life. The memories, feelings, and life lessons I experienced during our tenure are still crisp.

July 19th, 2012 when life took an unexpected turn I posted a Facebook status. I figured it would only be appropriate to make that status my first post towards, “The Little Thing5.” Coach Derek’s, “Little things,” that he preached to me endlessly, continue to inspire me to this day. They’ve opened my eyes to perspectives, and open new doors towards life each day. They inspire and help me with my work. I’ve been working on something Coach, and it begins here….with “The Little Thing5.”

“Seven years ago I met someone who ended up changing my life forever. He became a father, brother, coach, and friend. He always believed me, and I always believed in him. Not only did he turn me into the player I am today, but he also made the person I am today. He converted me from a follower into a leader. I’ll never forget all the 7am skates we had, and 9pm “Hell Practices.” We were looking forward to coaching together on the same bench one day; but in the end I can proudly say I am a ‘Product of Derek Percy.’ The rest of my hockey playing days will be dedicated to you. I will forever hear your voice in my head telling me, “To take care of the little things, and shoot to score.” –July 20th 2012 Kyle “Mickey” McKenna.

There’s more to come…

DP 5. RG71. MW12.

#TeamDerekPercy

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