First I would like to take this opportunity to say congrats to Sens Fans. Your team was better than mine, and I can accept losing to a better team. Also as a whole you guys have been the classiest group of fans to invade what I am happy to say used to be our arena. Now all I ask of the Sens is they go all the way so I can comfort myself in the fact that it took the Stanley Cup Champions to knock us out.
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Now on the MY team, I still suspect that Marty was playing hurt. Now in Lou land info like this may or not come out and I have no proof, but how else do you explain suddenly losing your glove hand, which had been a strength, and a sudden penchant for softies at bad times. Gomez, that may have been his last game as a Devil, and if it was he sure went out fighting. Rafalski, another UFA, good but not worth $4.2 million. This offseason should be an interesting one in the swamp....oh wait.....we don't live in the swamp anymore! which leads me to my final thoughts....
The Brendan Byrne Arena, The Continental Airlines Arena, The Swamp...all the names for the airplane hangar that we have called home for the last 25 years, and what a 25 years it has been. We have gone from doormat, to Mickey Mouse Organization to upstart to Stanley Cup Champion and perennial playoff team. For a younger team without the tradition of say the original 6 or the next 6 there still was a lot of history in that building, but unlike those teams our home of the last 25 years wasn't an icon in and of itself, no one feared that building, except us fans. From the total lack of acoustics that makes even a moderate crowd seem quiet to the single concourse (which thank god it wasn't sold out most nights, 19,000 people in one hallway was a horrible engineering idea) to the steep stands in which you needed an oxygen mask and sherpa to get to your seat.
In the closing seconds of yesterdays game it wasn't the sadness that my team was eliminated that overtook me, it was the joy in knowing I had been to that arena for the very last time. Like the players I too took a look around, took it all in, I slowly climbed down from my seat in the rafters and looked up at the banners, meandered through the concourse slowly made my way out past the gruff and unfriendly and mostly useless security guards who made our last season in the Swamp memorable for all the wrong reasons I looked around at all the construction around the arena that had made getting to from and in and out of the arena almost as frustrating as some of the losses and headed towards the tunnel and for the last time walked across the bridge across rt 120. As one might expect it was mostly a quiet crowd that filled the tunnel but there were still some defiant chants. I looked up at the roof as I left the tunnel as the corrugated metal gave way to a dark and cool sky and that was that. The only thing left to do now was to wrap up the last ever tailgate.
Slowly and solemnly everyone made it back to the tailgates only to find that someone had knocked over all our beer bottles (we always put our empties in a line on the line painted for parking spots) and some one has stolen a Devils flag that had been flying from a flagpole that one of the usual crowd puts up for every tailgate. Oh well, the mood wasn't as cheerfully defiant as it had been pre-game but slowly the finality of everything sunk in, it hit everyone differently, but the most interesting thing was the windstorm that literally kicked up enough dirt from all the construction so that a thick cloud of dirt filled the sky for 10 or 15 minutes, something I don't ever recall seeing before in the Meadowlands which is notoriously windy to begin with. I had my last beer, and last bit of tailgate food (as there will be no tailgating next year) and I shook everyones one hand and left them with the same line I will leave you with....
See You Next Year, See You in Newark
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