Opposing NHL Fans Unite to Watch Operation Hat Trick Game, Raise Money for Hurricane Relief
Added by Susan Zane on November 28, 2012.
Operation Hat Trick raised money for Hurrican Sandy relief funds.
Atlantic City, New Jersey - Over the past few months, hockey fans have had little to feel good about. The NHL lockout continues, with games being cancelled up until December 14th and federal mediators about to be brought in. Players have fled to Europe to play, and many that haven’t are now considering. But even the dark cloud of negativity surrounding the NHL had a silver lining on Saturday, in the form of Operation Hat Trick.
Operation Hat Trick was thought of by Scott Hartnell of the Philadelphia Flyers, and Brad Richards of the New York Rangers. While the game went almost completely unadvertised, with fans finding out about it through social media sites such as Twitter and Facebook or from each other, Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City was sold out to a crowd of 10,792 hockey fans desperate to see their favorite players.
Saturday (November 24, 2012) found Atlantic City teeming with hockey fans of all ages. At the Irish Pub, a restaurant in Atlantic City, groups of fans gathered around to toast the game, the hockey stars willing to donate their time and money to the effort, and most of all, finally getting to see a game of hockey this year.
“This is what the lockout’s brought us to…Flyers fans, Rangers fans, and Devils fans all in one place, hugging it out because they miss the game so much.” one of the patrons toasted, his black and orange clad arm slung around the shoulders of a Devils fan.
The roster was star studded, and represented a fair amount of teams. The New York Rangers claimed the most players at the event; Brad Richards captained one of the two teams, and was joined by teammates Henrik Lundqvist, Marc Staal, Steve Eminger, Dan Girardi, Taylor Pyatt, Brian Boyle, and Jeff Halpern. The other members of Team Richards were Bobby Ryan, Corey Perry, Ville Leino, and Matt Martin.
Scott Hartnell, captain of the second team, was joined by his teammates Wayne Simmonds, Braydon Coburn, Kimmo Timonen, and Jody Shelly. Devils fans got to see some of their favorites as well, with Martin Brodeur, David Clarkson, and Andy Greene all playing for Team Hartnell. Also on Team Hartnell were Simon Gagne, Justin Williams, James van Riemsdyk, John Carlson, Daniel Carcillo, and Steven Stamkos.
It was an almost unbelievable sight approaching Boardwalk Hall; thousands of Flyers, Rangers, and Devils fans crammed into one place, and the area wasn’t crackling with tension. In fact, the atmosphere was light and exciting. Fans were laughing, talking amiably, and, as impossible as it may seem, bonding.
Team Richards was the first to take the ice, fronted by Henrik Lundqvist. I witnessed a pair of girls jump up screaming. One was donning a Lundqvist jersey, but the other (and yes, I couldn’t believe it either) was wearing a Brodeur jersey. They looked at each other for a moment, and then laughing, hugged. I asked them later about the exchange, and they both agreed on why they had hugged.
“We were just so excited to see a hockey game again…for a minute, it didn’t really matter what color jerseys we were wearing.” the Rangers fan, a twenty year old named Lisa, said with a grin. And that feeling seemed to carry for most of the game. It was amazing to see people in Rangers, Devils, Flyers, Islanders, and even Kings jerseys sitting shoulder to shoulder without chirping at each other, or at least glaring angrily in the direction of the offensive jersey of their choice.
Of course, there were still the jeering taunts of “Marty! Marty!” from the supporters of Team Richards, who won the game 10-6, and the Flyers fans seemed a bit confused to see some of their biggest rivals donning black and orange numbers on their backs, but it was clear that everyone was really there to have a good time and support a good cause.
The most popular cheer of the night, by far, was “we want hockey!”
Despite enormous rivalries between New York, New Jersey, and Philadelphia, fans and players alike were able to unite in a time where seeing a hockey game is looking less and less likely with each passing day. The proceeds of the game were donated to the American Red Cross, the Empire State Relief Fund, and the New Jersey Hurricane Relief Fund to help victims of Hurricane Sandy rebuild and recover.