Last season, the New Jersey Devils had a custom poster created for every home game. During the last few home games of the regular season, they had their fan appreciation week. This week consisted of prizes, giveaways and its very own poster. The fan appreciation poster featured on lucky fan front and center, RJ Arditti.
A Little Back Story
I love hockey because our fans are the most passionate and knowledgeable of any major sports. I grew up an Islander fan and still to an extent am (I think my dad and I enjoy sadness and pain). However, if you ask me my #1 is the Devils. I’m fortunate enough to have some great friends who enjoy the Devils even more than me. RJ Arditti is one of those fans. He is a die hard Devil fan throughout and was the perfect choice for this poster. I can not tell you how many concerts, BBQ’s, and beach days I have spent with him and his family (his wife Jess and sons Joey & Zach) where he has donned a Devil jersey or hat. Don’t even get me started on how many games I have been to with the Arditti family. RJ has made this a fun part of his children’s childhood as well.
He is also extremely thankful. While he might get frustrated with the team’s performance, he never has a bad word to say about the staff. He thanks them for ever opportunity they allow fans to attend and spends time talking them at events.
This past season the New Jersey Devil’s used RJ for their fan appreciation poster. It could not have been more fitting for him to be the face of the fans. With the preseason about to start, I thought it would be great to start on a fun note. I was very thankful the RJ agreed to do a fan interview for Double G.
How long have you been a Devils Season Ticket Holder? And what made you do it for so long?
I have had Devils season tickets between my family and myself since the 1991-92 season. However, I had been a fan for as long as I can remember. I picked the Devils because I loved the jersey and everyone else I knew was a Ranger fan. I wanted to be different.
Those early years they did not make it easy on me as a kid because they were just always awful. Then when I was 8 we got Lou Lamoriello and a kid named Sean Burke. The team went on their first playoff run that year that was just beyond exciting. I made my dad buy a lot of tickets when I was young. Which, he actually ended up getting a bunch of games from one of his accounts. That had season tickets and nobody wanted them. Finally, in the summer of 1991, I assume my dad just got tired of hearing me whine about going to more games and bought a full season.
I can honestly say that being a season ticket holder has given me and my family things that will last a lifetime. From autograph events and meeting the players as a kid, to now going to those events with my children. Seeing their excitement at meeting their heroes, which I can only assume was the same as my reaction the first time. Plus watching my son ride on the back of the Zamboni. And of course, drinking from the cup with the players in the summer of 2000 thanks to my ticket rep. On top of that, I have made friends that have stood the test of time while tailgating.
What is your favorite Devils Memory?
It is impossible to pick one favorite memory because there have been so many over the years. The first one that comes to mind is being in the stands in 1995. It was during game 4 of the Stanley Cup finals and I was going crazy with my dad. Obviously, the win in 2000, wish they would have won that one in 5 so I could say I was there for another cup win. Being there for game 7 in 2003 with my sister and celebrating in the parking lot after.
Then there was my first game back after the birth of my son back in 2009 was the game where Marty broke the wins record and Patty broke the scoring record… that’s something I will never forget. OHHH and not all of the memories are made by the plays on the ice. In 2001 during the cup finals, Emilio Estevez was at all the Devils home games and would bum cigarettes off me and my friends in between periods. He would make a big deal about how he didn’t want anyone to know who he was when he was standing there. My friend Tim O’Leary started screaming “HEY EVERYONE LOOK! IT’S EMILIO ESTEVEZ! The mighty duck man himself! HE IS GONNA FIGHT BENDER BETWEEN NEXT PERIOD!!!” Then turned to him and said, see… nobody cares.
That last one is special to me because Tim was a great friend and he tragically passed away a few years ago. I am still close with his son and wife, but that’s a memory of him I don’t think I will ever forget, and there are MANY more.
What is your least favorite Devils Memory?
My least favorite memory from the Devils is a tie between two games, Obviously game 6 2001 in the Stanley Cup finals against Colorado. We should have won that game. Also, game 7 in the first round of the playoffs in 2009. When we were beating Carolina the WHOLE game and they gave up 3 goals in the last 5 minutes of the game. To lose that in regulation…. that game was brutal.
How do you feel about being on the fan appreciation poster?
I was very honored to be picked to be on the fan appreciation poster. Having been a fan for such a long time it was nice to be recognized by the team for that dedication. At the same time, there are fans that have been around longer than I have and I realize that they could have been picked just as easily.
Maybe it was luck of the draw that they captured me mid celebration for just the right pose. They also put me on one of the tickets for a game a few years ago as well. I really do love the team, and it feels good to be recognized for that dedication from the team and its employees. They really do a fantastic job at making sure Devils fans always get first class treatment by the team that they love. A special shout out on that has to go to Alyssa Lecesse from the Devils because she has always gone above and beyond.
Any positives from this past season?
I think this past season had a lot of positives actually. I think it was a great building year, which I know sounds cliche. But, it was great to see kids like Pavel Zacha who I feel really came into his own starting just before his injury and just before the season ended. Don’t forget he is only 19. Miles Wood, Steve Santini, Joe Blandisi, and Blake Coleman get ready to take the next step towards being regular players.
The future is right around the corner and it looks like we have some great pieces to help reestablish our dominant play going forward. Also, two other players that bear mentioning that we got a brief preview of were Blake Speers and John Quenneville. Those two players, I think, are going to be very important towards the team going forward and will end up being corner stone players.
On top of that, we will be adding another top player in Nico Hischeir via the draft to go along with other big picks like Pavel Zacha and Mike Mcleod. This year’s draft wasn’t touted as one that has generational talent at the top like the previous two with McDavid, Matthews, and Eichel available. It does not mean that there isn’t top level talent that will come from it.
What are your predictions for this season?
I think next season could finally be the one where this team breaks through and makes the playoffs. Despite our record, this team is not terribly far off so long as a few things go our way next season. First, the kids need to take the next step and firmly establish themselves as full-time NHL players. They need to find the consistency in their game that comes with being full time.
Second, we need Cory to have a bounce back season. He was not at his best this season but I think that was just a hiccup in an otherwise great season. I expect Cory to fully return to form next season. Finally what Ray Shero can do the rest of the off season.
Since we watched Patty’s Last Lap a few months back, what is your favorite Elias memory?
My favorite memory of Patrik Elias who is my second favorite player in franchise history. Claude Lemieux is my first! In terms of Elias’s play, it would have to be his game winning goal against the Flyers. It was in the eastern conference finals to send us to the cup final that year.