This Article is one for the fans of the New Jersey Devils & New Jersey Nets.
When we look at New Jersey sports history, we think of Exit 16W off the New Jersey Turnpike, also known as the Meadowlands. In that sports complex lies Giant Stadium and the Brendan Byrne/Continental Airlines Arena (I refuse to call it the Izod Center).
While many critics call the arena dull and say it is in the middle of nowhere, to the many Devils and Nets fans, it is our second home, a place where memories were made. Here are the top 20 moments in this arena's sports history.
Number 20: Devils win first game in history
Who better to get the first win in franchise history against the team that tried to block you from coming to New Jersey in the first place? The Devils defeated the New York Rangers 3-2, earning the first win in Devils history.
Number 19: Devils vs. Rangers Game 6 Bench Clearing Brawl
There were no signs of friendship in the Devils' first ever playoff series with the cross-town New York Rangers. The high point of that feisty temper came during Game 6 at the Brendan Byrne Arena. The Devils won the game 5-3, but as the game ended the benches cleared and the fighting began.
Scott Stevens, Claude Lemieux, Ken Daneyko, and even Marty Brodeur were some of the Devils players who squared off against the Ranger's Tie Domi, Mark Messier, Joey Kocur, and Adam Graves. While the Devils did end up losing Game 7 at the Garden, the game remains the last game to date where there was a bench-clearing brawl in the NHL.
Number 18: Devils raise 2000 Championship Banner
The Devils raised their second championship banner in dominating offensive style. The game was an 8-4 win over the Montreal Canadiens. They got goals from seven different players (Mogilny 2, White, Kelly, Stevenson, Nemchinov, Holik, and Sykora)
Number 17: Devils play their first game against Penguins
The Devils finally played their first game in Devils history—a 3-3 tie against the Pittsburgh Penguins. New Jersey captain Don Lever scored the first goal in Devil history. Fans chanted "Chico!" during the ending seconds of the game, in reference to Devils' goaltender Glenn "Chico" Resch, who now serves as the Devils game analyst on MSG+.
Number 16: Devils raise 2003 Championship Banner
The Devils raised their 2002-2003 Championship banner and tied the Toronto Maple Leafs in dramatic style. Just like the prior season, this Devils team did not give up as Sergei Brylin scored with 2.2 seconds remaining. The four current Devils who won all three championships (Brodeur, Niedermayer, Brylin, and Stevens) helped raise the banner during pre-game ceremonies.
Number 15: Devils and Sabres Duel in Game 7 of Eastern Conference Quarter Finals
They went back to where Jimmy Hoffa was, but that was not enough for the high flying Buffalo Sabres in the spring of 1994. A series dominated by Marty Brodeur and Dominik Hasek came down to a decisive Game 7 at the Meadowlands. The game-winning goal came from Claude Lemieux mid-way through the second period. Marty Brodeur had to stand on his head, making a sensational save as time winded down and the Devils went on to win 2-1 and advance to play the Boston Bruins.
Number 14: Meadowlands hosts NHL All-Star Game
The Wales Conference beat the Campbell Conference 7-6 at the Brendan Byrne Arena. Joe Cirella and Chico Resch represented the Devils in the game, picking up a two points and a win respectively. New York Rangers forward, Don Maloney picked up MVP of the game and Wayne Gretzky, who recently called the Devils a "Mickey Mouse Organization" was booed whenever he touched the puck.
Number 13: Devils' 1995 Championship Celebration "Nashville No Way!"
When the Devils won a Stanley Cup, they celebrated it in the Meadowlands parking lot. It was not a parade type celebration seen in the Canyon of Heroes in Manhattan. Rather, it was a rock concert asking the Devils for one more encore.
But for the Devil fans who will forever remember the night of fireworks and celebration is the sign held by Devils players. "Nashville NO WAY" was held by several players showing that they believed the team would stay in the Garden State after much turmoil dealing with the Devils lease in the Meadowlands. The Devils ended up staying and have since celebrated two more parking lot championship parties.
Number 12: Drazen Petrovic's number is retired in Home Opener
The night where the Nets honored deceased NBA star Drazen Petrovic, who was killed in a automobile accident in Europe the past summer, was probably the most emotional night in the Brendan Byrne Arena's history.
It was the home-opener for the 1993-1994 season against the Indiana Pacers (they lost 108-105) and Commissioner David Stern, Governor Whitman and Drazen Petrovic's family were on hand as the Nets raised Petrovic's No. 3 to the rafters. While the Nets did lose the game, the game provided a celebration of a man's life that ended way too soon.
Number 11: Julius Erving has his number retired
The Philadelphia 76er's Julius Erving farewell tour hit the Brendan Byrne Arena before a capacity Friday night crowd. Erving returned to play the team that he won two American Basketball Association Championships with in 1973-74 and 1975-76.
It was obvious Dr. J was not the same player that led both the Nets and Sixers to titles as he only scored 6 points in the game. Halftime was the story of the game. The Nets retired his number 32 and eventually defeated the Sixers 113-109.
Number 10: Devils vs. Stars Game 5 OT Loss in Stanley Cup Finals
On a night when the Devils could have clinched their second Stanley Cup Championship, they lost in a three overtime thriller. This was the longest scoreless game in Stanley Cup Finals history.
The Devils came close many times to kissing Lord Stanley as Bobby Holik hit a post and Alexander Mogilny and Patrik Elias were stopped by great saves by Ed Belfour. The game would end about seven minutes into the third overtime as Mike Modano deflected a Brett Hull shot past Martin Brodeur. The Devils however would win the next game at Reunion Arena in Dallas on a double overtime goal by Jason Arnott.
Number 9: Nets win Game 4 vs. San Antonio
The Nets tied the series in a defensive 77-76 victory over the San Antonio Spurs. The Nets had a 15 point lead late in the game only to see it evaporate by a big Spurs run. During a TV timeout, the Devils, who won two nights earlier, brought out the Stanley Cup to the applause of over 20,000.
The Nets won the game on free throws with under a minute left and avoided catastrophe as Manu Ginobili missed a 3-pointer as the game ended. The Nets went on to lose the next two games and the series.
Number 8: Ken Daneyko Night
Since the Devils were considered a "Mickey Mouse Organization" until they won the Stanley Cup, there was also one thing that remained the same. That was Ken Daneyko wearing No. 3 for the New Jersey Devils.
On this night in the Meadowlands, he had his banner raised to the rafters as the Devils played host to the Boston Bruins. Daneyko, who had been a very close friend to the late John McMullen, thanked him for the day he made him a Devil. It was a wonderful day as "Mr. Devil" was honored and the Devils won 4-2.
Number 7: Devils Raise 1995 Championship Banner
The Devils raised their 1994-1995 Championship banner in a 4-0 win over the Florida Panthers. The pre-game ceremonies included Patrick Warburton, who portrayed the "Face Painter" in a episode of "Seinfeld". Johnny MacLean scored two goals, while Bobby Holik and Stephane Richer added their own in a dominating victory. The most thrilling part about the ceremony is that it was not in Nashville, which is where the Devils were rumored to be moving to.
Number 6: Scott Stevens Night
Scott Stevens captained the Devils to three Stanley Cup Championships and was honored in return by having his No. 4 raised to the Continental Airlines Arena rafters.He became the first Devil to ever have his number retired.
The Devils played the Carolina Hurricanes that night and defeated them with a shut down defense 3-0, just the way Scotty would have liked it. The game also included Martin Brodeur's 100th career shutout (Regular Season & Playoff combined). Stevens, who was the toughest player of his generation wept during his ceremony speech and the game ended with the chants of "Scotty Stevens!" from the New Jersey faithful.
Number 5: Nets/Pacers thrilling Game 5
Describing Nets history since their induction into the NBA would consist of disappointment, disaster, and failure. The Nets seemed to have finally turned a corner in the waning seconds of a potential Game 5 victory over the Indiana Pacers.
Reggie Miller drained a game tying three as time expired. The previous versions of the Nets would have drowned in their despair, but with newly acquired veteran leader Jason Kidd, they only fought harder.
In a game that went into two overtimes, the Nets finally prevailed 120-109 and made a name for themselves in the Eastern Conference. This was the first step to building a new way of life to an organization that only knew how to fail. The Nets advanced all the way to their first NBA Finals, only to be swept by the defending champion Los Angeles Lakers.
Number 4: Devils advance to first Stanley Cup, beat Flyers
The Devils advanced to their first Stanley Cup Finals with a 4-2 victory over the rival Philadelphia Flyers. The Devils picked up goals from Stephane Richer, Brian Rolston, Randy McKay, and Claude Lemieux. The most deafening noise came after a blocked shot that lead to a 2-on-1 with Holik passing to McKay for the goal that told the 19,040 fans in attendance. They were not going to blow the series like last season. Scott Stevens was handed the Prince of Wales Trophy as the Devils won their first Eastern Conference Championship.
Number 3: Nets advance to second straight NBA Finals
The Nets, who hadn't been to a NBA Finals ever before 2002, were now advancing to their second straight with a 102-82 victory over the Detroit Pistons. The win completed the dominant sweep through the Eastern Conference and set up the matchup with the San Antonio Spurs.
Jason Kidd provided a dominant game with 26 points, 12 rebounds, seven assists, and two steals. The win also provided the first time since 1994 (Rangers, Knicks), that the co-tenants of a sports arena/stadium advanced to the finals in the same year.
Number 2: Devils win third Cup with Game 7 win over Mighty Ducks
The Devils added their third Stanley Cup with a 3-0 win over the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim. Rookie, Mike Rupp scored the Cup-winning goal and Jeff Friesen added two of his own. In this game, the Devils set the record for the most home wins (12) in a playoff season and Martin Brodeur picked up his NHL Playoff Record, seventh shutout. Much to the disdain of Devils fans, J.S. Giguere of the Mighty Ducks was named the Con Smythe Award winner as playoff MVP.
The Devils, however, got the more important trophy as Scott Stevens raised the Stanley Cup for the third and final time of his career. The game was also the last for long time Devil, Ken Daneyko. Daneyko received a standing ovation every time he touched the puck and he ended his career as a champion.
Number 1: Devils Sweep Red Wings to win 1st Stanley Cup
A year after losing in a hard fought seven game series against the Rangers, the Devils finally captured their first Stanley Cup in the team's 13-year history. The Devils won the game 5-2, picking up two goals from Neal Broten and Shawn Chambers and a goal from Sergei Brylin.
The 19,040 Devils fans in attendance didn't know if they were seeing the last Devils game in New Jersey, due to the threat of the team moving to Nashville. But as time dwindled down to zero, fireworks exploded, fans jumped in joy, and the Devils players mauled Martin Brodeur in his net. Claude Lemieux was given the Con Smythe Award as the MVP of the playoffs and Scott Stevens was given the Stanley Cup. The rest is history.
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