I had the fortune of going to tonight’s preseason game between the New Jersey Devils and the New York Islanders. I did not know what to expect, but I was hoping for a good performance and no injuries. What I got was darkness. Partially, at least.
As I headed into the arena, all was fine until I got closer to Section 1. It was dark. The ambient lighting was enough to get around, but the normal lighting was off. It was off over those sections and pretty much the entire lower bowl in that end of the arena. The humongous scoreboard was off. Most importantly, about half of the rink lights were off. While one could see the rink, it could cause issues for those playing the game. That was enough to delay the game in the hopes of repairing it.
As such, the game that was scheduled for 7 PM and normally would start at 7:08 PM did not happen at that time. Around 7:15 PM, the Public Address announcer stated that the game would be delayed due to an outage and staff were working on the issue. Music continued to play in the arena. Fans milled about. At one point, a number turned on the flashlights on their smartphones and waved them about. At another point, a wave started. The delay continued until about 7:50 PM. Then, the announcement came: the game would be cancelled and would not be re-scheduled.
This was received negatively by those in attendance and understandably so. It may have been an exhibition game, but it was a game nonetheless. A time out to see Our Favorite Team play the Isles (except for the Isles fans who were to support the visitors). The announcement and subsequent statement sent out by the team (the e-mail matched the wording on the site) stated that those in attendance would be eligible for a 2021-22 regular season game for the same number of tickets they had tonight. Details would come out on how that will be done later. That is a fair level of compensation. With no game played tonight, you get tickets to another game that will be played. A game with some value, too. Hopefully all who get this option will be able to pick a game they can attend instead of being forced to pick between some non-ideal match-ups they may not be able to attend.
The odd thing about it was that this was really a partial power outage. The lounge sections had power. The upper bowl had power throughout. The other half of the rink had full power. The sound system was clearly working. This was not a situation like what happened on January 9, 2010 when the power in the whole arena went out during a game between the New Jersey Devils and Tampa Bay Lightning. (“Fun” fact: I attended that game too.) Still, the main issue is safety. Even having half of the rink lights out could lead to issues for the players on the ice. We would not want to see injuries normally, especially in preseason games. We especially would not like a Devil getting hurt because they did not see something as clearly as they would have under normal lighting conditions. Between that, it being a preseason game, and the seemingly unknown lead time to fix the issue (no progress was seemingly made from what I saw), I can understand the decision to cancel the game. I am a little disappointed by it, but it is what it is.
This means that the 2021 Preseason is now over for the New Jersey Devils. They went 4-1, they won one practice shootout against Washington, they lost one practice shootout against Washington, and there was a lot of action amid all five games. Those results now mean nothing. How some played helped their cause to make the team; most notably Alexander Holtz and Dawson Mercer. We should find out soon if they are with New Jersey for next Friday. I think they will.
The cancellation is also unfortunate timing for the Devils. Some players could have used the sharpness from getting one more game in before next Friday’s home opener. This would include the likes of Yegor Sharangovich, Janne Kuokkanen, Dougie Hamilton, and Ryan Graves among others. Although, I can buy that may not be a big deal since the Devils have to wait for their first game anyway even if there was a game tonight. For others, this was their last chance in New Jersey. For try out players, Jimmy Vesey, Tyler Wotherspoon, and Frederik Gauthier, this last game could have helped the decision makers in New Jersey as to keep them. Or help some other team decide to sign them with additional tape and data from this game. For others, this was an important game for their chances. A good game from Marian Studenic tonight could have swayed the coaches to keep him in New Jersey. With Ty Smith out, the door was opened for Colton White to make a claim for even being an extra defenseman in New Jersey instead of going to Utica. While I think they are going to make the New Jersey roster anyway, a good performance from Dawson Mercer and Alexander Holtz would all but seal it. Alas, the coaches and management will have to make their decisions based on the information they already have.
They have made some of those earlier in this afternoon. Eight have been cut from camp before the game. Graeme Clarke, Nolan Foote, Fabian Zetterlund, Aarne Talvitie, Kevin Bahl, Reilly Walsh, and Nico Daws have been demoted to Utica. A.J. Greer will join those if or when he clears waivers tomorrow. Some of those were obvious cuts. Daws was not going to unseat Mackenzie Blackwood or Jonathan Bernier. Walsh quickly showed that he was not ready for this level yet. Bahl showed he struggled a lot with players coming at him quickly and needs further experience. None of those forwards impressed in preseason, with Foote being a bit of a disappointment given his cameo last season. Still, the decisions only get tougher from here. With one less preseason game, it is not ideal. But such is life.
I would anticipate we will get news on who those cuts are. And about the status of other Devils. Blackwood intended to start this game, but he was pulled as a late scratch. The Devils and Isles went home, so there is no information yet as to why that happened. We know Jack Hughes should be good to go for Game #1. What of Damon Severson and Ty Smith? Hopefully, there is an update for those two too.
So that’s it with preseason. What did you think of it overall? Who impressed you other than Holtz and Mercer? I am going to assume most of you have been impressed by Holtz and Mercer so I want to know who else stood out to you. Are you excited for the season finally starting next Friday? If you were like me and attended tonight’s game, then do you think tickets to a future regular season game is fair compensation? Please leave your answers in the comments. Thank you for reading.