The New Jersey Devils have been in the news a bit this week. Whether it’s because they’re suddenly nationally relevant, so much so that they have the second most amount of games on national TV of any team in hockey, or because they won the fan’s confidence poll in the front office by The Athletic.
Both of those achievements are something to stop and take a pause and celebrate because for more than a decade, the Devils weren’t a product anyone wanted to much see on national TV. The front office had quite a bit to do with the reason why. Though it’s debatable whether that’s all on Lou Lamoriello or ownership or possibly even a little on Ray Shero too. Regardless of the reason, the Devils were largely irrelevant. And those two bits of news this week have said that the team isn’t expected to be irrelevant this year. For one thing, they should have A Hughes Brothers Production each and every night. Jack and Luke are the aspect I’m most excited to see night in and night out. And yes, defense is a REALLY tough position in the NHL and Luke will make his mistakes, but he’s only going to get better and he’s still so young.
But before we get into what’s coming, whether that’s rookie tournaments or preseason games or just general “what did player X” do this summer that had him looking like he gained 15 pounds of muscle, I want to pause quickly and turn the attention on the family here at All About the Jersey, or as John lovingly calls it, the “People who matter”. I wanted to use my space this week to talk about what keeps you busy outside of New Jersey Devils hockey. If you’re reading here, the chances are that you’re fairly obsessed with the Devils.
I most definitely am about as obsessed with the red and black as they come. I’ve told my story before, I started SB Nation back in 2003. It’ll be 20 years old in November (6th to be exact). SB Nation started out with six baseball blogs, the first of which was Athletics Nation. I then recruited folks in other sports to create the sports coverage for fans who were as obsessive as I was. Though my baseball fandom has turned to dark days, so much so that I’ve basically abandoned the sport until I hear the someone miraculously bought the A’s and kept them in Oakland. I’m not holding my breath on that one.
So I’ve had way more free time than usual this summer and I’ve spent a lot of it doing multiple things. First and foremost, the majority of my time is spent ubering my son back and forth to his hockey. As a matter of fact, that’s where I am right now as I pound away on this story. Watching him get a skating lesson. And then he has another skating lesson right after this one. Then he has a practice for his travel team and then a dryland exercise class after the practice. You wanna see five hours disappear on a weekday afternoon? Sign your child up for hockey. That being said, I feel no greater joy than watching him skate and play and score a goal. Even more than Jack Hughes, but don’t share that with too many others. I’ve got a reputation to uphold.
In my other free time, I love to ride my bike. I don’t do it a lot during the summer simply because it takes me away from the opportunity to hang out with my wife, daughter and son. Cycling is often a very time consuming activity because you can’t really go out for anything under an hour. Usually it’s two or more. And I need to get out there for my own health. I’ve mentioned here before that my Dad passed away when he only 47 years old. Keeping my heart healthy is paramount, especially to spend all that time with my wife and kids.
My son and I play a lot of video games together too. He loves Apex Legends and I try to play with him as much as possible, but quite frankly, I’m a bot at the game, so he probably doesn’t want me to play even if he appreciates the amount of effort I put into it. One of the things you lose the fastest as you get older is the twitch reflexes so kids tend to jump all over you. We also play Call of Duty, Rocket League and NHL23.
I’m also a music lover and I took my son to see Godsmack and Staind last week and that was an absolute blast. Godsmack actually was formed in the town next to the town I grew up in in Massachusetts so there’s a bit of respect there for that fact. But if I’m talking music, there is literally only one band that I live and breath to see and listen to. Tool. I’ve listened to them and, dare I say, worshipped that band for nearly three decades. I’ve seen them in concert at least seven times. The music is as much a part of me as being a Devils fan is. It isn’t just the music itself, but their lead singer basically writes poetry into his music. The lyrics and meaning are open to interpretation, but there is no denying the musicianship and quality of that band altogether.
I also love movies. Some of my favorites are Gladiator, Man on Fire, Collateral, Shawshank Redemption, Training Day, 3:10 to Yuma and 500 Days of Summer. I took it upon myself this summer to show a lot of these movies to my kids. Suprisingly, my 13-year-old son absolutely fell in love with Collateral and now calls it his favorite movie. Imagine my surprise on that one!
I also love Michael Lewis’ books (yes he wrote Moneyball but if you haven’t read his books like The Big Short and The Premonition, you’re missing out).
But all in all, I go by papiblez because being a father and husband are the two most important things to me (yes, more than the Devils, sorry to disappoint).
As Tool put so eloquently in the song Reflection:
And in my darkest moment, fetal and weeping
The moon tells me a secret, a confidant
As full and bright as I am
This light is not my own and
A million light reflections pass over me
The source is bright and endless
She resuscitates the hopeless
Without her, we are lifeless satellites drifting
In this instance, I am the moon, reflecting the light of my wife and children. Bet you didn’t expect this from FanFirst Friday this week, huh?
That being said, use this space to talk about yourself. What are your passions outside of our beloved red and black? What are those movies you love? Your family? Your other sports? What about music? Books? You are the People Who Matter, so I just wanted to get to know you before the season starts and the madness of Devils hockey commences daily.
And with that, I’m going to go spiral out until the puck drops. Or at least until next Friday’s column.