The fifth in our 118-part series:
The scene: it’s preseason, 1996, and the denizens of stately IPB Manor are attending their first Devils game as season-ticketholders, and only our second-ever Devils game in person. We decide after the typically uninteresting preseason match ends to wander the grounds a bit, get the lay of the land in our new home away from home. And as we circle the CAA, we come upon the players’ entrance, where a scant handful of fans is standing and waiting for the scant handful of actual NHLers who are at the arena that night. We decide, as newbies, to wait a few minutes (this was the first and last time we ever did this, because, well, asking hockey players for autographs is a really unrewarding social interaction). And before long one of the rookies emerges from the arena, is not stopped by any fans for autographs, strides across the sidewalk to his cranberry-red Explorer, and drives off. Despite not having a very clear idea of his identity, we decide he was Jay Pandolfo, and for some reason, seeing him that night makes us kind of feel like we were all rookies together at the same time. He proceeds to spend the next three seasons making very little impression on the big squad while honing his game in the AHL in Albany.