Ribbon cut on Utica Comets affiliation with the New Jersey Devils

A ceremonious ribbon cutting was held outside the Adirondack Bank Center at the Utica Memorial Auditorium in Utica Sunday afternoon before the Comets season opener against Rochester to commemorate the new 10-year affiliation between the Comets and the New Jersey Devils.

Posted: Oct 17, 2021 3:35 PM
Updated: Oct 18, 2021 8:56 AM

Utica, N.Y. - It's been more than five months since it was announced in May that the Utica Comets would begin their relationship once again with the New Jersey Devils, but on this Sunday in October, opening day of the regular season for the Comets, the affiliation was commemorated with a ribbon cutting.

Comets President Rob Esche was joined by the much heralded new head coach of the team, Kevin Dineen, as well as a number of area elected officials to cut the ceremonious ribbon at noon, three hours before gametime Sunday afternoon.

Dineen spoke first at the ceremony before the ribbon was cut.

He says he is definitely looking forward to getting things going, "I can't tell you how thrilled, on behalf of the New Jersey Devils organization, we are to be back in Utica area. There's a huge history that goes along here and we really look forward to adding to that."

The American Hockey League's Board of Governors unanimously approved the relocation of the franchise owned by the New Jersey Devils from Binghamton to Utica beginning with this 2021-22 season.

The ten-year deal begins a new chapter in the partnership between New Jersey and Utica. A pairing that previously existed from 1987 to 1993 when New Jersey's AHL partner was the Utica Devils.

Comets President Rob Esche says everyone in the Comets organization is excited about the affiliation with the Devils and are especially excited about the return to action on the ice after the issues with Covid the past two seasons, "The New Jersey Devils are obviously extremely happy and excited to move back home where they started years ago. It's been a long time coming. We are extremely excited just to get back and moving again. To have 4,000 people back in, it's going to be really exciting. We've waited a long time. I think we've taken a lot of precautions and we learned a lot over the last 18 months."

Esche says every single employee of the Comets organization is vaccinated.

Utica Mayor Robert Palmieri also spoke before the ribbon cutting. His enthusiasm pumped up the small crowd of Comets fans that were on hand to witness the event, saying, "This is a great day for our region, this is a great day for our city. To have the affiliation with the Devil's back here, it's gonna be one hell of a year."

Comets fans are just as excited as Mayor Palmieri.

Jason Stephens of Utica brought his young son to the the event and the team's pre-game party at 72 Tavern and Grill which is at the Adirondack Bank Center at the Utica Memorial Auditorium.

Stephens says he first got into hockey when the Devils came to Utica in the late 80's, "This is a huge party. We've been looking forward to this for such a long time especially being a big New Jersey fan, loving the Devils from back in the day and being on the 34th year anniversary, this is a big event."

That's right, here on this October 17th, the Utica Comets play their first game of the season, but it was also on this date, October 17th, 1987 - 34 years ago to the day, the first ever game by the Utica Devils was played right here in this very same building.

If you didn't make it to the season opener in Utica on Sunday, you don't have to wait long to get your next chance to see them in action here at home.

Game 2 of the regular season is also in Utica, set for this Friday night at 7:30 against Providence.

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