As 17,625 fans cheered on the New Jersey Devils at the Stanley Cup Final at the Prudential Center in Newark, five students from Montgomery High School (MHS) had the chance of a lifetime to lead the chants of the fans throughout the entire series.
MHS drum line members – Ryan Lucht, Alex Jolly, Karthik Boominathan, Sean Bates, Robby Stegman, Andrew Hill, Ian McKinnon and Dan Vonarburg – all made hockey history as the first drum line to ever appear at and play for the home games during the Stanley Cup Playoffs and Final.
How did this happen, you may ask? Well, it’s a “no-brainer,” according to the Devils Senior Manager of Game Presentation Jason Pippi.
“During the (first round) Florida series, we wanted to add a new element to our game presentation that would encourage fan participation,” he said. “The entire Montgomery High School marching band performed at The Rock during a regular season game, and I remembered being very impressed with their skill and the amount of energy they brought to the arena. A couple of phone calls and emails later, the Posse was scheduled to perform here in Newark.”
The Posse, as Pippi has coined them, started their game-enhancing performances during Round 1 at home Game 2, when the Devils took on the Florida Panthers, shutting them out with a score of 4-0. After that, they were invited back for the next home game, where the Devils pulled through and beat the Panthers – again in overtime.
Since then, the drum line was personally invited back to The Rock to play at every Devils home playoff game, where the Devils managed to beat both the Philadelphia Flyers and the New York Rangers in Rounds 2 and 3 to advance to the Stanley Cup Final.
At every game, the drum line sets up in their designated area in front of Section 208, where fans encouraged their musical leads throughout each game.
Since the MHS drum line brought a considerable amount of luck and vitality to the arena during home games, Pippi said it was crucial the Devils played the Rangers in Round 3 of the playoffs so the drum line could continue their performances.
“Heading into the Eastern Conference Finals, I had a mild heart attack. Had we taken on the Washington Capitals, the Posse would have missed Game 2 of the series for a band concert,” he said. “Hockey is a very superstitious sport, and up to that point, we had not lost a game when the Posse was in the house. Luckily, everything worked out and they kept bringing us good luck at The Rock.”
And now, because of all of the luck the members have brought to the arena, they’ve coined themselves the “Devils Drumline.”
The drum line continued to spearhead the chants of the crowds as the Devils progressed to the Final, which has been a life-changing experience for all five students.
“Playing for the Devils and watching them progress in the playoffs is remarkable,” junior drum line member Karthik Boominathan said. “Given the opportunity to combine two things I really enjoy – drums and hockey – is just incredible. I was able to cheer the Devils on in ways that have never been done before. This is truly a milestone in my life.”
Another junior of MHS on the drum line Alex Jolly said the experience has been amazing and the support that they have received from the crowd makes it even better.
“It’s unbelievable to know that our drum line is creating history every time we go to a Devils game,” he said. “Every time we walk around the stadium playing our songs, every one is always following behind us or clapping or cheering us on, and it’s great to see that we’re able to bring that kind of positivity to the games.”
Boominathan said the recognition they’ve received has helped them grow as drummers as well.
“Wherever we go, people recognize us,” he said. “We are always complimented on what we do. The section we stand in front of, 208, truly loves us. We start cheers with them and they encourage us to keep playing. Even when I walk through the Prudential Center without a drum on, people recognize me and tell me to keep doing what I’m doing.”
Drum captain and junior Lucht said the fans have really contributed to the hype of their spirited tunes, and have given them recognition unlike anything they’ve ever received before.
“We always get compliments from the Devils fans, everything from just people dancing along with us while we parade around the concourses, to people who come up and ask to take pictures with us,” he said. “We’ve made particularly good friends with some of the regular fans and ushers and security guards in the sections around us, especially Section 208. We’ve also become great friends with the three or four Devils staff members who work with us and lead us around every game, and we’ll all talk with each other on Twitter during the away games.”
Overall, all members agreed that these experiences have helped them gain more exposure, bring them to a more professional level as drummers, and as an added bonus, further their knowledge on hockey.
“I think this whole ‘experiment’ has gone phenomenally well, and the Devils staff is really happy with how things have worked out,” Lucht said. “I wouldn’t be surprised if other hockey organizations tried something like this in the future. To know that we were the first is a testament to the open-mindedness of the Devils staff, the flexibility of all the staff and administration at Montgomery that make our appearances possible, and the professionalism and skill level of the kids on our drum line.”