NEWARK, NJ – It’s not often that hockey fans are treated with a special appearance from a retired superstar at the arena, so when former New Jersey Devils goaltender Martin Brodeur was in town this past weekend for the official unveiling of “The Salute,” a 900-pound bronze statue that immortalized the future NHL Hall of Famer’s career, it was a special night.

Brodeur and his former teammate Scott Stevens received a loud standing ovation from a capacity crowd when they were announced on the center-ice Jumbotron during Saturday evening’s 2-1 overtime win over the Minnesota Wild. The reception they both received from the fans cemented the legacy of their respective playing careers in New Jersey, which featured all three of the franchise’s Stanley Cup Championships (1995, 2000, 2003) during their tenures, but that wasn’t the only announcement that drew a positive reaction from the fans.  

Later in the first period, on that same oversized screen, the Devils officially launched a new initiative seeking “Newark’s Cornerstones,” a recognition program that highlights the community service efforts and contributions of individuals in the Brick City. For this, the Devils have teamed up with Newark Mayor Ras Baraka and its long-standing corporate sponsor Prudential Financial to dig deep and recognize the unsung heroes of Newark’s community.

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The nomination process is simple; the initiative mandate is a 250-word essay that best describes how the nominee has made a positive impact and will be evaluated in the following criteria:

  1. Has been a catalyst for a cause that meets basic human needs or enriches the lives of others in Newark
  2. Has exhibited commitment to Newark, positive influence on the city’s community, and/or innovation and thought leadership in the community

“Newark is our neighborhood – this is where we work and play,” said Hugh Weber, president of the Devils and Prudential Center. “The people of Newark continue to inspire us each day with new ideas, selflessness and an incredible passion for this city. We want to celebrate all that we can about the place that’s our home.”

This year, Newark is celebrating its 350th anniversary and that milestone was a deciding factor in highlighting those that have an impact on the city’s local community.

“For Prudential, this is one of the great programs of this year in terms of honoring and celebrating Newark’s anniversary,” explained Sarah Key, Director of Corporate Giving at Prudential Financial. “For us, we’re part of the fabric of the community. We really want to honor those that don’t necessarily get the recognition, it could be your mom, your local pastor, a police officer or anyone else who makes a difference in the community.”

Eight finalists, two each month, will be chosen over the course of the Devils season between November 2016 and February 2017, and recognized during a Devils home game. With the finalists in place, fans will vote to determine the grand prize recipient, who will be awarded two tickets to Prudential Center events, including Devils games, for one year between July 1, 2017 and June 30, 2018. The winner will be announced at a Devils home game in April. All eight finalists will be invited to a reception at Kiyo Sakaguchi Hall in Prudential’s new office tower in Newark.   

All finalists and the winner will be selected by a panel consisting of City Councilman Luis Quintana; The Star-Ledger columnist Barry Carter; and representatives from both Prudential and Prudential Center.

This is the latest initiative that has been championed by Weber, who took over as president of the organization three years ago. It is part of a larger movement in effort to engage the community and help make the Prudential Center and its surrounding businesses a proud destination city for fans.

The “One Jersey” photo campaign and The Mile Around the Rock hosted by the Devils are contributing programs that embrace the community and encourage diversity.

“We’ve partnered with a number of local restaurants and businesses in the area with pregame shows and having our players and personalities at these places so that our fans are trained to do things (around the arena),” suggested Weber in a sit-down interview with TAP into. “We think having a robust commercial sector outside the building is important and we know that a lot of the small business people in the area rely on the fans coming in.”

Meanwhile, Prudential has recently partnered with the Newark Tourism and Convention Bureau in their effort to help stimulate the city’s economy. Since the 1970s, Prudential has invested more than $400 million into the community, according to Key, who takes great pride in seeing how far the community has come.

“We take great pride in seeing how far this community has come,” said Key. “It’s a turning point in the city for businesses that are now thriving around the Prudential Center."