NEWARK, N.J. (AP) -After nine games on the road to start the season - and more than 10 years of on-again, off-again plans before that - the New Jersey Devils finally opened their new arena Saturday night.
Ottawa's Andrej Meszaros scored the first goal in the $380 million Prudential Center, nicknamed ``The Rock'' after the insurance giant's logo.
NHL commissioner Gary Bettman joined Devils chairman and owner Jeff Vanderbeek, Newark Mayor Cory A. Booker and former Devils tar Scott Stevens for a pregame ceremony at center ice.
Talking to reporters later, Bettman called it ``a truly spectacular arena'' and then took a dig at the Devils' former home at the Meadowlands, calling it ``a building with no soul that was in the middle of a parking lot.''
With the new building not projected to be ready for the start of the NHL season, the Devils had to schedule their first nine games on the road, where they lost six, three by shutout.
The road trip matched the longest in NHL history to start a season, tying Quebec (1980-81) and Carolina (1999-2000), both of whom also were moving into new facilities.
The Devils played for the previous 25 years at the Meadowlands in East Rutherford, where they rarely sold out regular-season games despite winning three Stanley Cups between 1995 and 2003. Last season, they ranked near the bottom of the league in attendance.
Former Newark Mayor Sharpe James first proposed a downtown arena in 1997. The Devils had threatened to move to Nashville two years before that, then set their sights on a new arena in Hoboken, about five miles from Newark.
Subsequent plans had the New Jersey Nets playing in Newark, either alone or with the Devils, but those plans dissolved when the team was bought in 2004 by New York developer Bruce Ratner, who plans to move the team to Brooklyn within the next three years.
``It was a long time coming and it took a lot of commitment,'' Bettman said. ``I think they've exceeded everybody's expectations.''
Rock band Bon Jovi opened the Prudential Center Thursday night with the first of 10 concerts. Seton Hall's men's basketball team will also play its home games there.
The arena holds 17,615 people for hockey, 19,000 for concerts and 18,500 for basketball.
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