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On This Date in Sports January 22, 1987: The 334 Club

In collaboration with the Sportsecyclopedia.com

The New Jersey Devils game against the Calgary Flames at the Meadowlands is played despite a blizzard dropping more than a foot of snow. Just 334 fans brave the weather as the Devils stunned the Flames 7-5 as Doug Sulliman scores three goals with two assists to lead the way. The game was delayed for two hours as players struggled to get to the Brendan Byrne Arena. Fans who attended the game were inducted into the 334 Club and given merchandise and a badge honoring their loyalty to the team. The team occasionally invites members of the 334 Club special events to commemorate the anniversary of the blizzard game. 

The New Jersey Devils were in their fifth season in the Garden State and were still spinning their wheels as a franchise. They were again in last place for coach Doug Carpenter as they sat at 18-24-5 in late January.  The Calgary Flames entered the game in New Jersey with a record of 26-20-1 for coach Bob Johnson. The Flames had reached the Stanley Cup Finals in 1986 and were among the elite teams in the NHL. 

On Thursday, January 22, 1987, a heavy snowstorm came through the area, dropping 15 inches of snow in Northern New Jersey. Players on the Devils had trouble getting to the arena in East Rutherford when the game was scheduled to begin at 7:30; only a handful of players were at the arena, leading officials to delay the start until the rest of the players could get to the Meadowlands. The Flames were already at their hotel, a short distance from the Brendan Byrne Arena located in the Meadowlands. The Devils sold 11,247 tickets to see the Flames, but few fans had braved the blizzard-like conditions due to the snow. When the puck dropped after a two-hour delay, 334 fans had braved the conditions to see the Devils play. It was the fewest to see an NHL game before the COVID pandemic. 

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Perry Anderson gave New Jersey a 1-0 lead two minutes into the game. The Flames tied the game on a goal by Carey Wilson. Just before the first intermission, the Devils regained the lead on Doug Sulliman's first goal of the game. Pat Verbeek scored nearly seven minutes into the second period to extend the Devils' lead to 3-1. However, the Flames scored twice in 44 seconds on goals by Neil Sheehy and Brian Bradley to tie the game. Calgary took a 4-3 lead into the third period after Paul Reinhart scored a power-play goal with just under five minutes to play in the second period. 

In the third period, the Devils regained momentum when Aaron Broten beat Doug Dadswell at 3:21. Dadswell was making his NHL debut in goal for the Flames. Randy Velischek gave the Devils a 5-4 lead three minutes later. Alain Chevrier, meanwhile, kept the Devils in front by stopping 29 shots. The Devils extended the lead to 6-4 midway through the third period as Suliman scored his second goal. With the goalie, pulled the Flames made it a one-goal game on Paul Reinhart's second goal of the game with 29 seconds left. The Devils would ice the game with eight seconds left as Doug Suliman completed the hat trick and the five-point game with an empty netter. On the goal, Peter McNab got his fourth assist of the game, making it a memorable night for the 334 fans in attendance.