By John Robert
This spring, when the New Jersey Devils were down 3-1 in the Stanley Cup Finals, young Liam Bazner, 6, drew up some pictures for Trenton native Devils defenseman Andy Greene. The pictures were of Andy sporting his “playoff beard.”
Greene’s mother, Linda, who was going on a flight to watch Andy play in New Jersey, took the drawings with her, and delivered them to her son. The Devils won that Game 5, and, though they lost the series, Liam and his parents believe his pictures were a lucky token.
Liam’s parents, Jim and Julie, are Trenton residents, and all three of their sons — Brayden, Liam and Patrick — are active in the hockey community, including participating in Greene’s summer hockey school at the Kennedy Recreation Center.
In fact, on Patrick’s birthday, he and Liam got to go golfing with Andy and their father. Though young, nothing stops the three boys from getting onto the ice: Jim Bazner said Liam went for his first skate at age 3.
Liam met Greene in 2011 at his first Trenton hockey school, where Liam was the youngest participant. Liam also attended this year’s camp, always thankful to get the additional instruction and ice-time.
Since that first camp, Liam has become, according to his dad, “a diehard Andy Greene fan.”
“When he first met Andy at the camp, Andy gave all the kids a signed picture at the end,” Julie Bazner said. “So Liam gave him a hockey card with his name on it, and Andy said, ‘it’s still on my refrigerator,’ ” she recounted with a laugh.
As a fan of the player, Liam also is a fan of the team.
“He has a Devils backpack and a Devils lunchbox,” said his mother, and he was excited to see Andy’s team get all the way to the Stanley Cup Finals. He was disappointed by the result, but is anxiously awaiting the day his favorite player finally hit the ice again — with fingers crossed that the NHL player lockout ends sometime soon.
Liam, who plays on a Trenton house mite team within the Trenton Hockey Association, matches Andy’s passion for the sport, so it’s no surprise Andy and the coaches took a liking to Liam from the first day of the school. Due to this, Liam was invited out onto the ice during Greene’s November’s jersey retirement ceremony to share in the celebration — where he stood alongside his hero, appropriately clad in his Andy Greene Devils jersey, as Greene’s high school “No. 8” jersey was raised to the rafters of the KRC.
Unlike some older, maybe more cynical fans, the lockout hasn’t diminished this youngster’s exuberance for hockey. For Halloween, he wanted to dress as a hockey player.
His mother thought the idea was good, but suggested going one step further: why not be “playoff Andy Greene?” In that spirit, she went ahead and made Liam a monstrous beard, to mimic the ones players traditionally grow during the postseason, to go with his Greene jersey and hockey pads, so he could realistically rep Trenton’s favorite game and homegrown player.
For Liam, the fascination with Greene and that grizzled playoff beard is a nice tie-in to the sport he already loves. Those who know Greene would likely agree that Liam couldn’t find a better role model.