The Woodbridge police officer who was kicked and beaten by rival fans after a Rangers-Flyers game in Philadelphia is going to see a big Rangers game, courtesy of the head honchos at Madison Square Garden.
Neal Auricchio, Jr., who is still recovering from the injuries he received after being jumped by thugs after the January 2 game, is getting five tickets to a February 27 matchup between the Rangers and the Devils, according to Bob Mantz, Jr. who pens the popular Bob's Blitz sports blog.
It's no mean feat, either; Mantz said the sold-out tickets are going upwards of $1,000 on the secondary market.
"MSG was all over it," Mantz said about hosting Auricchio at the Garden where his favorite team would be playing.
Auricchio, a Purple Heart recipient who served two tours in Iraq, was taken to the hospital after the thugs beat and kicked him.
Mantz, who grew up in Woodbridge and now resides in the Princeton area, said his contacts on the Woodbridge police force told him that Auricchio is going to need facial surgery for his injuries.
Meanwhile, Philadelphia police are still looking for as many as eight suspects who were on a cell phone video made by a bystander of the beat down. A Philadelphia website, Crossing Broad, obtained an HD version of the video and enhanced it so the faces of some of the suspects is more visible.
With all that, the tickets for the Rangers-Devils game will be a welcome relief for Auricchio, who has been a huge Rangers fan most of his life.
Rangers head coach John Tortorella had "reached out to Neal, to give him five tickets so he could bring his family to the game," Mantz said.
After speaking to MSG vice presidents and others further up the chain, Mantz was touched by how excited they were to be helping Auricchio with the tickets.
"MSG brought out such good things with this. I spoke to five men at MSG. They've all been sweethearts about it," he said.
What's interesting is while the MSG powers-that-be were getting the tickets to Auricchio, Mantz—who was unaware of the MSG efforts—was in touch with his media contacts, and their contacts, about helping get the injured Woodbridge cop to the same game.
The result was such an outpouring of enthusiasm to help Auricchio, and a determination to do anything to stop the kind of after-game brawls that have led to serious injury and even death across the spectrum of sports.
"This nonsense in sports has to stop. Neal could be the picture who puts an end to sports violence," Mantz said.
It's not the end of the story with Auricchio: as many as 40 of his fellow Woodbridge cops want to go to the game as well to show their support for Auricchio.
Coming up with that many tickets for such a hot game won't be easy, but Mantz was on it.
"They want to come," Mantz said of the Woodbridge cops he's been in contact with. "They're even willing to pay the $1,000 a ticket price if that's what it takes."
The sports contacts Mantz has been in touch with are working to make the tickets happen for the Woodbridge cops.
Those names read like a who's who in New York-area sports talk: Phil Mushnick, sportswriter for the NY Post; Larry Brooks, the Rangers beat writer for the NY Post; Len Berman, former sportscaster for NBC who runs his own website; Tommy Dee, NY Knicks blogger; and Brandon Tierney, who used to work for ESPN radio 1050 and is now in San Francisco.
"Brandon was very big with getting us in touch with guys at MSG," Mantz said.
Then there were the guys from the Boomer and Carton show on WFAN, "The #1 morning show in New York City," Mantz said of Boomer Esiason, a former NFL quarterback and his cohost Craig Carton, who was one of the popular Jersey Boys on NJ 101.5 radio.