Four days after Hurricane Sandy slammed New Jersey, Leslie Ruse’s house in West Milford still had no electricity.
But that didn’t stop Ruse, a fan of the New Jersey Nets for more than 21 years, from leaving her abode to see the new Brooklyn Nets’ home opening game on Saturday.
“I’m getting out,” Ruse said, wearing an old New Jersey Nets blue and white jacket and hat with the old NJ-shield logo. “There’s light and you can go to the bathroom. It’s a nice reprieve to go to the game.” Ruse and a friend ventured from New Jersey to the Port Authority by public bus and then hopped on a free chartered Barclay’s Center-bound shuttle bus.
Even after torrential weather from Hurricane Sandy left many residents and city transit disheveled, many New Jersey fans joined the sellout crowd of 17,732 at the Brooklyn Nets’ franchise home opener on Saturday night through the Nets’ chartered free shuttle buses to witness the revival of the basketball team in Brooklyn.
More than 400 passengers, many from New Jersey, Manhattan and the Bronx, traveled to the Port Authority to catch the shuttle buses on a first-come-first-serve basis hours before the game to get to the Barclay’s Center.
“After everything the city has been through this week, we wanted to make sure those that wanted to see the game could get to see the game,” said Mandy Gutmann, a representative for the Nets.
The Nets released information about the free shuttle buses, available subway lines, city buses, cabs and car and bicycle parking spaces on its website on Friday.
At the Port Authority, excited fans lined up to board the buses, which were departing every 15 minutes. The fans showed off team spirit with Brooklyn Nets hats and clothing. Some fans from New Jersey wore the older Nets attire. “This is carpool at its largest,” Gutmann said, standing outside the buses.
The Nets and Best Trails & Travels are planning to supply shuttle buses from New Jersey during the regular season to accommodate fans, according a representative of the bus company. After Hurricane Sandy rocked the subway system, the Nets asked the bus company for the special round-trip buses for fans, many of whom planned to take city buses from Manhattan back to their homes.
The Nets’ original home opener on Thursday against the rival New York Knicks was cancelled after Mayor Michael Bloomberg asked the National Basketball Association to postpone the game due to transit limitations.
The Barclays’ Center heavily relies on the nine subway lines and Long Island Rail Road service in the Atlantic Avenue-Barclay’s Center station directly underground to transfer a bulk of nearly 18,000 anticipated fans for each Nets game.
However, some fans were determined to be at the game even without the special buses.
Spenser Frieri and Danny LoGiudice, Nets fans from Union, New Jersey, weren’t affected much by the hurricane on Monday, but were planning to go to the cancelled Thursday home opener regardless of the downed subway system by renting a car.
“When we say we’re big Nets fans, we are big Nets fans,” Frieri said.
After the home opener was rescheduled to Saturday Frieri, 20, and LoGiudice, 20, heard there would be free shuttle buses through multiple posts on Twitter and decided to catch the free shuttle.
“This is great the Nets are doing this,” Frieri said.
The Brooklyn Nets rewarded fans with a 107-100 win over the Toronto Raptors and free commemorative T-shirts so they’ll never forget the night.
However, some fans thought it wasn’t worth going through great lengths to get to the game.
“It was a waste of money,” said Bedford-Stuyvesant resident Kristian Sawyer, who caught the train to the game. “If you bought tickets to this event and due to the traffic and gas shortage couldn’t make it, it was a waste.”
But some fans absolutely had to be there.
“It’s a once in a lifetime thing,” said Rodney Ferguson referring to the Nets’ first game. Ferguson, a Nets’ fan for 17 years, took a nearly five-hour bus ride from Maryland to Manhattan with his girlfriend to catch the free shuttle bus. Ferguson also planned to make the trip for the Thursday home opener.
The question was never whether they were going to the game it was how they were getting back.
“We’re worried about that,” Ferguson said with relaxed smile.