A youth soccer game at Saint Benedict’s Preparatory School in Newark, N.J., was called off Sunday night after a helicopter touched down in the middle of the pitch and stayed there. This was no emergency landing, however: the vehicle was there to pick up Josh Harris, billionaire owner of the New Jersey Devils and Philadelphia 76ers.
From a parent at the game:
My son’s U13 youth soccer team was supposed to play a game at 7:30 last night (Sunday, November 8th) on the field at Benedict’s Prep in Newark. As the two teams of U13 players from the STA 02 NPL and Cedar Stars Pre-Academy team got ready to take the field, a helicopter dropped down from the sky and landed right in the middle of the field. A security detail emerged from the helicopter and informed the boys and their coaches that NJ Jersey Devils owner, Josh Harris, had instructed them to land on the field and wait for him to return from the Prudential Center where the Devils were playing. The boys and their families waited in the cold until finally it became clear that Harris was running late and no one knew when he might return to pick up his ride. Eventually, the coaches decided to call the boys’ game and everyone went home disappointed, frustrated and annoyed. I am not sure when or if Harris ever showed up to remove his helicopter from the field, but I hope that he had a great night. There are a number of 12 year olds and youth soccer fans who did not — because of Harris’s selfish behavior.
Here’s video of the landing:
An N-number search on the FAA registry show that the Sikorsky S-76B is registered in Newark to Heliflite, a private helicopter charter service. A search on YouTube brings up a video uploaded on Nov. 24, 2014—titled “NJ Devils Owner gets picked up by helicopter from St Benedicts Soccer Field 11 23 14”—that shows Harris getting picked up from the same soccer field by a different helicopter. A search of the registry shows that the Bell 430 is also registered to Heliflite.
St. Benedict’s, which is about six minutes by car from the Prudential Center, has an agreement with Harris. Father Edwin Leahy, the school’s headmaster, said over the phone that the soccer field is used as a helipad for a few people who conduct business in Newark, but mostly Harris. The night his chopper set down just as children were about to play, Harris was watching his team play the Canucks. The game was tied at three after 60 minutes, and went to overtime. New Jersey won, 4-3.
According to Leahy, the error was due to a lack of communication between the aviation company and the head of facilities at the school. Heliflite didn’t check in before beginning the trip, so when the helicopter arrived, Harris was still at the Prudential Center. Had the company called in beforehand, Leahy said, it would have been notified; the youth soccer game would have started, and the helicopter would have landed at halftime.
That didn’t happen, though, so, priorities being what they are, the scheduled under-13 soccer match couldn’t be played. It must be something to be rich.
The New Jersey Devils declined to comment.
Update (2:35 p.m.): Harris has released a statement through the team.
“I sincerely apologize to the kids and their coaches and families for the cancelation of their soccer game in Newark on Sunday night. As a Dad, who has spent hundreds of hours watching my kids play sports, I can understand the frustration, and for that, I am truly sorry,” said Josh Harris, New Jersey Devils Co-Owner. “Working with St. Benedict’s, we have fixed the process to prevent any future issues. While I can’t take back what happened, I hope the coaches, the teams and their families would be open to being my guest at an upcoming Devils’ game, and I will be extending an invitation.”
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