Few characters in television history have become so inextricably entwined with the actor who played them than David Puddy, the slow-witted, high-fiving, fur coat-wearing, Jesus-loving, germaphobe-afflicted, grease monkey-converted-to-salesman, on-and-off boyfriend of Elaine Benes, as portrayed by Patrick Warburton on Seinfeld. And perhaps the most memorable aspect of Puddy’s identity is that of his die-hard, over-the-top allegiance to the New Jersey Devils, as evidenced in what is in my opinion one of the finest episodes in the series’ history, “The Face Painter.”
Obviously, no further explanation regarding the storyline of that episode is necessary, as I assume almost everyone has seen that episode. And if you have not, may God have mercy on your sad, sorry soul. But an interesting piece in The Wall Street Journal reveals that while Warburton was born in New Jersey, and much like Puddy, is a Devils fan, he grew up in California so he grew up a devoted Los Angeles Kings fan as well.
But as a result of Warburton’s brilliant portrayal of the face-painting (and then chest-painting) Puddy, the Devils franchise have adopted the actor as something of an unofficial rally starter at Prudential Center, often playing clips of Puddy screaming, “LET’S GET IT ON!!! Alright!! Go Devils!! Go Devils!! Let’s go Devils!!” or some other exclamatory statement from the episode, beginning during the team’s1995 Stanley Cup run and invited the actor to the championship celebration on opening night the following season. And that’s when the Devils made an odd request:
Before that 1995 puck-dropping ceremony, the Devils asked Warburton if he’d do them a favor: Would he paint a D on his bare chest? The actor resisted; he was already painting his face and wearing a team jersey.
But Warburton relented, and it turned out to be a wise move. After dropping the puck during a red-carpet presentation, Warburton was stepping across the rink when he slipped and nearly fell, only to regain his balance. Sensing an awkward moment, he ripped his shirt off.
“I was so thankful I had that D painted on my chest,” Warburton said. “The whole place went crazy.”
With all that history and with the distinct possibility that the Devils and the Kings very well could face off in this season’s Stanley Cup Finals, Warburton has been put between a rock and a hard place as his loyalties could be severely tested if such a match-up were to occur, what with his boyhood team facing off against the team and fanbase that holds the actor in such high regard:
But he still feels a fond connection to Jersey’s hockey franchise. Warburton has noticed that the Los Angeles Kings may be on their way to this season’s Stanley Cup; as a kid, he attended a bunch of Kings games. But rooting against the Devils would be tough, he admitted.
“Yes, it will certainly tear at my allegiances,” Warburton said. He wondered out loud if he could get away with painting his face half Devils red, half Kings black.
“Can you do that?” Warburton asked.
Warburton, to his credit, decided he could never do that. No such thing as “Gotta support the teams,” I guess. You gotta let them know you’re out there, though. It’s the playoffs after all.