The Rangers fan who was brutally beaten after the Winter Classic in Philadelphia earlier this month still struggles with his vision and is facing surgery for a fractured bone in his face, he told NBC New York in an exclusive interview Wednesday.
"It was a special day that was ruined," Neal Auricchio, 30, said of his experience in Philadelphia Jan. 2. His wife had given him tickets to the Winter Classic as a Christmas present.
Auricchio, who is a policeman in Woodbridge, N.J., but was off-duty at the time of the attack, said he and a friend were waiting in line at a cheesesteak stand after the game when a group of Flyers fans approached them.
"They grabbed my friend's hat, threw a cigarette in it, threw one at me," he told NBC New York.
"I said, 'Relax, it's just a game,'" he said. "Then I was overwhelmed by a mob, punched and knocked to the ground."
Auricchio said he tried to protect his head from being kicked. Then, when he staggered to his feet, he was blindsided by another punch and knocked unconscious.
Now Auricchio is scheduled for surgery to repair the fractured bone under his left eye, still red from the broken blood vessels he suffered in the assault.
Police arrested 32-year-old Denis Veteri of Glassboro in connection with the incident, charging him with aggravated assault.
He is free on $400,000 bail.
The incident is now the subject of an ongoing criminal investigation.
Auricchio's attorney Ray Gill said his client will likely file a civil suit once the criminal case is settled.