Wednesday, November 7, 2007


Watching the New Jersey Devils game last Wednesday night, I was pretty alarmed. No, not by the fact that their previously anemic offense scored 6 goals, but by the crowd at THE ROCK. For the opening faceoff, there were tons of empty seats at the new Prudential Center, and they appeared to be never more than 2/3 full for the entire game. This was repeated on Friday, despite what the attendance figures might say (officially, it says 75% and 82% capacity for the two games). This wouldn't be so bad if these weren't the 2nd and 3rd games at a brand spanking new arena. What's happening? There are a couple of factors involved here.

* The Devils fan base has historically not been the same as the Rangers fan base. Largely, Devils fans are suburban, blue collar, middle class families, who like to drive to the games and possibly tailgate if there's nice weather. Rangers fans are more urban, white collar, corporate types, who take the train (if they're not already in the city) and aren't against spending $12 on a cocktail before and/or afterwards. These may sound like broad generalizations, but I assure you that they're not that far off.

* The Devils brass may have overestimated the amount of corporate types that will buy up the expensive seats. Maybe they expect this will change, but that means shutting out the true hockey fans (which the NHL on the whole seems to be doing anyway, since Bettman sucks). When Kris looked for seats to a Sabres game in late December, he found that while the entire upper deck is already sold out, there are still plenty of expensive lower and mezzanine seats to be had, the same types of seats that are usually filled with suits in MSG. (I won't even go into how the middle class is suffering the most under the current economic landscape.)

* While parking used to be $10 at the Meadowlands (free, if you bet on the horsies), parking at the new rink is $20. This wouldn't be so bad if you were in Manhattan, where you might want to hang out afterwards. In Newark? Not so much.

* Despite all the downtown "revitalization", Newark will have a hard time shaking its reputation. Additionally, the homicide rate in the much smaller city of Newark is much higher than that of NYC, a fact (not a myth) that might keep people away.

* The Devils are the third team into a NYC area already oversaturated with sports and entertainment choices, and they always will be.

It's early, but it's a troubling sign. I hate to say it, but a similar state-of-the-art arena would sell out its entire first season in somewhere like Dallas or Pittsburgh (and obviously anywhere in Canada). Maybe in the second half of the season, the fans will have warmed up to the arena, but you can only hope they are in playoff contention by then. But I just got an email offering me $65 seats for only $35 for tomorrow's Flyers game. A Flyers game not sold out the day before in a new building? That's not good.

During the intermission blabbering, they continue to put Ken Daneyko in front of a bar. I'm thinking this isn't the wisest thing to do to someone who has had a history of alcohol problems. Why don't they just name his commentary "DANO'S TOP SHELF ANALYSIS - BROUGHT TO YOU BY GREY GOOSE" while they're at it?

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