Devils need to “strike” while the iron’s hot.


Fact:  People love sports.  Fact:  People love live sports.  Disturbing fact: The Devils continue to have attendance problems, no matter what they do.  The Devils were 25th in the league in attendance this season, “drawing” just over 14,000 fans per home game.  I say “drawing” because we all know the Devils calculate attendance based on tickets sold and not actual gate.  When no one shows up to sit in the 20 seats in a luxury box, as far as the Devils are concerned, they were there, count ’em.  And while the financials of it work out for the Devils, the effect on the team can not be understated.  All too often we hear our own players talk after raod games about the opposing crowd and how they bring it.  Devil fans rarely, if ever, bring it.  We need teams like the Rangers and Flyers to come to town to sell out a game, and quite often our building is half full with their fans.  But Devil fans are a passionate bunch.  And what is a passionate fan to do?  Buy two seats and bring a friend?  Bring a blow up doll in a jersey?  It’s not up to the fans who show up.  It’s up to the team to get the fans on the fence to start going to games.  This fall the Devils could have an enormous chance to capitalize on the alienated American sports fan.  God knows the Rangers and Islanders will.  The Devils must follow suit.

There’s a very good chance that the NFL and NBA will not play at the start of October.  With fans looking for a place to go, you have to start to appeal to these fans and sell your product.  The Devils have never been about individuals, and have never really marketed a player.  That needs to change.  With Parise and Kovalchuk as the new faces of the franchise, it’s an easy thing to do.  In the past the face of our franchise was a guy who wears a mask, or a stay at home defenseman.  None of that is enticing to the casual fan.  But sell Parise, the current face of USA Hockey, and sell Kovalchuk, and you might actually get people to show up.  Make it worth their while as well.  Start offering specials to students an hour before faceoff.  Show up and for $25, starting one hour before faceoff, fill the seats starting from the bottom of the building up.  Exclude the club seats for obvious reasons.  Get even more creative.  Show up on a Sunday, when the NFL would be playing, and if the team loses, give people a voucher for tickets to another game.  Have a tailgate every Sunday in the plaza in front of the building.  Make it like the atmosphere outside Fenway Park before a game.

This current sports landscape could make it prime time for the Devils to finally start filling the building and getting the fans to stay.  There’s nothing we can do about the club seats.  I love the Rock.  However, the club seats are an issue.  Because so many fans who have them spend the game in the bars, and most of them are unsold or unused, a prime location low to the ice is empty.  This was a mistake in the design of the building.  There are ways the Devils can change this and make it better, but they won’t.  The seats are too expensive and too enticing for people who are willing to drop $200 on  a seat.  But this team needs to start having a fan presence at home.  They need the Capitals crowd.  And I should remind people that the Capitals crowd didn’t really exist until Ovi and Backstrom came to town.  The Capitals and their players have no delusions over who the face of their team is.  And no one on the Devils is going to get insulted if the Devils brass starts marketing Parise and Kovalchuk.  No one’s going to do their job less because Parise and Kovalchuk are in a commercial.  And judging from what I’ve seen from both Zach and Ilya, neither of them are going to become the egomaniac that disrupts the team because he believes with commercial exposure should come ice time.  At some point, the Devils brass will get it.  This fall could be the perfect chance.  Let’s hope they take advantage.