New Jersey Devils: Red Bull Arena Open to Hosting Outdoor Game

Apr 24, 2016; Harrison, NJ, USA; Soccer balls on the field prior to action between the New York Red Bulls and the Orlando City FC at Red Bull Arena. Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports
Apr 24, 2016; Harrison, NJ, USA; Soccer balls on the field prior to action between the New York Red Bulls and the Orlando City FC at Red Bull Arena. Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports /

Located just a few blocks from Prudential center, Red Bull Arena could host an outdoor game for their neighbors, the New Jersey Devils.

In an interview with CBS this week, New York Red Bulls general manager Marc de Grandpre mentioned the possibility of bringing  Devils hockey to Red Bull Arena. He said, “(Devils and Prudential Center president) Hugh Weber and I have discussed potential synergies between our two teams”. “If it mutually made sense for both parties, it would be something we’d be open to explore”.

Don’t get too excited, Devils fans.  It’s an awesome idea in theory, but there is no way this would happen anytime soon, or ever for that matter.  It’s not practical for two main reasons: the arena isn’t big enough to warrant having a game there, and the event wouldn’t make enough money to make it worth it.  Those two factors go hand-in-hand. Besides that, the Devils have not been a competitive team the past few seasons, so they don’t deserve to host an outdoor game yet.

We all remember what happened the only time the Devils played in an outdoor game back in 2014, when they got whooped 7-3 by the Rangers at Yankee Stadium. Martin Brodeur was still on the team and it got so ugly that he got pulled.  That was an embarrassing day to be a New Jersey Devils fan, not to mention, I think it took some of the dog-eat-dog feel out of the rivalry.  That game, dubbed as one of the Stadium Series, brought in just over 50,000 fans, as has every other Stadium Series game.  The lowest attendance for any outdoor NHL game was 38,112 for the Winter Classic at Fenway Park in 2010,  which was still a sell-out.

These numbers are important because Red Bull Arena only has 25,189 seats.  To put it in perspective, the capacity at Prudential Center is 16,514.  That’s not even 9,000 more seats, which puts a low ceiling on how much money could be made on an outdoor game at Red Bull Arena.  Based solely on that, I don’t see how it would make sense for either the NHL or the Devils organization.  After all, the purpose of these events is to make money.  If one of these games ever takes place in New Jersey, it would probably happen at Metlife Stadium, and it would be promoted as a New York event with the Rangers hosting.  Remember when the Superbowl was in “New York” two years ago?  Yeah, that was really in New Jersey, so it would be the same idea and concept as far as marketing the game.

Red Bull Arena is literally a Sacha Kljestan corner kick away from the Prudential Center in Newark (or a Kyle Palmieri slapshot back the other way), so there is the possibility for the Red Bulls and Devils to work together on some projects, specifically a hockey game played on a rink constructed over the pitch.

Let’s be honest, Harrison/Newark, NJ isn’t the most attractive place to hold any event. This isn’t to say that Red Bull Arena wouldn’t be a good venue for an outdoor hockey game.  It would certainly be a lot more intimate than a game at a football stadium or baseball park, given it’s smaller size and layout.  You would probably be able to actually see the ice instead of watching a jumbotron the whole game.  The main reason I didn’t go to the Devils/Rangers game at Yankee Stadium is because you can’t see anything no matter where you sit. The same can really be said for any of these outdoor games.  Fans go to these events for the novelty, which is understandable, but not practical for viewing.

Considering the Devils have stunk for a few years, it would be nothing but a gimmick for them to play an outdoor game anytime soon anyway.  They are not a team that has any national appeal.  Period.  The NHL is not going to let a bad team host one of these events and give them a prime time TV spot. For it to happen (or for New Jersey to ever play in a Winter Classic again), the Devils need to start winning and rebuilding a reputation.  They’ll need to start selling out Prudential Center before this is ever even a discussion.  They aren’t there yet, and on top of that, their rivalries with the two teams that they would most likely play, the Rangers and Flyers, have lost a lot of steam.  Start making the playoffs again and we can revisit the idea.

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I don’t mean to completely be devil’s advocate here, because this really would be a fun event for Devils fans.  I’m just being realistic.