How New Jersey Devils Can Make Prudential Center More Intimidating

NEWARK, NJ - DECEMBER 29: Pavel Zacha #37 of the New Jersey Devils celebrates scoring a second period goal against Curtis McElhinney #35 of the Carolina Hurricanes with teammate Brian Boyle #11 of the New Jersey Devils at the Prudential Center on December 29, 2018 in Newark, New Jersey. (Photo by Andy Marlin/NHLI via Getty Images)
NEWARK, NJ - DECEMBER 29: Pavel Zacha #37 of the New Jersey Devils celebrates scoring a second period goal against Curtis McElhinney #35 of the Carolina Hurricanes with teammate Brian Boyle #11 of the New Jersey Devils at the Prudential Center on December 29, 2018 in Newark, New Jersey. (Photo by Andy Marlin/NHLI via Getty Images) /
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Home-ice advantage is supposed to be exactly that, an active, tangible advantage for the New Jersey Devils. In my view, the Rock has become a pretty easy place for opponents to play. What can be done to make the Rock more intimidating?

As we all know, the New Jersey Devils have gone to great pains to create a “family friendly” sort of environment for everyone. Is that good for business? Probably, who am I to contradict a slew of sports marketing experts. But it certainly is a far cry from the hostile environments I typically observed growing up in the City of Brotherly Love at the Spectrum and the Vet, as well as some other venues around the NHL today.

We can’t go back to the Animal House days of the 1970’s, that’s fairly obvious, but are there some ways to make The Rock a bit less hospitable for our honored guests? I think so. It is certainly a lot harder, even today, to play a hockey game in Philadelphia, New York, Vegas or Nashville than it is in Newark. Here are a few ideas on how to make The Rock more intimidating.

Pre-game. 

Get fans into their seats earlier. That builds energy. Nothing is more imposing than an arena filled to the rafters with rabid fans waiting in anticipation for a clash.

Vegas does it with their parade into T-Mobile as well as their awesome show, Nashville has their music and Philly has their pure hatred and venom. We need an identity of our own on that front.  Finding a way to get the place fuller for warm-ups would be a good first step. .

The Rock needs more juice in the building from the get go. It’s a hockey game, not a fan experience.

Music. 

Enough already with the fan friendly tunes all the time. Blasting something like Intruder by Van Halen during warmups and when the teams come out for the period sends a message that the Devils and their fans mean business. Ditto with AC/DC, Metallica, Nirvana or anything else in that genre.

Every little bit helps with the “we ain’t going to take no @#%$ from you tonight” type of feeling.  Use music to raise the intensity and anticipation level to a playoff level atmosphere each and every night!

The Rock needs to become a harder place to play.

Black Seats.

The Devils really need to fill these seats with real Devils fans! Let’s get actual, knowledgeable, passionate hockey fans on top of the opponents bouncing around and screaming their lungs out in an effort to make them lose a bit of composure.

It works for Duke at Cameron, the Raiders in the Black Hole and for Clemson at Death Valley. It’s not supposed to be easy to play on the road, don’t make it so.

Do I think this will ever happen?  Nope. Business is business and as long as the best seats in the house are $200+ corporate seats either unoccupied or occupied by people who see the game as a night out, not a critical battle, things will never change. But to truly make the Rock intimating, that’s a sports marketing and management thought process which desperately needs to be adjusted.

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Highlights.

Show more hockey highlights on the big board. Include the type of stuff fans love, like their favorite Devils smashing around some the opponents or some highlights of the Devils beating our opponent in the past.

Develop a bit more energy, exciting and even an appropriate touch of “opponent hatred” throughout the building. Remembering that the opponent is the enemy (in the sports sense), treating them as such and making them understand it should be part of the process.

TV game shows, emoji cams, t-shirt giveaways and the like do virtually nothing to build a hockey atmosphere in a barn. Lose them and develop a spirit of competition and disdain.

Make It About Hockey. 

Theme nights are nice. They help sell tickets, and that’s important. But sometimes it needs to be more about hockey. When the Rangers, Islanders, Flyers or Penguins come to town, the theme should be competition. There should be a healthy dislike of the opposition and the goal for the evening should be a resounding victory!

Next. Devils Goaltending Tandem Of The Future. dark

As I mentioned, I can’t envision much, if any of this, ever happening. But it sure would be nice to create a bit more unsettling environment for the Devils’ opponents. The Rock is too easy of a place to come into these days. Making things a bit more difficult for our visitors would be a very good thing. Every little bit helps.