I have been reading this blog for a while now, but never really logged in and commented until recently. The fan post on the Devils' attendance problems really hit a nerve that has been sensitive with me for some time.
I always thought that a move to a city like Newark (or even Hoboken as McMullen was pushing for a time), with public transportation, good bars and restaurants that the Devils' attendance would not be a problem anymore. But I guess we'll need to look into some history first.
According to this website: http://www.andrewsstarspage.com/index.php/site/comments/nhl_average_attendance_since_1989_90/118-2008-09
The Devils highest average attendance was 17,321 in the 1997-98 season. Economy good. Devils made it to the 2nd round previous year, but lost in 1st round to Senators after a great regular season. The past year at the Rock, the average attendance was 7th out of 19 years since this site started averaging in 1989-90. So the average attendance has been pretty steady over time. Attendance at the Rock has increased every year so far, but has not broken the 16,000 mark that was there in the mid-1990s.
That being said here are the ways that I think the fans could create a grass-roots movement to raise the PR image of the Devils. There have been comments on this blog about how the Devils can't seem to figure it out. So what could the PEOPLE, the grassroots Devil fans actually do?
1) Social networking. It's there. I see the meetup.com group and the facebook groups as well as the twitter feeds (with I've heard on this blog that they are outsourced . . . who knows)? However, let's think of this more in depth tech-wise. Viral videos and put them on youtube. Create a fan talk show on youtube or even an itunes podcast. There are tons of fans who could comment intellectually on camera. You meet at a local Newark establishment on a weekly/ bi-weekly basis, film, edit it upload it and you've got a following. Get fans . . . if it is good enough (I'm sure we could even convince this great blog to link to them). It makes the Rock look like the place to be if done right. Those Crazies in Sections 233 and Wackos in 232? How about getting their consent and blessing and following them around with a camera before and after games? It would show the casual Devils' fan what a true fan is (during games is trickier, but with some elbow grease . . . it could happen). Even "tourist" videos on what to expect when arriving in Newark Penn Station or Broad Street and how easy it is to dispel some of the rumors. There still are some myths about what happens when you get into Newark and most of them have died down, but they still exist.
2) Get concerned fans to do more than blog about how they are dissatisfied and create a group dedicated to growing the Devils around New Jersey in a grassroots manner. One simple thing? Have every member dedicate to fly a NJ Devils' flag from their houses, or even apartments or condo windows during game days. You see those "R" Rutgers flags? I would like to see more Devils' ones. That has a bigger impact than you think.
3) This is not totally grassroots, but teachers could help here by asking the NJ Devil mascot for visits. As a teacher myself, I can tell you that the days before breaks are hard. Many times the kids' minds are not there and elementary students getting a visit from NJ Devil in class during PE time, emphasizing hockey days would be nice.
3) Create a street art campaign. Skateboard stickers, t-shirts:
I could think of easily doing this with "Chico Eats." They started to make t-shirts, but never souped it up to what they could have done. Danyeko, Wyshnyski, the Puck Daddy blogger . . .take a prominent ex-Devil or big time fan, put them into a street art campaign and watch it fly off.
The Devils success was good during the 1990s and the economy, again, was really good. However, there was always something missing from CAA. Here is what I thought after the 2003 Cup victory:
One of my sorest moments was AFTER the 2003 Stanley Cup win (the win itself was one of the greatest moments of my life). I so wanted to celebrate the evening like many cities partying the night away after championship victories (I was 25 at the time). Overturned cars and taking down lamp posts aside, I just wanted that crazy, but tame city atmosphere - people hugging, high-fiving and did not find it outside CAA (what the Izod Center was called). I was living in South Jersey at the time and I asked, "Where's the party?" I was told the Grasshopper, but couldn't find it. It was bad. Later on in life, I was in towns when the Giants had their Superbowl victory and also for the Phillies and Yankees World Series wins. I know hockey would never match baseball and football in terms of popularity in the mid-Atlantic, but the contrasts were stark. I pressed for the Newark arena because it would give us Devil fans a place to congregate before games and celebrate victories afterward. I'm not pretending anything would rival outside of MSG (it IS NYC), but giving us something would be nice. The Newark area responded with some great new establishments. One of the most under reported stories of the Rock is how the community in Newark is embracing the Devils. I was reminded of this on my way out of the game on Friday, as the crew outside of the PNC Bank Tower started a chant as we left the building. A Devils' series victory celebration would be welcomed by fans and the community alike. But a lot still needs to be done to raise the Devils' profile in New Jersey and the Rock as a great place to visit and enjoy a game.