[Welcome to the second edition of the Devils Fan Guide Weekly Section post. Once a week, I'll write a section about the experience at the Rock or about the Devils that's suited for new fans, fans who haven't been to the Rock, and old fans who'd like to see a resource surrounding all this. I'm going to put it in a FanPost, you all can comment on it as you wish. Maybe I missed something. Maybe I got something wrong. Maybe you'd like something added. All criticism is fair game for a week (or so). After a week (or so), I'll close the comments and format the content into a separate page.
In these brackets and italicized words will be my own commentary that won't likely appear in this section For this section, I may come across like a snob. I look forward to what you would suggest to prevent this section coming out like that in the comments.]
General Game Conduct for Fans
For those of you who may have never been to a game at the Rock (or any hockey game for that matter) before, you may not be sure what the unwritten code for fans may be. You may not know how Devils fans generally act in the stands. I will concede that I don't know every nuance, but having been to well over 100 games at the Rock, I feel I can provide the basics of what goes on at a regular game and how to act. Hopefully, the following should help you get an understanding of what to expect and to avoid being "That Fan."
What do I mean by "That Fan?" Basically, it's an irritating and/or clueless jackass that singles you out for ridicule at best or harms or outright ruins the experience of going to a hockey game for other people at worst. Actually, that's really the main goal of this guide. By not being "That Fan," fitting in will be far more accessible at any sporting event, much less the New Jersey Devils playing hockey at the Rock. Of course, you may feel some of these don't matter and you may not . I don't claim to be perfect. Life is all about choices, but I feel these are some basic practices done by most hockey fans. If you choose to be a pain, then by all means.
Part 1. Pre-Gaming (How to Get There, Attire, Tailgating)
- First, make plans on getting to the game. The Rock is 2 blocks away from Newark Penn Station, which is connected to multiple train lines on NJ Transit. It's also a stop for Amtrak and the PATH train that goes between NJ and NYC. Check with NJ Transit, PATH, or Amtrak for a train schedule so you can make plans. If you plan on driving, be prepared to pay for a parking fee (or know where you can part for free in Newark) in the public lots surrounding the Prudential Center. The Prudential Center's site, under their Pre-Paid Parking section, has a good map of lots in the area.
- Make sure where you're sitting. If you have club seats, figure out what lounge (Fire or Ice) you'll be going to in advance. If you're in the upper level, plan to take a few minutes to get up there by escalator or stairs. If you're going to be by sections 232/233 or 208/209, then be prepared to feel the noise (and feel free to join in).
- Now, let's talk attire. Ideally, any Devils merchandise will work. Hockey jerseys are common, both personalized and otherwise. If you have a hat, pants, a jacket, a scarf, pins, a t-shirt, a sweatshirt that's Devils related, that's perfectly fine. Feel free to paint your face, if you're a face painter. Though, I'd suggest leaving the Gomez #23 at home.
- If you don't have any Devils-related clothing to represent, then that's OK. Some fans show up in regular clothes or other sports jerseys (though why you would wear, say, a Mark Sanchez Jets jersey at a hockey game is beyond me) and that's fine.
- However, that doesn't mean you should wear any hockey jersey to the game. If you're not a fan of the Devils or the visiting team, fine. But don't go the game representing another team that's not there. For example, if the Devils are playing the Montreal Canadiens, leave the Toronto Maple Leafs jersey at home. At best, you'll look completely out of place. At worst, you're likely rocking a Ranger or Flyer jersey and will be rightfully mocked by others at the game as being a clueless chump. Don't be a chump. No, being a kid is not an exception for this.
- Lastly, don't expect to tailgate. The arena is in downtown Newark and as such there's not really any space for it. There are a number of restaurants and bars near the arena, as well as many kiosks on the Prudential Center's concourse, should you want a bite and a drink before going to the game.
Part 2. Before the Puck Drops (General Procedure on Getting in, Finding Your Seat)
- Going into the Rock, security will ask you to take all the metal out of your pockets and show your ticket. So before going in, you may want to pull everything out in advance; this way, once you're in, security can do their thing much faster and you'll get in faster.
- Generally, it's good practice to find your seat once you're inside. This way you know where your section, your row, and your actual seat is right away. Ushers are willing to help out and it's much easier to do this before the game starts than during it.
- Feel free to explore the concourse, buy some food or merch, get money from the PNC Bank ATMs, or converse with the many fans at the Rock. For the warm-up skate by both teams, the ushers will let people go up to the glass to watch the players skate, take pictures, and hold up signs. Just be courteous with the people around you and listen to the ushers.
- Try to be in your seat prior to the puck drops. The arena is usually opened 90 minutes before official start of the game (usually 7 PM). The warm-up skate happens about 45 minutes before the game starts, with a 15 minute period of time before the game starts properly. The time is displayed on RockVision (the big scoreboard over center ice) and it can be seen from the concourse with any view of the rink at any point of the arena. Just be mindful so you're not walking through 15 people to your seat during the national anthem.
- This is a seat at the Rock:
This is at the end of the row, the big number is what row number it is. The section number is on the wall behind the rows. The little number on the seat is what seat number it is. If you don't know where your seat is, please ask the usher, that's why they are there.
- Please don't step on the seats if you're planning to sit on them. Do I go into your home and step all over your couch? No.
Part 3. The National Anthem
- Show some respect. If you're not going to sing along with the anthem, then you better be quiet and take the hat off your head. This is not the time to yell "Let's Go Devils" or yell for Arlette when she's not singing the anthem or to talk to your friend or anything else. If you can't stay quiet for a minute for the anthem, perhaps you should consider not being out in public.
- Show some respect for both anthems. When the Devils play a Canadian-based team, the Canadian national anthem will come first. Jeering or yelling "You can keep it" at the verse about "God keep our land" is stupid. This is outright disrespectful and stupid considering that about half of the Devils (and the NHL) are Canadian. Again, if you can't be quiet for a minute or two for each anthem, consider not going.
Part 4. Conduct During the Game
- The most important rule is to support the Devils. It's OK to watch the game quietly, but don't sit on your hands the whole game. Make some noise! Join in some chants (here's a guide on chants). Applaud when the Devils made a good play and be jubilant when they score a goal. If you don't like what you see, feel free to groan about it.
- No bigotry. It reflects poorly on the speaker as well those who sit in silence in response. It is absolutely unacceptable. If someone else is being a bigot, then speak up.
- You're going to hear the Rangers Suck chant in nearly every home game. There are two growing opinions on the matter, feel free to make your choice.
- In favor the chant at every game: The Devils fans truly hate the Rangers and not completely unlike some teams' fanbases (e.g. Arsenal about their rivals Tottenham Hotspur), they are proud to say that they suck. The chants are loud, most of the arena does it, and they are good for atmosphere.
- Against the chant at every game: The Rangers Suck chant in games where the Devils aren't playing the Rangers is just stupid. Yes, Devils fans hate the Rangers (and the Flyers). Yet, to both numerous hardcore and casual fans, doing it makes you look like you're not paying attention to the game. Even if there's a dope in a Rangers jersey at the game by you, pay him/her no mind - don't give them the satisfaction of attention. There's no need to do it at every game. (Disclosure, I'm in the second camp: Doing it against, say, the Kings, is like fans yelling about how a famous hockey player, like, say, Denis Potvin, sucks - and he doesn't even play anymore. So unless you want to be like a Rangers fan I wouldn't recommend it.
- If you're feeling bold, you can try to whistle the tune. But you better know how to whistle the tune (or how to whistle in general) and when to yell it. Otherwise, the whole thing is just a failure and many fans will be disappointed in you.
- Some fans feel it's necessary to yell "SHOOT!" when the Devils have the puck on offense for a few seconds, usually at the point. Don't do this. Just because you think they should doesn't mean it's a good idea. And it usually isn't because when they do shoot, it gets blocked or deflects wide. There is nothing wrong with setting up a shot, especially on the power play where a set-up shot leads to more goals than just firing away, so appreciate what they're doing.
- Likewise, some fans feel it's necessary to yell "HIT THEM!" (or some variation of "GET THE PUCK") when the Devils are on defense. Don't do this. Often, defense is about positioning and reaction at the right time. Hitting can be effective but only when done properly. It's not all about crushing dudes.
- Generally, booing injuries isn't done. So don't do it. Do feel free to boo bad play by the Devils or a goal against or a horrible call by the ref. That's fine.
- Ushers will not allow people to go back to their seats until there is a stoppage in play. You may want to consider not leaving your seat until there is a stoppage in play so you're not standing up in front of the people behind you. Granted, if you have to, then by all means go ahead, but do it quickly.
- As the game goes on, some people may sit in empty seats they may not be theirs for one reason or another (e.g. wanting to sit next to someone). Be discreet about doing it, as in don't do it from the beginning of the game (or the first period) and if someone does come along with their ticket, then just be polite and leave. If you see someone doing this and if they aren't causing a problem, then just leave it alone. If they are being a problem, then go to the ushers.
- Be mindful of the crowd around you. If the crowd is cursing away, then fine. If they're heckling the opposition, then feel free to jump in. If you're around 232/233 or 208/209, expect to be amongst the rowdy and fun fans in those sections. If you're surrounded by kids and families, then you may want to watch the language. If others are telling you to shut up, then you should probably do so.
- To summarize all this, be respectful of your fellow fans and support the Devils. That's really it.
Part 5. The Hockey Game Itself
- Don't know the rules of the game? The Official NHL Rulebook is right here if you want exact details on what is and isn't allowed in the game.
- Don't know the basics of the game? The official site has a Hockey 101 section where they explain the very basic rules and basic terms commonly used in the sport.
- If you're watching your first hockey game, let me give you a tip that helped me figure out what's going on when I first started the game. Follow the play, not the puck. Yes, it's a black vulcanized rubber disk on ice with a white underlay; but it's small and is often among sticks and skates. If you follow the play first, then you'll have an easier time seeing why players move the way they do. After some time, you'll pick up on where the puck is in most situations as well.
- If you're still not sure, feel free to ask a question to someone sitting nearby.
Part 6. Dealing with Jerks
- Be nice. There's no need to stoop to their level. Sure, some smack talking will happen among opposition and Devils fans, but have a good humor about it.
- If they're being threatening or being a total pain, then go let an usher know. A fight isn't worth it at all no matter what you think. It will lead to your ejection and the fans around you calling you a body orifice (among other things). Let the very capable arena security handle the situation.
Part 7. Intermissions & End of the Game
- Generally, intermissions are where fans go to the bathroom, get some food, and such. After the first intermission, there's usually a "Mites on Ice" promotion where some youth hockey players play on the rink. After the second intermission, a "Super Score-O" contest where fans try to fire a puck from center ice through a hole at the front of the net. Cheer for the kids, but do feel free to boo the people in Score-O.
- Intermissions are usually 15-17 minutes long, so keep that in mind when you decide to wait on line for food or decide to go buy something so you don't miss any action. Players usually come back to the rink a minute before intermission ends. Since ushers won't let people back to their seats until there's a stoppage in play, I suggest trying to get back to your seat
- At the end of the game, the Three Stars of the Game are announced; and usually after a win, a player will come out on the ice for a short interview with Stan Fischler. Feel free to stay for that, but if you have to leave, then by all means. The arena empties out fairly quickly so it's not like you'll be waiting in a long line to leave.
Again, most of this may seem common sense and after one or two games, you'll be aware of what goes on. Generally, if you're not showing up in another team's jersey outside of the opposition, you're not being annoying or a jerk, and you show some respect around the people around you, then you may have all of this pretty much under control. Have fun and enjoy watching the Devils at the Rock.
[OK, that's a whole lot to take in and I'm already questioning the title, how I organized this, and whether I missed anything important. This is where you, the reader, come in. So let me know what you think was good, what was bad, what should be changed, and what should be added.]