"This crowd is humongous loud" (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
Devils fans, players, and management are all patting themselves on the back for their on-ice performance over the past month. The players are lauding the coaches; the coaches are happy with the players; and Lou Lamoriello has even called this team "special." The media around the NHL has finally noticed the change (a change we've noticed back in October) in the Devils strategy - no longer under the stigma of a passive "trap" forecheck but an aggressive, hard skating, disciplined hockey team.
I have to say - It feels great to be a Devils fans right now. They are back where they're supposed to be: Being one of the best teams in the National Hockey League.
It's been a while for the organization and us fans since the Devils have been in this situation. Things have changed since then from a standpoint of off-ice logistics. When the playoffs started, I was worried about certain aspects off the ice.
This playoff run has turned some no-so-good stories pertaining to these off the ice issues towards the lighter end of the tunnel. More hockey games at the Rock and exposure on cable and network television available to fans across the nation are extremely important to the Devils. This team is still in debt. They are still looking for another owner. The TV ratings for the regular season weren't that good. Attendance was average.
The playoffs have been a whole other story...
During the first round of the playoffs, the Devils and Panthers got snubbed to the NHL-Network. No big deal since fans in the local area would still get games on MSG+. Game 7 on MSG+ got a 1.7 in the local ratings - an 11-year high. It was the 5th most watch game on cable when the game joined in progress after Game 7 of the Rangers-Senators.
The conference semifinals saw even bigger numbers. No more games on MSG+ and no more Cango "Scars," the games were all on NBC-Sports Network except for game 1 (NBC). The 5-game series averages 1.67 million viewers. Locally, the Devils hit record numbers: a 2.37 rating for game 4 and a 2.36 rating for the series clincher. The series ranked 2nd, 3rd, 6th and 7th for most watched games on cable for this year's playoffs when the series ended.
Next round should see even bigger numbers, especially locally. If you can't get into the arena (which is becoming more difficult but we'll get to that) - the people are watching at home, at viewing parties and at bars.
This may not directly effect the Devils now, but perhaps these high local ratings will push the NHL and NBC to show more Devils games on cable next year.
Attendance and Fan Atmosphere
Of course all 5 home games so far in the first two rounds sold out, but this needs to be said. Of the 2 games I've attended (Game 3 and Game 6 of the 1st round) and the rest watched at home - I've never heard a more electric crowd at a Devils game. Seriously, the fan support, the moans, the boos, the cheers, the chants have been unbelievable. The players love it and feed off of the energy.
The Devils management and ticket sales department did a tremendous job of keeping opposing team's fans out of the Rock (looking at you Philly fans). The special emails I've received on pre-sale offers and discounted tickets is exactly what will attract common fans who think playoff games are hundreds of dollars.They've stated they want the arena to have an intimidating factor and it has.
Tickets for the conference finals went on sale already. You will have to try secondary markets. Take a look at this tidbit from Gulitti yesterday:
The Devils say individual game tickets for their home games in the Eastern Conference Finals sold out in fewer than 10 minutes.
Bauman's Chant, the "Kill" cry, the Diablos, the Crazies, and the horns will be rocking the Rock come next week. Keep up the good work everyone!
With 5 home games and at least 2 more on the way - the Devils are pulling in extra cash. For a team in either $80 or $20 million in debt (seriously who knows anymore) - the extra revenue generated will absolutely help them. It will not make the debt go magically away but it will help the organization refinance their debt and actually make a payment when the NHL season is over. Perhaps this extra money will come in handy when a certain captain is a free agent come July 1st.
There was an article back in 2006 or 2007 (still trying to find it) in which owner Jeff Vanderbeek stated a playoff game generates about $1 million in revenue. I'd say that figure has increased a bit. It's possible the Devils have made an extra $9 million already. I don't know if this includes parking revenue either; if not - that's even more money. This will do wonders.
Not only is the arena generating money, but the local economy in Newark is boosting as well. The city and Essex County are getting their share as well. This even changed Newark Mayor Cory Booker's opinion on the Devils.
To sum things up - not only are things boding well for the Devils on the ice, but this playoff run could silence and solve some major financial problems off the ice. I know you and I will be watching every second of the next 4+ games. But I have a challenge for all of you. If you are as passionate as I am about this team (and you are), this should be easy. Let's create more fans for this team in return for their performance the last month. A thank you to the organization if you will. The numbers are great, the atmosphere is great. Let's make them better. Get friends and family into the next series. This is an exciting hockey club to watch - they will enjoy it. Try and get to a game and scream your face off! Join in on chants and let's make this season a season in which no Devils fan will forget. I hope you accept my challenge.
Just a quick aside - I've been on hiatus for a while due to school and a music project I'm currently working on. With the semester over, I'm back. I want to publicly thank John, Kevin, Tom, and Matt E. for filling my void while I was gone. They all have lives just as or (more likely) more important than mine and I sincerely thank them for taking more time out of their schedules away from other things they do. It killed me not to contribute during such an exciting time and I thank you guys again.It's good to be back and writing again.