I'm of the personal opinion that the Rangers fans in north/central Jersey phenomenon, at least among fans in their late 20s and younger, has to do with New York being (IMO) the most important city in the U.S. "New York" has a lot more cache associated with it than "New Jersey", and I'm guessing there are many people from north and central Jersey who psychologically think of themselves as being from the New York area rather than being from New Jersey. Having "New York" teams playing in New Jersey doesn't help matters in that regard IMO. Incidentally, I think that psychological association I mentioned above is also true in south Jersey with Philadelphia.
I kind of wish the Devils made a push into south jersey as well. I mean it IS still NJ, and though you can't really expect most of those people to go to games it's not really a good idea to just write off an entire region like that to the Flyers.
One of the tough things for the Devils in south Jersey is that the Flyers, more than any other major league pro sports team in Philadelphia, really have cultivated their ties with south Jersey. That connection predates the Devils coming to north Jersey. The Flyers have long had their practice facility in Voorhees, and many ex-Flyers, particularly from Broad Street Bullies era, settled in south Jersey during and/or after their playing careers.
I'm not too sure about that. NJ is a tricky area. I think on one end there is total disregard for state pride and NYC wannabes but on the other end, there is obnoxious, obsessive pride about NJ.
I'm originally from eastern Pennsylvania/Lehigh Valley (and admittedly like to make fun of New Jersey sometimes, but will also defend the state when people from not near New Jersey put it down), so my perspective is from a non-native, but I think the above is pretty accurate. My impression is that New Jersey natives either associate more with New York (north Jersey) or Philadelphia (south Jersey) than with the state itself, or they have unusually strong state pride, probably in part because of the ribbing it gets from nearby non-NJ natives, and probably in part because of the many people who think less in terms of New Jersey and more in terms of being from "the New York area" or "the Philadelphia area".
On a slightly related note to this discussion, I strongly believe Rutgers University would benefit from changing its name to New Jersey State University or the University of New Jersey. Such a name change would, IMO, strengthen New Jersey natives' association and connection with New Jersey relative to feeling connected to New York or Philadelphia. (Yes, I know having "New Jersey" in its name hasn't entirely solved that problem for the Devils, but I think that's because there are competing teams in the New York and Philadelphia areas. With college sports, no other school in the state would truly rival
Rutgers New Jersey State in popularity.)