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(Academic question) Devils Fans - Who do you think you are? No, really. Who are you?


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Hello,

Like many of us through these recent trying months, I've tried to take the time to ponder life's most important questions.  I fixate upon details and ideas that, up until now, I've had no opportunity or want to find an answer to.  However, now I'm committed to finding answers to these questions that always existed in the deepest corners of my mind.

The other morning, as I ruminated in the shower, I began to fixate on a question that's always bothered me - what is the geographic and demographic makeup of New Jersey Devils fans?

Well, I've got to tell you friends - I've scoured the internet, and just haven't been able to find an answer provided by the most important people.  The fans!  So, I'm reaching out to you today to learn more.

For context - I'm not a troll.  I have no true hockey rooting interests.  I grew up in the South Carolina, as I'm sure you know, isn't exactly a hotbed of hockey activity.  I'm just sports fan who legitimately wants to facilitate a dialogue to understand the culture of New Jersey devils fandom.

If you get this line of questioning often, please forgive me.  I'm not attempting to be cliche or open up past wounds.  However, given the Devils location and North Jersey's predisposition for rooting for NYC teams, I've always been supremely curious.

So, I'd hope you'd do me the pleasure of answering some of these questions - I realize there is the temptation to answer these questions with significant bias, but I'd really ask that you to be as honest and forthcoming as you can possibly be because I'd love to learn more.

 

Geographic makeup

What part of Jersey are most fans from?  Is there an area that sees heavy allegiance toward the devils over the Rangers or flyers?   Is there a clear line of demarcation(Township XYZ generally roots for the Devils, where township ABC roots for the Rangers)?

 

Cultural Impact

What's the level of awareness surrounding the Devils success/failure?  (e.g., when you go to work or school, is it discussed at the 'water cooler.') 

Media is obviously changing but, 15 years ago + what city's news stations/newspapers primarily covered the Devils over the Rangers/Islanders/Flyers.

Why the Devils?  Surely you had other options.  I'd imagine you may have had friends that are Rangers, Flyers, or even Islanders (?) fans.  Why?

Do the devils attempt to market themselves as a team for all of Jersey?  Does it work?

 

Newark

Is Newark any sort of epicenter of fandom?  Do people feel a connection to Newark, or is it just a convenient/logical place in North Jersey to play?

What's the game day atmosphere like around Prudential center.  Do people hang out at the bars around there?  Is it party-like?

Edited by Questions
typo
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I was born and raised in northern NJ - Jersey City (across the Hudson from Manhattan) and later to North Caldwell (a town neighboring where the Devils used to practice in this local rink called South Mountain Arena). I started playing hockey when I was 4 years old. Felt like a sport and culture where I belonged. Tried other sports and teams at that age and didn’t feel too welcome, no matter my skill level. Not a whole lot of minorities playing hockey but the little kids Devils hockey league specifically that I played in was more than welcoming and didn’t think twice about my background. I never questioned if I should root for the Rangers or Flyers. Being NJ born and raised meant being a Devils fan for life. I was born in 1986, starting playing hockey in 1991 and watching games on TV. started going to Devils games with my Dad around 1993 during the glory days of Scott Steven’s, Ken Daneyko, Scott Niedermayer, Bobby Holik, John McClain, Randy McKay, Patrick Elias, etc. Obviously watched them win the cup in 1995 and then again in 2000 and 2003. I remember staying up late to watch the Devils beat the Avalanche during that triple OT game the night before my biology final in high school. My mom started yelling at me to go to bed and when I told her what I was watching, she was totally cool with it.

The devils were a powerhouse tough team for awhile. Clearly things haven’t been going our way for awhile. One of the hardest things for me to watch was the Devils lose in the cup finals to the LA Kings in 2012. Particularly hard because I was in med school on the West Coast and I had to listen to my Cali-born buddies talk sh!t to me throughout the season. Yet when I asked them to name me one player on the Kings, those ass-hats couldn’t come up with a single one... like typical LA pretty-boy sports “fans.” Even as terribly as we’re doing recently, still have to be proud to be a NJ fan. I think part of it is because everyone sh!ts on NJ all the time. The entire country does in fact. Everyone thinks our state is a joke and is composed of 3 locations - the Jersey Shore, where the Sopranos live, and somewhere close to NYC. You can only really appreciate NJ if you’re from there. Same goes for being a Devils fan. And even if you’re from NY or Philly, you have to at least appreciate the Devils for the rivalries and amazing playoff series they’ve brought to the table in the past (and hopefully near future). I think the organization tries to market themselves as a statewide team. But we all know that if you’re from South Jersey you’re essentially living in an extension of Philly (and that goes for all sports teams). I did my residency training in South Jersey and everyone I met was a Philadelphia-everything fan. The Devils definitely appeal to the central/north Jersey crowd, but we still lose some fans to the Rangers.

in terms of Newark, the area is getting more cleaned up which makes it a good sport for an arena since it’s considered a major city in north Jersey. There aren’t too many places that have the space for an Arena like Newark that can draw in crowds. Driving around there is a pain but not nearly as bad as Manhattan. The trains to get to the Prudential center are pretty easy to use and take you right to the arena essentially.  I haven’t been to a game at the Rock in awhile since I moved to the Southwest for work (I’m an ER doctor). But a few years back I went to a Devils-Maple Leafs game with a few Canadian buddies of mine and we went drinking in some local bars ahead of time. Had no problems at all. 
 

I live in New Mexico now and am moving to Colorado in about a year closer to my wife’s family. I totally intend to go to some Avalanche games. But I still am and will always be a Devils fan. I still play beer league hockey to this day and I 100% rock the NJ devils alternative jerseys everytime I’m out there. Hope this helps bud. 

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Ill give my opinions just for fun.

Northern new jersey contains an unfortunate amount of Rangers fans (traitors), and the same goes for southern new jersey vis a vi Flyers fans. I am in north west new jersey (warren county) and we get a decent amount of contamination from both as I am close to the border with PA.

 

I work at a company of around 80 employees. I would say there are about 2-3 passionate devils fans like myself, and then another 5-10 casuals. There are about 5 flyers fans and 5 rangers fans.

 

None of the new york or philly newspapers give adequate coverage of the Devils. Maybe the star ledger is the best? But it's all far below what it should be imo.

 

I picked the Devils because I was born and raised in NJ and its the only professional sports team we have. Also its the closest arena to me and the most televised in my area.

Devils marketing is... interesting. I do think they have made the attempt you refer to but it has not been very successful. 

I feel no connection to newark and in fact dislike having to travel into Newark to see the games but the stories of how bad Newark is are vastly overblown... usually by fans of rival teams. The arena area is 100% fine. 

I am not great to speak to the atmosphere around the arena as I have never really hung out in that area. 

 

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4 hours ago, mfitz804 said:

I think @Colorado Rockies 1976can handle this, he is our resident essay writer! Maybe @SterioDesignas well.  

Ouch...hopefully in my case "resident essay writer" doesn't equate to "long-winded bore", heh heh.  

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17 minutes ago, Colorado Rockies 1976 said:

Ouch...hopefully in my case "resident essay writer" doesn't equate to "long-winded bore", heh heh.  

Quick non sequitur but I love your signature. I was at the same game with my father when I was 15 years old. He had 2 nosebleed seats and on our way in someone offered us 500 for each ticket... my dad turned to me and said "if you want to take the money ill let you keep the money for your ticket".

 

Thank god I said no. Probably my favorite memory of all time. 

Edited by T0asterleav1ns
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13 hours ago, Questions said:

Geographic makeup

What part of Jersey are most fans from?  Is there an area that sees heavy allegiance toward the devils over the Rangers or flyers?   Is there a clear line of demarcation(Township XYZ generally roots for the Devils, where township ABC roots for the Rangers)?

 

Cultural Impact

What's the level of awareness surrounding the Devils success/failure?  (e.g., when you go to work or school, is it discussed at the 'water cooler.') 

Media is obviously changing but, 15 years ago + what city's news stations/newspapers primarily covered the Devils over the Rangers/Islanders/Flyers.

Why the Devils?  Surely you had other options.  I'd imagine you may have had friends that are Rangers, Flyers, or even Islanders (?) fans.  Why?

Do the devils attempt to market themselves as a team for all of Jersey?  Does it work?

 

Newark

Is Newark any sort of epicenter of fandom?  Do people feel a connection to Newark, or is it just a convenient/logical place in North Jersey to play?

What's the game day atmosphere like around Prudential center.  Do people hang out at the bars around there?  Is it party-like?

Geographic:  Based on my experience, we're kind of scattered about the northern half of the state (South Jersey is definitely more Flyer country, and more Philly-centric in general).  I don't know if there's any one area that's especially Devils-focused.  Among my own crowd, there's a mix of Devils and Rangers fans, and the Ranger fanbase (due to being multi-generational) still has a hell of foothold in NJ.  I've mentioned this here before, but I have a hell of a time selling hockey on those who root for other sports, but just can't get to seem to get into hockey.  I've even paid to take such friends to games...they say "Oh, that was cool", but then never get hooked.  

Cultural Impact:  I tend to discuss hockey with other fellow hardcore-types, but in general, sadly, I find most people just don't care all that much.  Through the years, Devils have been covered by SportsChannel, S+, MSG and MSG+, and other outfits...used to read the Star Ledger and the NYP for most of my local coverage.  The longtime beat writer who covered the Devils for the NYP was a gent named Mark (N)Єverson.  He was kind of a joke, but was clearly covering the Devils knowing that Ranger fans were likely going to be reading his articles...basically wrote with an (often needlessly negative) schtick.  We weren't too fond of him here, but then again, he won simply by having us talk about him as much as we did.  I became a Devils fan simply because, at 13 back in 1983, my parents took me and my bro to a game against the Flyers.  Devils lost 8-2, but from that point on, I was a Devils fan.  Didn't get to see them a whole lot until my dad caved in and was willing to pay the cable bill to have them on TV...when I got my driver's license in 1987, I started driving myself to games.  I went to Montclair State in the fall of 1988, and suddenly I was hell of a lot closer, so I started going to as many games as my meager college budget will allow.  Devils were a trainwreck when it came to marketing for many years (especially when McMullen and Lamoriello were around...they saw the franchise have a lot of success for a while, but neither was particularly warm and fuzzy).  The Devils have gotten much better in this regard (making the building more fan-friendly, allowing more access to players, etc).  

Newark:  I was born there (not raised there)...outside of that fact and the Devils playing there, I feel zero connection to it.  Love it in that I live near 78, so The Rock is very easy for me to get to...I live in Annandale and can get home from a game in 45 minutes most of the time.  I rarely do the local bars and restaurants...usually go to game with my daughter (now 12).  The rare times I've gone to the bars, it's been a pretty lively scene.

 

There ends this essay!  

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28 minutes ago, SterioDesign said:

I've been told many times here that I have no say or have the right to have an opinion about the Devils - Rangers rivalry because I'm not from NJ. So i'll pass on this opportunity

I guess they would be kind of out of your wheelhouse if you aren’t local. I mean I’m 20 minutes away and I don’t think I am qualified to comment on the culture of Newark, other then it’s a good place to get stabbed at night. 

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Born and raised in Middlesex County, NJ. Family dating back to 1765 in CENTRAL JERSEY. Anyway, married a Rangers Fan, she was raised in Bergen County. Never saw much of the Devils till 1994 playoffs. It was eye opening, and fell in love. Finally got cable in 1997 or so. Insisted on getting a partial season plan 1999 over spouses objection. Still married, but we see about 120 games Devils and Rangers, a year on cable. 

To summarize, the Devils did not exist, as far as mass media were concerned. The NYR were on free TV for 40 years, developing a fan base. A steep uphill climb for a team trying to steal fans from Philadelphia and NYC markets.

But, I am a Jersey guy. Go Devils!

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Most Devils fans are in North Jersey -- Bergen, Passaic, Hudson, Morris, Sussex, Essex and Union counties. I would say that the northern Shore area has a good number of Devils fans and Central Jersey, too. I'm not sure if there's any particular area where Ranger fans are outnumbered, but anecdotally, I would say that Morris and Sussex counties seem to be Devil country. The same might go for some Central Jersey locales in Somerset and Hunterdon counties.

I'm from Bergen County and currently live in Passaic County, and there a ton of Ranger fans here. Devils fans, too, of course, but I think we might be outnumbered! When the Devils are good, things get better for us, and things have not been great for the last 8 years.

I've worked for 20 years at the same job in Secaucus, NJ. At work, the hardcore hockey fans find each other. But there are more sports fans who don't care about hockey than Ranger fans and Devils fans put together! 

Hockey talk on the sports radio stations has always been hard to come by, even when the Devils were really good. The Rangers will get some attention if they are good -- but not a whole lot. The 1994 Eastern Conference Finals between the Rangers and the Devils was an event that received huge media attention and is still talked about by people who remember the series, but that was a very special event because of the Rangers' Cup drought and because of how extraordinary that series was.

I graduated from high school in 1988, when the Devils made their first playoff run, but I wasn't a fan then. I became a hockey fan in college when my friend (who is my best friend until this day) got Hartford Whaler tickets and we went to a game at the Hartford Civic Center. I got hooked, and when I moved back to New Jersey in 1994, I got caught up in the Devils great season and started to root for them. What a season that was. I worked as a waiter at a country club then, and one of the guests at a Christmas party in late 1994 was a very young Martin Brodeur. The Ranger fans gave him a rough time! I got to meet him, which was pretty cool. 

I think the Devils have marketed themselves pretty well as New Jersey's team. They have done particularly well at forming ties with youth hockey, including the high schools.

Newark is not a great place for the Devils. Although it is a city, which in some ways makes it an upgrade over the Meadowlands in Bergen County (better public transportation most of all), it is a city that white people abandoned a long time ago. It's a place I want to get in and out of quickly. There are a handful of bars and restaurants near the arena on game days and they are too crowded for my liking (they are definitely lively!). These places would have been appealing to me 25 years ago, but now I am a middle-aged man with kids, not a 20-something! 

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28 minutes ago, Jerrydevil said:

There are a handful of bars and restaurants near the arena on game days and they are too crowded for my liking (they are definitely lively!). These places would have been appealing to me 25 years ago, but now I am a middle-aged man with kids, not a 20-something! 

Have you checked out any restaurants in the Ironbound section? They aren't as jam packed and the food and prices are better too.

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1 hour ago, Satans Hockey said:

Have you checked out any restaurants in the Ironbound section? They aren't as jam packed and the food and prices are better too.

Yes, as a matter of fact I took my son to to Fernandes Steakhouse after his soccer game in the Ironbound last year, and it was great. Can we move the arena to the Ironbound? :D
It's not a bad idea to eat there before games as it's not too far away. Thanks for the suggestion.

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6 hours ago, Jerrydevil said:

Yes, as a matter of fact I took my son to to Fernandes Steakhouse after his soccer game in the Ironbound last year, and it was great. Can we move the arena to the Ironbound? :D
It's not a bad idea to eat there before games as it's not too far away. Thanks for the suggestion.

Man, I need a nap after eating at Fernandes.  My grandparents and my father are Portuguese immigrants who lived in the Ironbound for some time so I'm rather familiar with the restaurants there, and it is hands down the best place to grab a meal in the area (obviously bias).  It's not bar food, for that I would say Hells Kitchen but that place has been on a steady decline since the previous owner left.  I still go because it's better than spending arena prices at Edison, Redds, etc.

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