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Final Thoughts On Devils' SituationToday @ 12:46 PM ET | Comments (7)

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (Apr. 28) -- Given the wildly defensive posture of those who support the New Jersey Devils, it's no wonder the team has an unfounded reputation for being one-dimentional. So, let's try for a final time to determine if people here can actually read and comprehend, without getting silly.

It boggles me why anyone would think these thoughts are aimed at fans who regularly attend Devils' games. Loyal fans here are no different than those who pay to watch hockey anywhere else. So, to tell me that you routinely drive to the Meadowlands to cheer on the Devils is fine. Keep doing it. The foundation of my argument is that your hockey club long-ago earned the right to have many more people join you at Continental Airlines Arena. If this were the Nashville Predators -- a good regular-season team with no playoff credentials -- the argument wouldn't fly. But, the Devils are the most proficient NHL outfit since 1995... a point I stressed in both of my previous columns. So, let's try and lose the notion that I'm disrespecting the hockey club. It has nothing to do with that and I'm surprised people who regularly don their red-and-black jerseys and make the often-difficult trek to the Meadowlands aren't screaming for the same thing I am...

*That hockey fans on the west side of the Hudson River -- who willingly battle traffic jams in the Lincoln and Holland Tunnels, or on the George Washington Bridge, to go into Manhattan for Rangers' games at the Garden -- should turn their attention to their "home" team, an organization that has been infinitely more competent than the Blueshirts in recent years.

*That there should NEVER be six or seven-thousand empty seats for a Devils' game in the second round of the playoffs. Don't you agree? Wouldn't you rather see the building full of hockey fanatics just like yourself? Haven't the Devils earned that right over the past 12 years? And, isn't it slightly demoralizing to you, as well, that rows and sections of seats are unoccupied in the post-season? That's all I'm saying. It's not a general commentary on "Devils Nation". Surely, there's a much-bigger following for the club than is evident at the arena. Instead, this is a strong appeal for fans of the Devils to get off their backsides; lose the excuse of trying to make it to the hard-to-reach arena, and join those who overcome the same obstacle on a regular basis.

Say what you will about the legion of hockey followers in Toronto. But, there isn't a weather or traffic dilemma that prevents these folks from packing the Air Canada Centre every single night of the season. And, don't give me spiel about the ACC being easier to reach by public transit. I am well-aware of the difficulties trying to get to the Meadowlands. It isn't always pleasant, but neither is it impossible. And, there are thousands of Maple Leaf ticket holders who drive to games in the cramped and tangled corridor of downtown Toronto. Trust me, my city doesn't move a whole lot faster than your's. The difference is that the Leafs have not come close to matching their fans' loyalty in recent years. The Devils, on the other hand, have given New Jersey hockey followers just about the best that any team possibly can over a period of more than a decade. The club is deserving of the small amount of "hardship" from hockey fans who otherwise choose to show support from a distance.

E-mail howard.berger@rci.rogers

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i agree that it is disappointing as a season ticket holder to see lots of empty seats at the arena. but the current state of the Devils is unique and cannot be compared to:

Toronto - where the Maple Leafs are the Yankees of Canada. They have a tradition that has been passed down through at least 3 if not more generations.

Nashville - a town with no other professional sport to speak of and a questionable hockey market to begin with.

The winning product should bring people in along with a sense of civic pride. But besides all of the oft mentioned reasons (or excuses depending on your point of view) (transportation, price, the arena itself) what is often left out is the nature of this area and the Devils themselves.

They are the last ones to the sports party that includes a list of Yankees, Mets, Giants, Jets, Rangers, Islanders, Nets, and Knicks. There are more entertainment options here (not just sports - everything else) than ANYWHERE in the world.

Right now, there are too many reasons NOT to go to a game than there are to go for most people. Newark will relieve a lot of those.

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