Monday, December 29, 2008

Playing Below Capacity: New Jersey Devils

Alright, I've been promising to start looking at the 9 teams playing below 85%, so I'll start with the New Jersey Devils. Who, actually, are now playing at 85.7 %. But anyways, I'll try to take a stab at what the Devils problem is*.

*Warning: Please remember that I'm a young college kid who really doesn't know what he's talking about. Any "problems" that I suggest the Devils have are my opinion and are most likely not that accurate. Also, any information I used can easily be found on the Internet as I am a typical lazy college kid. With that said, enjoy.

So after sitting here for about 30 minutes, here are the ideas I came up with that could be problems with getting people to go to Devils game on a regular basis...
  • Arena Location/Age
  • High Ticket Prices/Poor Promotional Events
  • City Population
  • Financial Issues in Newark, NJ (location of Arena)
  • On Ice Product
  • Location/History of Franchise
So before we dive in, lets get some things straight about the New Jersey Devils (all information taken from their wikipedia page, click here).
  • The Devils were formerly the Kansas City Scouts and the Colorado Rockies before moving to New Jersey in 1982.
  • The Devils have made the playoffs in 18 of their last 20 seasons, including each of their last 11, winning the Stanley Cup in 1995, 2000, and 2003.
  • The Devils played at the Continental Airlines Arena in East Rutherford, New Jersey, from 1982 until 2007, when they moved to their current location, the Prudential Center, which opened for the 2007-2008 NHL Season. The Devils are the main tenant at "The Rock"
  • The Prudential Center Capacity for Ice Hockey is said to be 17,625. (Wikipedia)
With all that said, lets do this.

- First up: Arena Location/Age:

Being a brand new facility and only a year of use under its belt, clearly the Prudential Center's age isn't an issue. More importantly, is the arena's location. Since moving to Newark and the Prudential Center, the franchise has enjoyed an average spectators per-game boost the last two years of nearly 1,000 fans (sorted by home average). Many franchises would love to have an arena of this caliber, so I don't think this is the problem.

- High Ticket Prices/Poor Promotional Events

According to, the Devils average ticket price is down 15.7 % this year to $57.15 from $64.17 in 2007-2008. Their average Premium ticket price is down as well, from $124.00 in 07-08 to $104.92 this season. OK, that's a good start, but there is always a but...

The problem is that the average ticket price has been rising for years, up to $49.66 this season, which is up 5.1% from $48.72 in 07/08. Along with this, the average Premium ticket price is up to $113.44 this season from $112.10 in 07/08. So, as you can tell, the Devils are about 10$ above the average ticket price, but are below the average premium ticket price? To me, this somewhat indicates that the Devils might be ignoring their casual fans, which would not be a good thing for a franchise that struggles to fill its building. ranks its NHL list by what the call the Fan Cost Index. It's basically the cost of a group of four people to go to a single game for each particular team. The FCI:
comprises the prices of four (4) average-price tickets, two (2) small draft beers, four (4) small soft drinks, four (4) regular-size hot dogs, parking for one (1) car, two (2) game programs and two (2) least-expensive, adult-size adjustable caps.
This year, the Devils rank 5th highest in FCI, which means the group of four drops around $339.60 at a single game. That means each person in the group, if split evenly, spends around $85. Would you be willing to drop almost $100 dollars a weekend? For most, probably not. The only positive thing about this is that the Devils FCI is down 10.7 % from 07/08 when it was at $365.67.

So basically, after all is said and done about tickets, the Devils have above-average ticket prices. For the casual fan looking to go to a Devil's game, I would venture to say that they would go to a game once, maybe twice a year. This is all without promotional events and deals, though.

The Devils seem to have a promotional event two to four times per month, but many of the events repeat themselves. Events like College Night and 1 $ Hot Dogs can only be attracting so many fans (although if I was in a major city with college night, I'd be there). The Devils also offer their own Holiday Pack, where they discount certain seats at about $55 per ticket. It doesn't seem like NJ is doing anything special here.

- City Population

According to, Newark, NJ, has a population of 281,402 as of March 10th, 2008. This puts Newark at number 26 on the city population list for NHL cities. But as Ottawa Sports Guy shows us, the New York Metro area is first in the league in terms of population with 18.7 Million, which equals 6.2 million per team (As of October '06).

Newark to me is just large enough to support a franchise. I put the bar at Buffalo, who is right behind the Devils at 27. And obviously, as the Ottawa Sports Guy pointed out, Newark is within the New York Metro area, and has enough people to reach out too.

- Financial Issues of Newark

Obviously, everyone these days can say they are hurting due to the general economy. But according to a graph on wikipedia as of 2003 on the Newark, NJ page, 25 % of all families are below the poverty level. Along with this, the median income for a family was 30,781 in 2003. This is well below the average income of hockey fans, which stands at 88,000 according to Forbes.

- On Ice Product

With three cups in the past decade, all NHL teams would kill for that kind of success lately. Although their style of play has been criticized by many, even to the point of "killing the game," you cannot deny their cup victories. Long story short, I don't think Devils fans are not very upset for winning games and cups.

- Location/History of Franchise

Unless I'm missing something, New Jersey isn't much of a hockey state. There are roots of high school hockey and junior hockey, but nothing too impressive in the likes of New York or Minnesota.

Although I think New Jersey could do more, it seems as though they have found a home with over 15 years of tenancy. A brand new arena doesn't hurt either.


The New Jersey Devils are far from trouble, it seems. According to Forbes, they are the 10th most valuable team in the league, and have an operating income of 1.9 Million. Although they also have some major debt, their new arena will eat a lot of that up very soon.

So what can the Devils do? Well I think their marketing team just needs a makeover. They need to attract more fans from across the Hudson however they can. They also need to reach out to the rest of their state. How to do this? I'm not exactly sure. A start would be to look at their above-average ticket prices. The Devils aren't going anywhere, that's for sure. All we can hope for is that they keep growing as a franchise.

So there is one of the nine teams playing below 85% capacity. I will look it over and see what I can improve on for next time. Thanks for reading and please comment.

1 comment:

  1. college student or not, this is some very comprehensive stuff. Much more in depth than many "professional" reporters twice your age. Well done.