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The Devils Are Bedeviled

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“Hey, what are you doing?! Watch where you’re driving, man! Don’t mess with the Devils, buddy. We’re number one, we beat anybody! We’re the Devils! The Devils!! Hssss!!!” — David Puddy, Seinfeld

They say — whoever “they” are — that if you build a winner they will come. It’s an oft-repeated mantra in sports and I suppose, without facts to back me up, this is true. If ghosts were able to show up in Kevin Costner’s backyard it is somewhat reasonable to accept the notion that if a franchise presents a winner fans will show up to support them.

Very few sports cities support their teams through thick and thin. If your town is one of those who do, pat yourself on the shoulder. That’s one way to measure whether a city is a sports town or not.

Some sports markets defy all logic. Enter the New Jersey Devils. Once lampooned as a “Mickey Mouse” franchise by Wayne Gretzky in 1984 after the Edmonton Oilers spanked the Devils 13-4, the Devils organization under the stewardship of Lou Lamoriello -– who hired Rick Pitino to coach Providence basketball — has been one of the most successful pro teams in North American sports.

But where art thou, O Jersey fans? The recent announced attendance against the Montreal Canadiens was 7,500. Now that’s just not right for a perennial contending team. It’s not as bad as the 330 or so people who showed up in 1987 after a snowstorm, but still, it’s pretty saucy for a team that has won three Stanley Cups and reached the finals four times since 1995. Not to mention compiling an impressive regular season .620 winning percentage in the process. The Devils have come a long way since those dark, dismal Disney days.

And don’t think for one minute this is luck. Sound management has been the bedrock of the Devils franchise. By focusing on U.S. born players and players from the collegiate ranks, Lamoriello borrowed a page from the old Montreal Canadiens’ playbook that once looked to French Canada for inspiration and talent.

Boring hockey? Perhaps. But just like the Patriots, they get the results. And these positive results must have Rangers fan teeming red with anger.

Hey, did you know that the franchise name “Devils” derives from the legend known as the Jersey Devil who said to have roamed the state since the 18th century?

Hmm. Maybe he’s not a myth after all. Something has to be keeping the fans away.

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About Alessandro Nicolo

  • http://nationalsportsreview.blogspot.com geeves

    well, unfortunately for the Devils, fans in general don’t want to watch boring hockey. The Devils created the dump and chase, neutrel zone trap crap that stalled the game and sent it into a lockout in the first place. and now the dirty bums are using it to win, since noone else is using it anymore – though the effectiveness of it is debatable considering their recent game results

    ~the biased opinion of a Pens fan

  • http://www.friendlymisanthropist.blogspot.com alessandro nicolo

    Ah, a Pens fan! Can’t say that I diasagree. But the Devils didn’t create per se in as much as they perfected it. The ‘trap’ has been around for decades. The Swedes mastered their own version of it too. But you’re right, the NHL was a grabage league prior to the lockout and the Devils were seen as the main culprits. Mind you coaches like Hitchcock played a part too.

  • Donnie Marler

    No idea about NJ, but I know the St. Louis Blues attendance is horrific as well.
    Even when the Blues were absolutely terrible, they drew fans. They’re struggling again, but the fans aren’t showing up at all.

    BTW, Mr. Devil fan! lol…I’m still weeping over Scott Stevens. That dude was so fun to watch!

  • http://www.friendlymisanthropist.blogspot.com alessandro nicolo

    St. Louis always supported the Blues. I guess they lost their patcience the last few years. St. Louis is one of the best sports towns.

  • Donnie Marler

    The new Busch Stadium is incredible!
    Gotta’ love that sea of red.
    I think even opposing teams love to play in St. Louis, just for the atmosphere.

  • Ty

    I know the Patriots play boring football, but Devils hockey is ridiculously boring on a much grander scale.

    I’m a sports freak and hockey is my favorite sport, but the neutral zone crap is the worst style in all the major sports (besides NBA baskebtall in general).

    You shouldn’t be surprised that nobody wants to watch the Devils.

  • http://www.friendlymisanthropist.blogspot.com alessandro nicolo

    Hello Ty, I’m not surprised the average fan hates Devils hockey but if you are a Devils fan and from NJ in particular it’s your team. You support it. They win. To me and my buddies there’s a certain brilliance to Devils hockey. Not everyone can play that system as well as they do. Boring? Perhaps. But this is a result driven world and the Devils get the results. You don’t get points for looking pretty. I love Oilers hockey from the 80s just as much as I love the Devils or the Patriots or any offensive football team. It’s the idea of being to convert on a philosophy and sticking with it that impresses me.

  • kiri

    Please, you didn’t know that there was a snowstorm on the night of the Canadiens game? I’m sure that if there hadn’t been reports of accidents, if major highways, including the turnpike, had been cleared, and if road conditions had been better, the typical 14,00-16,000 would have shown up for the game. Of course, it doesn’t help that the game was on valentine’s day, especially if your significant other has no interest in hockey. But there were certainly enough businesses and schools closed.

    That “something” that is keeping the fans away has nothing to do with the on-ice product; in fact, those who say the Devils are boring have bought into the idea that run and gun offence=good hockey. Fine if that works for you, but for people who know how to watch them, the Devils are very exciting. The other team who is playing the Devils? Well, the devils defence does tend to shut down the opposing team. Perhaps sour grapers find this boring?

    The difficulty in actually getting to an arena in the middle of a swamp with no mass transit and being in a market with several sports teams, including 2 other hockey teams, has far more to do with the average attendance than devils hockey. However, I would wager that if you actually go to the CAA, you’d find the arena respectably loud.

  • http://www.friendlymisanthropist.blogspot.com alessandro Nicolo

    Kiri, thanks for yout thoughts; but I suggest you read the article first. And if you did, with more care. I mentioned there was a snowstorm. Not sure if your second to last paragraph was lecturing, but your proving my point. My buddies and I like Devils hockey; it’s an acquired taste that’s all. I should have said that. There’s a certain flair and genious to Devils hockey; like Italian soccer or Patriots football people hate so much. Also, I have made clear my position on other posts that there is no true “right way” to play a sport. Just different intepretations and that as a sports fan we should enjoy them all.

  • NJD

    ya…the devils brought on the lockout, right…..try that joke rags franchise across the river and the “skys the limit payroll” for bringing it on.