This is an article based on what a New Jersey Devils season ticketholder told me after a recent conversation with their account manager via DM to me. This is my job to tell this person’s perspective. However, there is some stuff that is constructive criticism of how the season has gone, and how ownership is likely going to improve things.
I asked my rep three main questions and some general ones: 1. Get information regarding my membership benefits and replacement of ones I selected (was supposed to have photo ops with Dano in the old locker room and Marty outside at his statue) 2. What can they tell me about the vaccine mandate, how they are working with Ras Baraka on this, what actions are they taking for members who are not vaccinated 3. How can I be certain that ownership and management are serious about progressing the team forward and towards contention when they have been basically in the same situation for a decade 4.
Answers/information provided: 1. The NHL decided not to allow events like the few I chose or team autograph events to happen (I knew going into this). Dano, Marty, and the players are upset they cannot interact with the fans as they normally do and are actively trying to get the league to lighten up on the policy. They offered virtual events (TBA) as an alternative or upgraded seat location to club seats. They also offered me some platinum club event (not sure what the exact name is waiting on the email regarding that) before the game on Super Bowl Sunday.
2. The organization feels that the vaccine mandate and mask mandate will be lifted soon as the transition from pandemic to endemic status. I raised a concern regarding Ras Baraka extending the vaccine mandate again and was ensured that they had a meeting with ownership/management about this and they were told it was not an extension, but more of shifting it slightly to where they will revisit the idea of cancelling the vaccine mandate throughout Newark/at sporting events on February 16. The organization feels as if it will be lifted that day and that it will not be reinstated unless necessary (depends on outbreak/emergence of new variants).
Was also told they are working with STHs on a case by case basis regarding their situations, some details are given where they are buying back tickets and giving payment credit for next season depending on eligibility to enter the arena on a game by game basis (they also increased the limited buyback number to an uncapped number because of the uncertainty).
They said they would do the same in the event people renew, and a mandate in place next season, but they do not expect that to end up happening but acknowledged they have no power over that.
3. Started by saying that the team is not in a situation like previously where it was a revolving door of players being signed and then traded away for draft capital. They are past the point of tanking for a draft pick position or selling guys to obtain prospects and draft capital.
Management also has been given the green light for spending money on FAs like what happened with Dougie and they expect to continue to not only spend on players to the cap floor but to be a cap ceiling team.
They stated they still have cap flexibility with P.K. Subban’s contract coming off the books after this year and noted that locking up Jack and Nico long-term shows commitment and that we can expect Bratt to be locked up long term in the not-so-distant future.
Ownership and management also believe they have a young nucleus to build around and understand the current issues with the team (they stated goaltending and scoring). Having mentioned that injuries and Covid have made things worse particularly with goaltending, worded the team was on goalie #4 by game 4. No one could have predicted that Mac and Bernier would have gotten injured.
They had a meeting with the AGM about the play on the ice and the current state of the team recently, probably where the info came from regarding the things outlined above. I was informed that during the Arizona game Blitzer was so pissed off he stormed out of where he was and slammed the door. The owners (Joshua Harris & David Blitzer) are watching and aware of the poor play-on-ice product.
As for my personal opinion/story regarding everything: Hockey is my favourite sport to watch in person as a Devils buff I figured why not get season tickets and see how the experience is. The experience was very good 2019-2020 season but has been awful this year in part due to the pandemic. Season tickets are relatively affordable compared to other sports/teams in the local area. In general, it is a bad investment if you care about the monetary side because you can easily get tickets on resale currently for $1-$20 depending on the game and day of the week.
I expected the team to become better faster than they have and generally have reservations with renewing because of the current poor play (even if the roster on paper is better). Having agreed with all the offseason moves that were made and believe Fitz is doing a good job as general manager in the pro personnel area. Drafting is a mixed bag: some choices have been headscratchers, but others have been very good.
Coaching staff, wisely I think he is sticking with Lindy and company too long and made the wrong choice (even if this probably was not his 1st-3rd choice). I feel that by the beginning of next season if the team is still in the same situation he probably should be evaluated for his performance as GM by on-ice performance as opposed to on paper transactions because the play dictates the results and happiness of the fanbase. Normally, the team has to figure out the goaltending situation as it could be too late to draft a goalie to go with the young core that is in place.
Goaltending is far and away from the biggest weakness with the team, goal scoring is the second biggest problem (not that fans do not already know this). Vaccine mandate has me worried about re-upping season tickets as sometimes it is difficult to find people to bring to games but Devils organization has kind of quelled that.
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