Dear Mr. Vanderbeek:
Let me say how appreciative I am of you doing the Jersey Tour this summer, it really meant a lot to us fans to see you out there interacting with us. I also want to say how grateful I am of your efforts since becoming owner: the Rock, supporting the establishments around it, making the Trenton Titans into the Trenton Devils, your work with Newark youth hockey, Trenton and Albany playing in Atlantic City this year and the Thanksgiving weekend doubleheader with the Devils-Flyers and Colgate-Cornell. You've been great for this organization and Dr. McMullen would be very proud of you I feel.
However, I had to drive down to South Jersey today in order to quench my thirst since Devils' hockey has been away since April. This is because the preseason game was not on North Jersey television or radio. I know it's only a preseason game and I also drove down to flip between the Phillies and Braves game too, but for many Devil fans this is indicative of a bigger problem. I think your increased efforts at augmenting interest in hockey and the Devils in the state of New Jersey and its environs has been severly hampered by others' interests and it is something that cannot continue staus quo if the Devils are to remain a strong draw in Newark. The problems?
New York Media - In the New York Metro area - It's baseball, baseball, baseball. Derek Jeter is as close to royalty in this area as you'll get. And Yankees or Mets off-season developments usually will make the front pages of the Post, Daily News, and in many cases the Star Ledger and Record. Football rules the day otherwise in this area and since the Knicks and Nets have been so bad recently - the New York metro area is all baseball and football. Hockey gets ignored. This is not just a Devils' problem. It affects the Rangers and Islanders too.
No surprise right?
But the preseason opponent on Tuesday night, the Philadelphia Flyers, DO get that media coverage. It is true the Eagles rule the town as well as the Phillies (though for only the past 4 years), but the Philly Daily News, the Inquirer and the South Jersey papers like the Burlington County Times will still give the Flyers prominent front-page press, even when they're not that good.
In Philly, Cataldi, Morganti, Douglas and crew give all sports a chance on air, and they even have a former hockey player, Keith Jones on as a regular. For instance, Tuesday morning all of the talk was over the Michael Vick - Kevin Kolb QB controversy as the Phillies and Braves are locked in a series that will determine who wins the NL East and what do the hosts ALSO do? Give away Flyers tickets for tonights' Devils-Flyers game.
In the afternoon, Howard Eskin and Ike Reese take calls about hockey and acknowledge it enough to satisfy fans.
I appreciate the Devils' games now being broadcast on WFAN now, but when the Mets collide, the Devils are bumped to another station. When the games were on 770am in the past, it was the Yankees games. Where's the reciprosity besides a couple Devil giveaways on WFAN every now and then?
b) As for televsion - I drove down to South Jersey and face a long commute tomorrow, just so I could doubly watch the Phillies and Devils on TV, because in North Jersey - I couldn't do that. Many Devils fans will laud the regular season TV coverage, but there are some holes here too.
I like when you said:
"We are not North Jersey's team, we are not Central Jersey's team, and we are certainly not the team in the strip of land between New York and Philadelphia," said Vanderbeek. "This is New Jersey's team and we really need and want to embrace everybody from this state. We really want to expand our reaches
I'm wondering how the Devils can do this when:
1) Comcast controls South Jersey and getting the Devils on TV in the next logical counties (Burlington and Atlantic) is a trial in itself and
2) Outside of the NJ newspapers (all with declining cirulations) like the Ledger and Record, how can the Devils break into talk radio if hockey can't even do that? And how can we make it so fans KNOW where to find the Devils on TV when the Rangers and Islanders are also playing on the same night? I know we're a crowded market, but something has to be done.
Here's my idea.
New Jersey Network or NJN is (like the state itself) in dire financial woes. There's talk of privatizing it in order to make it viable. And many New Jerseyans will admit that they watch the New York or Philly local news instead of NJN. But if the Devils considered interest in purchasing (or partially doing so) the station, in one swoop, you could get Devils' games on TV throughout the state of New Jersey and on a channel that everyone with basic cable gets. That's covers your South Jersey TV dilemma. And it gives Devil fans in Central and North Jersey no channel changes and the consistency we've been asking for.
Pay the current announcers and production team the same salaries they made at MSG Network (We will need to have Doc & Chico afterall). If NJN is private or only quasi-private, then the sponsors will have to come and support the games and pre and post games. If Doc & Chico have contracts with MSG, investigate when these are up or try to buy them out. Then, have a Devils talk show for an hour after each game and keep up with a good pre-game. MSG Network does a good job with production, but we still sometimes feel like the last kid picked in gym class.
As for radio? Babysteps - but I'm sure a college radio station might be willing to lend its support for drive-home-for the game talks. If not, there's other independents out there.
I can hear the critics: MSG and WFAN are BIG stations with A LOT of power and going to NJN or a college radio station would be five steps back.
But that's what is at the table: Independence? Or playing fourth fiddle in a metro area that doesn't really care about the Devils in the bigger picture? What have the tangible gains been from being associated with WFAN and MSG? Has it lead to more exposure besides a long radio signal from 660am?
I don't need this done tonight, but let the conversation begin.
Thanks for taking my question,
PS - NJN will need to get HD if you do this . . . . or 3D.