On Sunday, I went to the New Jersey Devils' preseason game against the Philadelphia Flyers. I was shocked by the state of the lower concourse and noted that along with a number of game presentation stages. On Monday night, I posted the pictures and wrote about it in this post. It got such a big reaction, even the team's CEO, Scott O'Neil, sent me an unsolicited email about it, so I know he's read it. But it was no simple message telling me about what is and is not "brand." (What is the Devils brand? I don't know and I spend a lot of my time and resources about the team.) When I went to the game on Thursday night, there were some changes made. I tweeted most of these that night, but in the interest of fairness, I will post those pictures and commentary here.
If you read Monday's post and came away with the notion that they're really just preparing for home opener on October 18. You would be right. To quote Lou, "When you have time, you use it." Well, they are. At the very least, they fixed the wall by Section 3.
You can see on the floor evidence of the work being done, so that was indeed the fixed wall. As I walked around the lower concourse - I arrived well before warm-ups - all walls were not damaged. I know it seems like a silly thing to praise for an arena. "Good job on not having any visibly-obvious damaged walls," is a strange sentence to type. But they didn't wait until October 18 to do it. It still would be a massive improvement if they didn't leave them all blank.
As for the other spots of the arena, there were these black signs near three spots. One is by the Devils Den behind the Ice Lounge. There was one in the alcove next to the only open Devils Den in the arena, calling it a Kids Zone. Seems fitting because apparently the Devils Den next door had only youth apparel. Here's a somewhat-blurry picture of that sign:
One day, I'll try to figure out focusing better with my phone. Nearby, in the corner with the awesome bench mural and hundreds of jersey hooks without jerseys, there was still the awesome bench mural and hundreds of jersey hooks without jerseys. However, there may be some hope of the youth and high school jerseys returning. Or something to go in that tucked-away area. There was this sign by it's opening:
I guess we'll find out on October 18.
Incidentally, Kevin Clarke made a clear pre-game announcement about The Rock being an entirely smoke-free facility. No e-cigarettes. No designated smoking area. No regular cigarettes. You could still buy cigars, though. Can't use them, but you can exchange money to obtain some. That kiosk was still up across from the Ford SUV that gets shown off. I tweeted that too.
Before I went to my seat, I noticed one other thing. There was a new trim around the City Grill area. It makes it look fresher. The draw is still going to be the actual food, but compared to the nothing around all of the other food areas, this makes it stand out a little more. I didn't notice it when I came in, but it came out at me when I came around the other end of the concourse. I was honestly more interested to see if the damaged wall was still by Section 3, so I wasn't paying too much attention.
The silver paneling you see on the side was also on the front of the overhang. It's at least better than a blank, white wall. I wouldn't be surprised if other parts of the lower concourse get this treatment. It would be a cosmetic improvment.
Speaking of changes, there were a few with the game itself. The biggest one was the soundsystem. It was much softer than Sunday's game. Maybe a bit too soft, but I'll take that over getting dominated by sound. There was also a new hostess. I'm guessing the organization is giving a game to each one, like a trial. The one on Thursday night was better than Sunday's if only because her voice wasn't so sharp. Kevin Clarke did most of the pregame announcements, which everyone heard because Kevin Clarke does his job well. N.J., the team's mascot, was more active in banging his drum-head around. The overhead camera view was not always turned on when the play went to the net. I don't think I heard Frankie Valli & the Four Seasons for every penalty against the Islanders. Just the stand-by of the Dragnet theme opening. Nothing against "Big Girls Don't Cry," I'm just tired of Jersey Boys in general and it's 2014, no one sings like that anymore.
Of course, the boards were tinted yellow. They looked like someone peed all over them. On TV and screen, the idea would be to super-impose other ad graphics. Thursday's game wasn't televised so I'm not sure how that trial really worked. That was reverted back to white boards for Saturday's game, as Tom Gulitti reported at Fire & Ice on Saturday.
There's still more to be done. As per the signs, the staff has until October 18 to get everything ready. The "Get Your Jersey On / Devils Army" graphics were still up in the corners. A hostess - not sure why this is necessary - still needs to be decided upon. The PA sound levels, camera work, and so forth need to be settled upon. But since I highlighted what I saw on Sunday and didn't think left a good first impression, it's only fair that they made some progress since then. Hopefully, the management remembers the larger lesson of being ready for all fans - including those that go to preseasons in the future - instead of leaving arena preparation to the regular season.
If you noticed anything else from Sunday's game, then please leave that or other opinions about The Rock in the comments. Expect a new Talking Red tonight at a minimum and reactions to any cuts later in the day. Thank you for reading.