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New Jersey Devils Announce 21 Theme Nights for 2016-17 Season

Ahead of 2016-17 regular season, the New Jersey Devils sent out a release detailing 15 (with six more on their website) theme nights for their home schedule. This post lists all 21 theme nights with a quick opinion on each.

Pittsburgh Penguins v New Jersey Devils
The Prudential Center will see 21 theme nights of some sort for the New Jersey Devils’ 41-game home schedule in 2016-17.
Photo by Paul Bereswill/Getty Images

Occasionally, I will receive emails from the New Jersey Devils releasing information what the team plans to do from a marketing perspective. Today, I received one such release announcing the team’s theme nights ahead of the 2016-17 regular season. By my count, the release announced 15 of these out of their 41 home games. Seems pretty straight forward.

But if you go to the Devils’ site, there’s 6 more that weren’t mentioned at all in the release! And some of them being Theme Nights are stretching it a bit in my view. The release did say a complete list would be at the Devils site - but the Theme Night page is not complete. Five dates that were listed in the release are missing on the site, including Fan Appreciation Week, which is three games. Does that sound confusing to figure out? It absolutely was to me!

So rather than just copy and paste what the release says and/or tell you to go to the site (or complain about Devils PR since I’d like to continue getting these releases), I’ll list them all and offer a brief opinion on each in addition to when it is and who they will play that night.

#1 Opening Night - October 18 vs. Anaheim

What the release says:

The Devils kick off their regular season home schedule against the Anaheim Ducks on Tuesday, October 18 at 7 p.m. with Devils Opening Night presented by Prudential. The team will officially unveil its “One Jersey” campaign with Fan Fest starting at 4 p.m. on Championship Plaza, the Devils Red Carpet featuring player and coach arrivals, celebrities and New Jersey Olympians, and celebrations of New Jersey throughout the game. The first 10,000 fans in attendance will receive a limited edition “One Jersey” t-shirt.

What I think: This is a sensible thing to do. It’s the start of a new season and so it deserves additional fanfare. The team’s been pushing One Jersey as a tag line for the past month or so; the red carpet arrival seemed to work out; and a free t-shirt is always appreciated (assuming you’re one of the first 10,000). I don’t know if the game will sell out (it’s a Tuesday in October against Anaheim), but it should have a good crowd.

#2 Martin Brodeur “The Salute” Statue Dedication - October 22 vs. Minnesota

What the release says:

Four nights later, on Saturday, October 22, the Devils will immortalize goaltending legend Martin Brodeur with the dedication of his statue, “The Salute,” which was unveiled during his jersey retirement weekend in February. The special pregame ceremony will take place outside of the Lafayette Tower on the corner of Mulberry and Lafayette Streets. The first 10,000 fans in attendance will receive a limited edition Marty Brodeur lithograph presented by Prudential.

What I think: The statue is excellent and the masses love Martin Brodeur. A part of me wishes this could be done on December 9 when the Devils play the Blues since Brodeur may be present for it. Then again, a larger part of me is glad they’re not going to ask people to be outside for a statue on a Friday night in December. A Saturday night in October is more reasonable. However, doing it on a Saturday night early in the season should lead to a big crowd for it. And a free gift is a nice thing too provided you show up early enough. Hopefully the team announces a time for the dedication - hopefully not too much before the actual game time of 7 PM - and that the weather cooperates.

#3 Hockey Fights Cancer Night - October 28 vs. Chicago

What the release says:

Prudential Center and the New Jersey Devils will support the National Hockey League and NHL Players’ Association’s annual Cancer Awareness Month initiative, Hockey Fights Cancer, with a variety of pre-game, in-game and concourse activities throughout the evening to raise awareness and money for cancer research.

What I think: This is a traditional across the league. If I recall correctly, New Jersey’s first sell out last season was when Chicago visited. I would expect a Friday night against them will yield at least a big crowd given their star power. Which is a good night to have a charity-themed night. Go bring some extra dollars to donate if you go.

#4 Halloween - October 29 vs. Tampa Bay

What the release says:

Celebrate Halloween with costumes, trick-or-treating on the Prudential Center concourse and a spooky theme throughout the game. The first 9,000 fans in attendance will receive a set of Devils horns.

What I think: Well, the Devils won’t play on Halloween or the day before, so this would be the closest home date. It should be interesting how many actually come dressed up for this. Also: Why only 9,000 fans for horns when the other giveaways are for the first 10,000? Are horns prohibitively expensive? Surely not for the billionaire owners. Oh well.

#5 Military Appreciation Night - November 12 vs. Buffalo

What the release says:

The Devils will honor members of our Armed Forces with special recognition throughout the evening.

What I think: That’s it? Not that there can be a giveaway or something; and I’m all for appreciating those who have/will serve the country. But this description is a bit lacking. Surely they’ll have some charitable organizations present. I would expect the Devils to continue their Heroes of the Game spot at each home game. This would just have an extended version, I guess? And maybe offer some veteran groups to come? OK, then. By the way, this is on the only Saturday night home date of that month.

#6 Thanksgiving - November 25 vs. Detroit

This wasn’t in the release, but it is on the team’s website. It says:

Celebrate Thanksgiving with your Devils family as the team bookends the national holiday with one big matchup versus Detroit. Help those in need by donating coats for the Devils annual coat drive.

What I think: This isn’t so much a promotion for anything but to highlight the Devils’ annual coat drive. I highly recommend that you bring a coat to the game, it’s a good cause to support. Maybe this would have been more appropriate on November 23 when the Devils host Toronto rather than doing it on the day after Thanksgiving. But I get the logic for this one. The day after is usually a day off for most people and it’s a Friday night; both factors will likely draw a bigger crowd than the Wednesday night game. For a night that’s pretty much highlighted by a charitable event taking place at the arena, going with the bigger audience makes more sense.

#7 Pride Night - December 6 vs. Vancouver

Also not in the release, but it’s on the team’s website. It says:

Prudential Center and the Devils will join all of Newark as the city's residents celebrate Newark Gay Pride.

What I think: A Pride night is a great idea. I like that the Devils are doing it now. I wish it didn’t come on a Tuesday night against Vancouver in December for it. However, as with the Military, Firefighter, and Police Appreciation Nights, I wouldn’t expect much. So it goes.

#8 Star Wars Night - December 9 vs. St. Louis

What the release says:

The Force returns with a full Star Wars experience throughout the night with characters on site, theme music and in-game graphics, and special Star Wars Devils merchandise.

What I think: This was a big enough hit last year to do it again. I’m not a big Star Wars guy but there are enough fans to be into it. So be it. I do wish this was swapped with the statue dedication, but again, asking people to be outside on a Friday night in December isn’t likely to get a larger crowd.

#9 Andy Greene Bobblehead Night & Season’s Greeting - December 22 vs. Philadelphia

What the release says:

The first 10,000 fans in attendance will receive an Andy Greene bobblehead courtesy of RWJBarnabas as the Devils celebrate the holidays.

What I think: This will be a big hit. If I recall correctly, they were highly sought after last season when the Devils did it for Cory Schneider, Adam Henrique, and Mike Cammalleri. Greene’s the captain and has been the best defenseman for the franchise for several years now. A bobblehead for him is justified. Oh, it’s also the Christmas Holidays game. It should be festive looking. It is only marred by the image of the pylon orange of the opponent.

#10 New Year’s Celebration - December 31 vs. Washington

What the site - not the release - says:

Before you ring in the New Year, join the Devils for a celebration of 2016 and the year to come.

What I Think: I hardly think this counts as a theme day, Devils website. Given this is a Saturday game at 1 PM, why not make it a Kids’ Day? Especially since fireworks really can’t be done.

#11 Ring of Honor Night - January 6 vs. Toronto

What the release says:

The Devils will induct their first Ring of Honor recipient with a pregame ceremony. The first 10,000 fans in attendance will receive a commemorative inaugural Ring of Honor pin.

What I think: I believe Jeff Vanderbeek and his people wanted to do this. I’m very glad it’s happening now. I think the organization has had enough history to celebrate without falling into the 1994 Pit of Our Hated Rivals. With Toronto as the opponent, I’d be shocked if Lou Lamoriello isn’t the first one named. Only Dr. John McMullen may go ahead of him and even then, an argument could still be made that Lou should be first, this organization wouldn’t have nearly as much history as it does. I’d like to see where the actual Ring of Honor will go, how many people will be named to it per year, and what else they plan to do for the ceremony. All the same, I’m calling this Lou Night.

As for the timing, it’s actually great. It’s a Friday night after the holidays; it should draw a big crowd if not a sellout. That’s what the team should strive for for this theme night among all others.

#12 Firefighter Appreciation Night - January 7 vs. Edmonton

What the release says:

The Devils will salute New Jersey’s bravest throughout the game.

What I think: Like the Military Appreciation Night, this is kind of small. The Devils have and will honor first responders, firefighters, cops, etc. for their Heroes of the Game spot. Again, I guess this will be an extended one.

#13 Retro Night - January 26 vs. Washington

What the release says:

The Devils will celebrate the ‘80s and break out their retro jerseys for the first of two times this season.

What I think: I’ve never been a huge fan of the old red, white, and green jerseys. Their current jerseys are perfect as-is. But a lot of other fans like the look so it makes sense to do this every so often. With it being Retro Night, I suppose we’ll also get old graphics and old music (“Catch Fire” seems likely. Ditto that Yanni song and ”Running with the Devil” by Van Halen) too.

Now, it says here they’ll do this twice in 2016-17. The release does not mention when the second time is. However, if you guessed it’ll be around St. Patrick’s Day, then you’ll be right. The Devils’ website confirms that they’ll put them on March 16 when they play Philadelphia. (Devils are in Pittsburgh on the 17th, so maybe March 16 against Philly?). How it was missed in the release, I don’t know.

#14 Taylor Hall Bobblehead & Kids’ Day - February 12 vs. San Jose

What the release says:

Bring the family out for this early start with kids-themed activities throughout the game. The first 10,000 fans in attendance will receive a Taylor Hall bobblehead.

What I think: Having a day focused on the younger Devils fans is perfect for a Sunday afternoon game. That’s a good call by the team, it should boost the attendance against a Western Conference team that may not be a big draw in Newark (it certainly wasn’t last season). Combining it with another bobblehead giveaway will also help. That Taylor Hall is already getting a bobblehead is just another sign of how much the Devils think of him. You know, other than sticking him right on the top line, giving him prime minutes and teammates, and trading a defenseman of the future straight up for him.

#15 Valentine’s Day - February 14 vs. Colorado

What the site - also not the release - says:

The love for hockey is in the air. Treat that special someone to a Devils Valentine's experience.

What I think: Again, I hardly would count this as a theme night (day?) unless the team is planning to do something more for it.

Also, I’m not sure many couples would think that spending Valentine’s Day evening with a game against Colorado. Couples of serious Devils fans, sure. Most others (and including said fans), perhaps not. Whereas an afternoon crowd may show for New Year’s, I’m not confident this game will have a good crowd. I could be wrong, though.

#16 St. Patrick’s Day - March 16 vs. Philadelphia

Well, it’s not in the release. It’s on the Devils’ website. There’s more than just wearing the old jerseys, though:

The Devils will don their red and green retro sweaters for this traditional St. Patrick's Day game. First 9,000 fans to receive green Devils caps

What I think: It’s become a tradition of some sort, so why not continue it. Given it’ll be against a rival team, it should be a big crowd on its own. What I’m surprised is that only 9,000 will get hats. Again, are horns and hats so costly that 1,000 fewer people will get them compared to the other giveaways? And with many Philly fans coming up, will they break into that number? At least it’s something more than celebrating a popular day (it’s actually on the 17th, but the Devils are on the road that night) and wearing old jerseys. And the hats are usually pretty good. I like it, quantity aside.

#17 Kids’ Day - March 19 vs. Columbus

What the site - last one not on the release - says:

The Devils welcome the kids back for a second matinee this season with special activities and programming throughout the game. The first 5,000 kids 12 and under will receive a special giveaway.

What I Think: OK, I can get behind a second Kids’ day for a Sunday afternoon game. A giveaway specifically for the kids is also a good idea. Why wasn’t this in the release?

#18 Police Appreciation Night - March 25 vs. Carolina

What the release says:

The Devils will honor New Jersey’s men and women in blue throughout the game.

What I think: As with Military and Firefighter Appreciation Night, while it makes sense to include them, this isn’t much for a theme night. As with those other groups, offer some group deals to members of those organizations, show some extra clips of those who’ve done exceptional work, and that’s that, I guess.

#19, #20, and #21 Fan Appreciation Week - April 4 vs. Philadelphia, April 6 vs. Pittsburgh, and April 8 vs. Islanders

What the release says:

The Devils will close out the 2016-17 regular season home schedule with a three-game celebration of the fans with great prizes, giveaways and special appearances: 4/4 vs. Flyers @ 7 p.m., 4/6 vs. Penguins @ 7 p.m., 4/8 vs. Islanders @ 6 p.m.

What I think: Fan Appreciation is always important for any organization. Who else buys the tickets, parking/transit costs, overpriced food, and merchandise - all to support the team? I’m hopeful they really go big for these days if only because they include two local opponents and the defending Stanley Cup Champions. I would expect the Devils to be out of the postseason picture by this point, so good giveaways, prizes, etc. would help make the end of the season feel at least a little better for the fan.

So those are your 21 theme nights planned for the upcoming regular season. The season begins this Thursday in Florida and the first one is just over a week away. What do you think of these theme nights? Are you particularly excited for any one of them? What else do you think the Devils should do during the season? Do you miss any of them from last season? Do you think the Devils’ definition of theme nights is a bit stretched for some of these? Please leave your answers and other thoughts about the Devils’ theme nights in the comments. Thank you for reading.