Recently, the New Jersey Devils have a brand new website: True Since ‘82. I first found it through the Devils sub-reddit (yes, I don’t forget you, r/devils). It’s readily accessible through the Devils’ official website, under Tickets and through the link entitled 2017-18 Devils Membership. That link re-directs you to the True Since ‘82 website with a picture of Miles Wood from one of the retro jersey nights superimposed over a Devil wearing #25 from the old red, white, and green days.
Before jumping into the more important information at the site, let’s touch on that starting image. Andrew Gross previously reported that the uniforms aren’t changing. I’m hopeful that they won’t, but this image raises some doubts. It appears to be red, white, and black so it could be that any change may be to the shoulders and piping. We’ll see. As far as who Wood is superimposed on, I’m not sure. According to Hockey-Reference’s uniform number tracker, it could be Murray Brumwell (1983), Jeff Larmer (1983), Dave Lewis (1984-86), Perry Anderson (1987-89), Jim Thomson (1990), Troy Crowder (1990-91), or Valeri Zelepukin - who last wore #25 in the old style in 1991-92. Your guess is as good as mine.
But that’s not the important thing about the site. The important thing about it is that it has something that wasn’t on the Devils’ official website for the last few years: ticket prices.
Their Membership is analogous to season tickets. Purchasing a full season plan or smaller plan makes you a member. For the first time in a few seasons, you can actually see what that would exactly cost. This addresses one of my pet peeves with the New Jersey Devils organization for the last few seasons is that ticket prices have not been publicly available. I thought it was stupid, especially since it was clearly laid out on the site in the past. It’s like a supermarket not putting any prices on the food; how would you know what to buy? This isn’t something that has to be quoted or specially made. These are tickets to go see a hockey game. To that end, I am pleased to see that the Devils reverse course in that way and provide a seating map (although, it would have been great to list the sections by rows instead of a general high, medium, and low) and per-game prices by section.
Curiously, the per-game prices are just that: per-game. In past seasons when charts were available and in 2015-16 when a reader sent on a copy of the pricing chart, there were different prices by games - varying by opponent. The Devils have had tiered pricing for games for many years. They would charge more for home games against Our Hated Rivals than, for example, home games against Vancouver in December. That there’s no mention of different prices by games makes me wonder whether the team is getting rid of tiered pricing for 2017-18. I asked the question to a ticket representative, but I have not received any confirmation yet. It is possible that members will pay a flat fee per game while single game ticket prices would vary by opponent. It is also possible that the listed per-game price is an average and that tiered pricing is still occurring.
In any case, while I am pleased with the Devils making the sensible decision to publicly state their prices for members in various sections, I am not totally pleased with the prices themselves. I am a full season ticket holder and I renewed as early as I could. One of the perks for doing so was that my prices would be frozen for 2017-18. It didn’t dawn on me until I thought about it. If it’s a perk to freeze prices to last season’s rates, then it means the Devils likely raised ticket prices for members.
Without last season’s pricing information, I can’t say that prices as a whole have been raised. I can’t do a full comparison with every section to see what was raised and what was lowered. I can do it for my section, which is designated as the ‘D’ level for Lower Level Attack. For 2017-18, the per-game price is $68. My invoice for this coming season has an average per-game price of $61.23 assuming three preseason home games plus 41 regular season home games. For 2016-17, the average per-game price I paid was approximately $61.30. And just for further comparison, the 2015-16 average per-game price I paid was $60.69. Good thing I renewed early. Otherwise, I would have been paying an almost an additional $7 per game. Given that the Devils have missed the playoffs for five years in a row and were dreadful in this past season, paying more for tickets would seem like nonsense to most. I’m not like most; though, I don’t think the Devils should be focusing
Looking back at previous posts on this subject, I’m amazed that just eight years ago, the season ticket price for my section was $49 per game. The season prior was $60, similar to the prices I pay now. But the 2009-10 season was in a different time. After an economic downturn, teams like the Devils cut their prices in the hopes of retaining their current fans and bringing more in. It was also different in that the Devils were a very watchable team where the question for playoffs was “Who will they play?” instead of “Will they ever make it again.” A playoff-caliber team led by a winger who had a MVP season, an do-it-all ace in Elias, a goaltender with some gas left in his legendary tank, and a GM who aimed to keep the team competitive at all costs. There were lower prices, only sixteen sections to purchase tickets, and an expectation that there would be a playoff invoice coming. Now, the team is banking on nostalgia from the dark ages of the New Jersey Devils (it’s called True Since 82), ticket prices may have been increased further - they have been for my section, the arena seating map has been broken down further into sections despite being officially listed with a smaller capacity than it was in 2009-10, and the team is at its lowest point since the early 1980s. This doesn’t make a lot of sense to me.
What continues to not make sense is how the sections are structured on their map. For starters, the color scheme on the actual arena doesn’t entirely match-up with the tables. So it’s hard to determine if Row 16 in Section 1 costs as much as sitting in Row 20 in Section 2. The colors are the same, but the table only lists one price for the “high” part of the attacking end. Say what you want about the prices in 2015-16, but their seating map was easy to follow. Further, tor 2017-18, those members sitting towards where the Devils are attacking twice are paying more per game. The Devils were a 49.69% CF% team last season (that’s not good, by the way, it was ninth lowest in the league per Corsica); there was as much action in the other end of the rink. You tell me why a new member in Row 4 in Section 1 ($94 per game) has a more expensive per-game than someone sitting in Row 4 in Section 12 ($77.40 per game). Is being closer to the rare occurrence of the Devils scoring a goal worth that much more? Of course, this assumes I am correctly discerning the colors for each side - going back to the lack of clarity in the seating map.
It’s because of this lack of clarity that I struggle to make comparisons with even the ticket prices of two years ago. There were 19 sections then. Now there are 30. While some have gone away - there’s no more section for the second or third rows from the glass - it’s difficult to fully understand how much costs what. I made an attempt and threw up my hands trying to connect the Orange section average season ticket prices from 2015-16 (which definitely did have tiers) to the various shades for 2017-18.
The sad thing is that I can probably predict how the Rock will look in 2017-18. It’ll be largely the same as last season. While much will be made about how the club sections in the middle of the arena look empty, it’ll pale to the nearly empty 200 sections on the sides of the arena. (Also known as: Additional evidence against the prevailing notion that the “real fans” are in the cheap seats and those in the lower bowl or not at the game aren’t.) Or the large pockets of empty seats in the balcony sections or the lower level areas either due to a lack of sales or a failure by re-sellers to move their seats. Despite the additional sections and attempts to incentivize people to go to these other sections, there won’t be many gains in attendance or where people are. Not until a more talented, competitive, and generally better team is on the ice. Or if the sales management gets a clue and stops trying to raise prices for members who have been loyal through these tough times, or trying to confuse potential new members. Just because I’m a big enough sucker to continue to buy tickets - without an increase - doesn’t mean it’s a good idea to do so.
At least they made the next season’s prices for members available along with some kind of map. It’s a start.