Earlier today, the New Jersey Devils announced on their official website their Theme Nights for the upcoming 2018-19 regular season. The Devils were rather successful with their Theme Nights last season. In fact, they “officially sold out” all but two of them. What do the Devils have lined up for this season? Let’s take a closer look.
First, the announcement takes the reader to the Devils’ ticket section for single-game purchase. You cannot buy tickets to a single game yet, but you can try to buy parking. If you’re a Devils Member, you get the first crack at them on September 4, American Express card owners get a presale on the fifth, and everyone can go get them starting next week on September 6. It would have been nice to have a separate list; but it does make sense to show off the games - that no one can buy just yet.
Second, the Theme Nights involve both giveaways and actual nights. 19 of their 40 games in Newark, New Jersey for this coming season will feature one of these Theme Nights. Many are returning from last season, some are brand new, and one is a blast from a somewhat-distant past. While ten are in the 2018 portion of the season and nine are in the 2019 portion, and it is a bit heavier in the beginning of the season. Out of the six home games in New Jersey, five of them have a Theme Night. Out of the four home games in November, three of them have Theme Nights. After those first two months, fewer than half of home games per month have some promo going on. It appears the Devils are trying to use these events to help boost attendance at the start of the season in the face of football. We’ll see if that works out.
The 2018-19 Theme Nights
1. The Home Opener - Thursday, October 11, 2018 against Washington
The team’s actual season home opener will be on October 6 in Stockholm, Sweden. Their home game against the Fightin’ McDavids of Edmonton will be there. So the team’s first appearance at the Rock will be against an opponent they didn’t sell out against last season on a weeknight. They’ll still do the red carpet opening. They’ll still have a Fan Fest, likely at Championship Plaza. Will as many turn out on a Thursday night? We’ll see.
This night also has a giveaway; the first of five Theme Nights which has a giveaway along with the actual theme. Per the site, everyone is getting a “Now We Rise” bam bam that lights up. What is a bam bam? It’s like a Thunderstick. What is “Now We Rise?” Probably the team’s slogan for the 2018-19 season. Will they actually rise? I hope so!
2. Devils Schedule Magnet Giveaway - Tuesday, October 16, 2018 against Dallas
Everyone at this game is getting a magnet of the team’s schedule. Useful? Yes. Necessary? In a day and age where schedules are easily accessed, maybe not? At least it is not limited to the first 9,000 fans like other giveaways. Will this draw extra people? Probably not. It’s just a magnet.
3. WWE Night - Thursday, October 18, 2018 against Colorado
The WWE will return for the second straight season for a promotional theme night. Last season’s WWE Night was a lot of fun against Calgary. I am happy to see this one returning. As far as the timing, I know they are sort of in the area around then. They’re having RAW in Philly on October 15 and they do have a major show, Evolution, in Uniondale, NY on October 26 to promote. All the same, I think it will be a blast.
4. $1 Hot Dog Night - Thursday, October 25, 2018 against Nashville
Yes, the Devils are bringing this back. In the first few seasons at the Rock, $1 Hot Dog Nights were a thing. They even happened a couple times each season. My take on them is, well, they’re $1 Hot Dogs for a reason. Like the magnet, it’s not much of a theme. But if you love hot dogs and not spending a lot of money on them, well, then this night is for you.
5. Taylor Hall Hart Trophy Poster Giveaway - Saturday, October 27, 2018 against Florida
Yes, a giveaway on a Saturday afternoon game! And it’s one that should be rather popular. The Devils’ only Hart Trophy winner ever will have a poster commemorating the event. Unfortunately, this will be limited to the first 9,000 fans. Hopefully, the Devils will have copies to sell those who are not among the first 9,000 in the arena that day. In a perfect world, this would have been on a Devils-Oilers game, but again, that game for this season will not even be in North America.
I won’t keep you in too much suspense. There are no bobbleheads of players set to be given away this season. People loved the bobbleheads; but I guess you can only go to that well so often. Posters are the way the Devils are going with two exceptions. I’ll get to those later.
6. Martin Brodeur Hockey Hall of Fame Poster Giveaway - Tuesday, November 13, 2018 against Pittsburgh
People are happy Brodeur is back with the organization. People are also happy that Brodeur is a first-ballot Hall of Fame player. Only the first 9,000 will get a free poster. The actual induction ceremony runs from November 9 through November 12, so this is the first home game after Brodeur is officially in the hall. It would be nice if the newest Executive Vice President of Business Development makes an appearance. Again, it would also be nice if the Devils will have additional posters to sell to those who are not the first 9,000.
7. Military Appreciation Day - Saturday, November 17, 2018 against Detroit
It’s called Military Appreciation Night on the site, but it’s a 1 PM start time. It’s a day. Anyway, this is another returning theme. The Devils have been consistent with honoring former and currently active members serving for the country for years. They will continue with this. Additionally, the first 9,000 people in attendance will get a free Devils military cap.
8. Hockey Fights Cancer Night - Friday, November 23, 2018 against NY Isles
This game starts at 4 PM but it’ll at least be dark outside by the time the game is over, so sure, let’s call it a night. More seriously, this is a league-wide promotion and, like last season, it is around Thanksgiving. Last season was memorable for Brian Boyle - especially since he scored a sweet goal that night. Maybe we’ll see something like it again.
9. Brian Boyle Masterton Trophy Poster Giveaway - Monday, December 3, 2018 against Tampa Bay
Hall was not the only trophy winner from last season. For battling leukemia throughout playing last season, Boyle won the Masterton Trophy. Therefore, he is also getting a poster and the first 9,000 to attend will get it for free. I suspect more will want a poster, so I hope the Devils have extra to at least sell.
10. Kids Day - Saturday, December 29, 2018 against Carolina
The Devils will have plenty of weekend matinee games on the 2018-19 home schedule. My experience is that plenty of families show up to these games. So it makes sense there is a day all about the kids. Per the site, there will be activities involving them in the production, although it doesn’t seem to be set whether there will be at least one kid PA announcement or a kid hanging with Matt Loughlin on radio (why not mention Chico, promo writer?). This is a 1 PM start on a weekend amid the holidays, so the timing works. The involvement of kids could be interesting.
11. 80s Night - Thursday, January 10, 2019 against Toronto
Time to go back to the nostalgia well with an 80s Night. Expect graphics, that “On Fire” song, and hopefully a cover band that is not bad. I would be surprised if the Devils did not wear their 1980s style white jerseys for this game. There is an actual giveaway associated with this game. The first 9,000 fans will get a, quote, “a special 80s themed bobble.” What could that mean? Will it be a name player? A generic player in a 1980s uniform? The mascot dressed up as if it was the 1980s? Who knows?
12. Firefighter Appreciation Night - Saturday, January 12, 2019 against Philadelphia
This is a theme night where firefighters will be appreciated. That’s it. No giveaway. Nothing really special mentioned. It’s just a theme. Kind of like last season with it.
13. Law Enforcement Appreciation Night - Saturday, February 9, 2019 against Minnesota
See: Firefighter Appreciation Night but replace firefighters with cops. Also returning from last season. Eh.
14. Go Red - Sunday, February 10, 2019 against Carolina
This is a new one. In association with RWJBarnabas Health (they sponsor the practice rink) and the American Health Association, the Devils are promoting heart health and the “Go Red for Women” initiative. The ask is that fans wear their best red. Well, that should be easy. The Devils look their best in red. Still, it’s a theme for outreach and heart health is always something worth reaching out for. I think it’s a good idea.
15. New Jersey Hockey Celebration - Sunday, February 17, 2019 against Buffalo
This is also a new theme for this season. The Devils are going to highlight the local hockey communities throughout the state. In the past, the Devils have highlighted high school hockey teams and other youth teams that performed in tournaments here and there. I don’t think there was a whole night for it. This is in conjunction with Hockey Weekend Across America weekend, which I think is also a league-wide effort. I think outreach to NJ hockey is always a good thing.
But that’s not all. Every fan in attendance will receive some Devils socks. Yes, socks. I do not understand why socks are being given away on this day. Or any other. But, hey, it’s free.
16. 90s Night - Tuesday, February 19, 2019 against Pittsburgh
Another returning theme of nostalgia that continues to make me feel older. But, hey, the Devils were successful in the 1990s. It’s the decade where Stevens became a captain, Niedermayer and Brodeur emerged as Hall of Fame players, Lou and Jacques Lemaire helped create a team identity, cult heroes were made, and the first of three championships were won. I’m not a huge of fan nostalgia, but given the choice, I’ll take the 90s Devils over the 80s Devils every day of the week and twice on Tuesday. I’m going to feel really old in a few years when we start seeing 2000s Nights on the schedule. Anyway, the theme night should be like the 80s, I hope the likely-to-be-there cover band is not crummy.
Also like 80s Night, there will be a bobble head given away to the first 9,000 fans and it will be 90s themed. No, I could not tell you what that actually means.
17. Pride Night - Monday, February 25, 2019 against Montreal
In my post about 2017-18 Theme Nights, Pride Night was one of the two that did not have an official sell out. It was their second one and it appeared that the Devils scheduled a more favorable situation for Pride to do well in attendance. A Thursday night. A game in early February. A game against the Second Rate Rivals. The Devils and said opponent actually being playoff-caliber teams. While the 2018 version improved over the first attempt in 2017, it was by a whopping 636 people. I thought the Devils would do even more, like put it on weekend or associate it with a giveaway. Nope! The Devils decided to go back to a Monday night in late February against Montreal - the exact set-up for their first Pride Night in 2017. Hopefully, the 2018-19 Devils will be a better enough team to warrant more attention than the awful 2016-17 squad.
18. Upper Deck Card Set Giveaway - Saturday, March 23, 2019 against Arizona
Want six free cards? Well, be one of the first 9,000 people for a Devils-Arizona game in mid-late March. Like the magnet, it is not much of a giveaway. It’s something.
19. Fan Appreciation Night - Saturday, March 30, 2019 against St. Louis
Traditionally, the Devils have their Fan Appreciation Night on their final home game of the season. For 2018-19, that is a Monday night game against Our Hated Rivals. So rather than stick a theme night on a night where there could be a lot of blue-clad fools in the stands, they put it on a night where there’s a more respectable blue-clad opponent that will not likely fill a chunk of the stadium. Saturdays are also a better night for a high-energy crowd. So I support this notion of
I nailed most of what I thought would be returning except for one.
The Devils are having more Theme Nights in this coming season (19) than last season (15). Will it be as successful? I have my doubts. The biggest factor will likely be the performance of the 2018-19 season. I am not super confident it is a playoff team. It might be! I hope it is! But I don’t know.
That said, the timing of where these Theme Nights were placed is odd. In some cases, the schedule does not help. The first home game being in Sweden and the last home game being a Monday night against a hated rival are not perfect situations. Still, I was under the impression that these promos could be used to help build attendance on a weekday or a less-than-attractive matchup. The weekend dates could do pretty well on their own, especially with so many starting before 7 PM. That appeared to be the case for the first month of the season. Yet, by the season’s end, seven will be on Saturdays and two are on Sundays. That is nearly half of the promotional schedule. I can see why sticking first-time promos like Go Red and NJ Hockey on a Sunday can help them possibly become a returning theme on day. And having a Kids Day on an afternoon day does make sense. Ditto But do those three appreciation nights/days need a Saturday date? Couldn’t the Hall poster be given away on a weekday to help juice attendance for that night? Given how Pride Night did not really improve much in their second year, how is placing it back on a Monday against Montreal going to make things better in their third year? Since February seems to be the month of those nights, would anyone really have a problem with switching the days of Law Enforcement Appreciation Night and Pride Night?
I also question calling smaller events like $1 Hot Dog Night, magnet schedule giveaway, and card giveaways as part of Theme Nights. I’m sure they are appreciated. But are they something to be used as draws? I think they are stretches to include with these other promotions.
Related to that, I do not know if the posters are going to be nearly as big of hits as bobbleheads. I get and appreciate the theme: Hall, Brodeur, and Boyle have been honored in 2018 and the poster commemorates that. But some fans really liked their bobbleheads. But then the Devils state they’re doing two associated with their nostalgia theme nights. So it’s not like they’re taking a full break from them. I think that is kind of wishy-washy. Skipping a season on them would allow them to bring them back with some potentially new faces. They could have continued it with younger players like Nico Hischier (how do you miss this opportunity?!), Miles Wood, and/or Blake Coleman (he’s not so young, but still). Instead, they’re doing two nostalgia themes of I don’t know what and nothing for actual players but posters. I don’t know if the posters will have the same appeal. I hope they do.
And where is Star Wars Night? This night has been run for I believe three straight years. It did quite well last season. It “officially sell out” last season. It is a very passionate fan base. The in-game presentation was well appreciated and interesting. But it is no longer. I do not get it. Was The Last Jedi that bad and poisoned the series’ appeal? If it were me, I’d swap out of one of the nostalgia nights (sorry, 80s) and bring this back since I know it has been done well before.
That being said, there are some positives. I think having WWE Night again will do very well. I think how they are giving away the posters makes good sense. The new (or at least recently new) themes of Kids Day, Go Red, and NJ Hockey are good ones to try out. There is a logic to having a Fan Appreciation Night on the last Saturday of the regular season than in a potentially split-up crowd on a Monday. Pride Night and Hockey Fights Cancer nights continue to be established in February and November, respectively. I would be thrilled to find out by the end of next season the majority of these 19 events did have sell outs, even if they are from just “official” attendance numbers. I think a number of them will. Of course, that will depend on who shows up on the ice as well as in the stands.
And if you are particularly jazzed about any of these Theme Nights, then do make an effort to show up. History tends to belong to those who show up. The organization may pay attention with full or close-to-full crowds on those nights and then continue them. Unfortunately, you’ll have to wait up to a week before making your statement. Alas, that is what it is.
That is how I see the 2018-19 Theme Night schedule for the Devils. What do you think of this season’s slate of Theme Nights? Are you excited for any of them returning? Which ones do you think will do particularly well? Please leave your answers and other thoughts about the Devils’ 2018-19 Theme Nights in the comments. Thank you for reading.