In the late afternoon of September 13, 2019, the New Jersey Devils announced their theme nights for the 2019-20 season. These are home games where there will be a promotion and/or some theme that will be followed by the arena graphics and presentation. Last season had plenty of them. The New Jersey Devils scheduled 19 theme nights. This season, there appears to be fewer actual theme nights with some surprising omissions. Let us take a closer look at the announcement.
Here is the link to the Devils’ schedule of planned theme nights for the 2019-20 season. Unlike last season when they were announced on August 30 and single game tickets were not on sale yet, you can go out and buy tickets for these games right away. That is a good move. What is not such a good move is the inclusion of games just tagged as Thursday Night Hockey on this list. The Devils have eight home games on Thursday nights this season and the Thursday Night Hockey promotion is not even applied to all of them, just five of them. I could not tell you what would make the game experience any different for those attending those Thursday night games. When I think of a theme night, there has to be something about it - an appreciation night, a giveaway, an actual theme. A company just calling something “Thursday Night Hockey” does not really count. Therefore, I think it artificially boosts the list. Even if you disagree, there are 17 listings in that link which is still fewer than the 19 from last season. Since I am taking out the five Thursday Night Hockey games, there are really only 12 Theme Nights.
I am surprised that there are fewer Theme Nights and that a couple of them from last season are not returning. The Devils have done well on their Theme Nights from an attendance perspective. In 2017-18, the Devils sold out (or announced a sell out) for all but two of their 15 Theme Nights. In 2018-19, the 19 Theme Nights averaged an announced attendance of 15,477 people and sold out nine of them. Even if the sellouts were more of a function of the day of the week or the opponent than the promotion, that still looks like a good bit of business to me. Before I go any further about my thoughts about this season’s promotional schedule, let’s go over what the Devils did announced on Friday night.
The Announced 2019-20 Theme Nights for the Devils
#1. The Home Opener - Friday, October 4, 2019 vs. Winnipeg
The home opener at the Rock is always a big deal. It is great from an attendance perspective that the one home game with Winnipeg will have a big crowd since they do not draw well in New Jersey. Through the schedule, the Devils confirmed that there will be a Red Carpet Arrival for the Devils players. All fans in attendance will get a light up PixMob bracelet. I would like to think this may be part of a pre-game ceremony. I would bet on, pending weather conditions, there would be a fanfest in Championship Plaza as well. I would also bet on a new opening video that will surely hype people up and hopefully continue to do so throughout the season.
#2. Kids Day #1 - Monday, October 14, 2019 vs. Florida
This is the game scheduled for 1 PM on a Monday. I disliked that decision back in June when the NHL regular season schedule came out. I do not like it anymore now. The Devils are making it a Kids Day to offset some of the attendance. Will it work? We shall see but I am not holding my breath. There are no details on the site on what Kids Day will entail. I would imagine some involvement from the younger members of the Devils fanbase. By the way, this is not the only Kids Day on the schedule this season.
#3. Military Appreciation Night - Friday, November 15, 2019 vs. Pittsburgh
This has been on the schedule for several years now. The Devils have been consistent with honoring former and currently active members serving for the country at Devils games for years. It should be no surprise that this is back. Like last season, there is a giveaway on this date. The first 9,000 people in attendance will get a free camouflage Devils cap.
#4. Hockey Fights Cancer Night - Saturday, November 23, 2019 vs. Detroit
Hockey Fights Cancer is part of a league-wide initiative and the Devils have traditionally had their night for this initiative around Thanksgiving weekend. Appropriately, this is the Devils’ first home game after Thanksgiving.
#5. Star Wars Night - Friday, December 6, 2019 vs. Chicago
Star Wars Night was something I was surprised that the Devils did not do last season. It is back for 2019-20. This should be a lot of fun. Star Wars has a very passionate fanbase and recent movies are still events even if they are not iconic. Expect plenty of cosplay amid the theme.
There is also a giveaway on this night. The first 9,000 fans in attendance will get a Jack Hughes Jedi bobblehead. Making a bobblehead of The Big Deal is a great idea for a giveaway. Making one in a theme is a bit odd. Why not make an established Devil a Jedi? Like Travis Zajac? Or Nico Hischier? But Hughes will be a Devil for some time so he can have a standard one in the future. At the least, they are committed to this theme.
#6. Retro Night - Tuesday, January 7, 2020 vs. New York Islanders
There are no details for this night but I am going to assume this will be a night where the Devils will wear their red, white, and green uniforms. After all, it is retro. The Devils did bust out the 1980s jerseys a couple of times last season. I do not recall them winning those games (I could be wrong), but they did not win a lot of last games in their current uniforms either. I would also assume the themes and songs will be from the past. It is a common theme so I get it. Also, I think it is smart that this is on a Tuesday night. It may boost up attendance on a night that is traditionally not popular for people going out.
#7. 2000 Cup Night - Saturday, February 1, 2020 vs. Dallas
Next year will be the 20th anniversary of the Devils winning their second Stanley Cup. Appropriately, there is a theme night for it when Dallas comes to Newark. I would expect plenty of old clips and memories shared from those days. There is also a great giveaway on this night. The first 9,000 fans in attendance will get a replica championship ring. Unless this a really cheap ring, this could be a really, really cool giveaway. It could be an actual keepsake for the fans.
#8. WWE Night - Sunday, February 16, 2020 vs. Columbus
WWE Night is returning. This is also a very fun night. The Devils and the fans have been into it. The timing for this is curious. As far as I can tell, the WWE does not have anything scheduled out to February 2020. So I do not know if this means the Rock is going to host an episode of RAW or Smackdown or a major show or even a house show around this time. I would imagine when the date gets closer, we will see what the WWE may be promoting at that time. Still, this should be great and I want to see this video constantly and I want the Devils to be Ric Flair all night long against the Jackets. Woo!
There is also a giveaway on this night. The first 9,000 fans in attendance will get a P.K. Subban “Subbanator” bobblehead. I fully expect to be of Subban in his customized Ric Flair-style robe. It will definitely be one to collect.
#9. Kids Day #2 - Saturday, February 22, 2020 vs. Washington
This is the second Kids Day on the Theme Night schedule for 2019-20. This is one of the few afternoon games on the Devils’ schedule this year. It makes sense to make this one about the kids that will likely attend this game with their parents and friends too. I am confident this one will do much better in terms of attendance than that 1 PM game on Monday. Whatever they do on that game, I would expect it for this game.
#10. Video Game Night - Friday, March 6, 2020 vs. St. Louis
This is new. Or at least it is recently new as they did not do this last season. Still, the theme is pretty straight forward: video games. Games are popular. I play them. Many hockey players play them. You may play them. They are very much a part of the pop culture in a way it definitely was not say 20 or 30 years ago. Expect plenty of old and new(er) school references and motifs in the evening. Do not expect very many (or any) Brett Hull Hockey references.
#11. Kids Day #3 - Saturday, March 28, 2020 vs. Philadelphia
Yes, there is a third iteration of Kids Day. Yes, this game is a matinee; it starts at 2 PM. Yes, this will likely be the same thing they did on October 14 (#2 on this list) and February 22 (#9 on this list).
#12. Fan Appreciation Night - Thursday, April 2 vs. Buffalo
This is the home closer for the 2019-20 Devils season. By then, we should know whether the Devils are going to play beyond April 4, which is the final game of the season. This promotion is presented by M&Ms so candy may be involved. No other details have been made yet.
I will get the positives out of the way first. I am pleased to see WWE Night continue and Star Wars Night return. I think the giveaway for 2000 Cup Night could be really good if the rings are well made. I think having a night for the 2000 Cup anniversary is a smart move. Video Game Night might be fun. Kids Days coming back are good ideas, although I am not sure there needed to be three of them. And given that Jack Hughes and P.K. Subban will be here for sometime, I can see how themed bobbleheads for each are interesting. They will definitely be sought after.
I am mostly disappointed in general with this season’s announced Theme Night list. I figured there would be fewer events. After all, no Devil won a trophy last season or is going to the Hockey Hall of Fame; those comprised of three of them last season, which were really giveaways. However, there are plenty from last season that are not returning. Go Red is not back. 80s Night and 90s Night are not here, possibly replaced by Retro Night. While the military is being appreciated, law enforcement and firefighters do not have a date like last season. Dollar Hot Dog night was a thing again last season; it is not a thing on this current schedule. You may give or take a couple of these but they did provide some variety of the home game slate. And those all had announced attendances of at least 15,000. Again, I know that people may have not shown up specifically for those nights, but they certainly did not hinder the business. Yet, it is a lackluster schedule with 12 actual theme nights and only actually ten of them are different themes since three of them are Kids Days. After a variety-filled 2018-19 promotional schedule, this one is a downgrade with the omissions alone.
The two biggest theme nights not on this schedule that I expected to be announced are the New Jersey Hockey Celebration and Pride Night. The New Jersey Hockey Celebration was done for the first time last season and I thought it went well. There is a passionate local community in the state for youth hockey. There are plenty of high school teams and youth organization that play in tourneys. Players from this state go on to play in college and elsewhere. A select few even get drafted and become professionals. It is a disappointment that it is not here as I think it is important for the Devils to be leaders in the local hockey community. The bigger miss is Pride Night. The Devils have done this for three straight seasons. They have not drawn well at all compared to the other theme nights with announced attendances below 14,000. It was below 13,000 last season. I was concerned about it last season; this only increases them. I think having it is more than just good optics or a well-intentioned idea. It is an attempt at outreach and based on what I saw from past season, it did bring in people who otherwise may not go to a hockey game at all or may not feel comfortable to go to a game however they wish. I cannot speak for others, but I recognize that it is important to have a Pride Night. That there is occasional pushback for Pride Nights at all justifies their existence to a degree. (Pro-tip for the commenters: Do not provide any here.) I’m disappointed it is not announced with the others.
It is possible that both of those - and other theme nights - may those dates and other themes will be announced later during the season. It could be a case of simple logistics of trying to . For example, the New Jersey Hockey Celebration last season was in conjunction with Hockey Week Across America, an initiative by USA Hockey. Per their own site for the initiative, the 2020 dates have yet to be announced. Likewise for Pride Night, NHL teams have done typically done it in February in past seasons. It could be that the Devils are trying to figure out which date to pick for Pride Night. (A pro-tip for the Devils organization who reads this: If you do not want to have a bad attendance night for it, then they should shoot for February 8 against Los Angeles, which is a Saturday night.) However, both of those events - and more - were announced as early as August 30 last year. They were announced before people could even buy single game tickets. While I brought up the possibility, I am skeptical that the Devils organization could not announce them now. Or anything else they are working on.
Moving on from that, the giveaways announced are good ideas. Yet, I feel like there could have been more. Bobbleheads have been a big hit and the Devils have seemingly picked up on it. Two themed ones for Hughes and Subban are good ideas. Perhaps even great ones. But why not more? Nico Hischier does not have one yet. Blake Coleman does not have one. Miles Wood does not have one. Damon Severson does not have one. Maybe you cannot get their dashing good looks properly represented on a bobblehead but they have to let the manufacturers try. (Hint for Coleman: Give him a cowboy hat.) This is also an organization that sprung for one of Mike Cammalleri. They could do more. Or even sell smaller giveaways as themes. Last year’s schedule included a giveaway of a magnetic schedule and a set of cards. They are not much but it is something. A night can just be a simple giveaway. Alas, that road was not taken.
Lastly, there is a small imbalance in when these theme nights are scheduled. The Devils have 20 home games in the 2019 portion of the season. They have five theme nights and the last one for the calendar year is on December 6. Given that fans are excited for the new season, I would have thought the team would try to entice them more as the season rolls on. That is not the case. There are more in the 2020 portion but there are some gaps, such as a near month-long one from January 7 (Retro Night) to February 1 (2000 Cup Night).
You can be sure there will be other events that will take place. The Devils will likely announce their traditional and annual food, coat, and toy drives as the holidays come. And schedules, as always, are subject to change. At the same time, the Devils announced a strong set of promotions last season and did so well before preseason. Perhaps it was a lot, but there was plenty of variety that could appeal to everyone. In contrast to all of the additions the team has made for the roster, the Devils have subtracted from that - especially two theme nights missing, which I think are glaring omissions. I can hope they and more get announced later because the Devils could certainly do it.
In the meantime, I want to know your take on this season’s announced promotional schedule. Which Theme Nights are you most looking forward to in 2019-20? Which Theme Nights do you think they should have announced? Do you think they will announce anymore during the season and, if so, for what? Please leave your answers and other thoughts about the Devils’ 2019-20 Theme Night schedule in the comments. Thank you for reading.