Prior to the start of the Stanley Cup Finals, National Hockey League commissioner Gary Bettman and deputy commissioner Bill Daly held a media session. Plenty of news items were dropped, such as the confirmation that the salary cap is going to go up just one million for next season and potentially much more in 2024-25. The most relevant to the New Jersey Devils was the announcement of the Stadium Series games for the 2023-24 season. MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey, home of the New York Giants and New York Jets, will be hosting two of them. The New Jersey Devils will host the Philadelphia Flyers on Saturday, February 17, and the New York Islanders will play the New York Rangers on Sunday, February 18. As made clear in the NHL’s release through the Devils’ website, this will be the first (and second) NHL games played outdoors in New Jersey.
Given that the release stated that the Devils will host the Flyers on February 17, this means this game will take the place of a Devils home game. No, season ticket holders will not get this game for free. Per the release, there will be an early window for Black and Red and premium members to buy up tickets. I strongly suggest getting in that window as soon as possible when it opens to ensure a chance at buying a set to the game. Yes, MetLife can seat 82,500 for football; but that does not mean they will not go fast. That is a bit disappointing, but I get it. It’s MetLife’s building, not the Devils’ building. Also, per the NHL, the whole event will be a fully mobile ticket event. That should not be too much of a concern but if you wanted a paper ticket, then you will likely be out of luck.
I will say that I am a bit surprised that the NHL has not inquired about MetLife earlier. Maybe they have and the logistics of teams and the demands of the league, teams, and broadcasts did not match up. It has been quite some time since the Devils and Islanders, and even the Rangers have played in an outdoor setting. The last time for both was in 2014 with an ill-fated loss to Our Hated Rivals at Yankee Stadium. The previous time the Rangers played outside was in the 2018 Winter Classic at Citi Field against Buffalo. Philly’s last outdoor game was in 2019. There has been more than enough time to each squad to be fresh for the larger audiences that watch and attend these outdoor games. As a Devils fan - which I presume you are as one of the People Who Matter - I am excited that the Devils are involved in one of these showcase events once again.
Further, I am a bit surprised that this is not a single game between the Devils and Our Hated Rivals. I would think that contest could fill in most of MetLife at a minimum. Especially as the showcase event can be built around it being a rematch of the Devils coming back to eliminate New York in the 2023 playoffs. The hated rivalry showed it had more than plenty of juice in the postseason. It can carry over to East Rutherford in February 2024. It would have been simple to just have Devils-Rangers for one night. But the NHL thought bigger - and better for the Devils.
This announcement is a big compliment to the Devils. While the Flyers are certainly seen as a major market team and their fans do travel, it is a secondary rivalry with the Devils. And it remains to be seen how, well, competitive the Flyers will be in 2023-24. This means that the Devils are the ones to be the primary drivers of interest in this game. It is important for the Devils organization and the People Who Matter to prepare well for this event. This means ensuring that the 2023-24 Devils will be a quality hockey team that remains worth anyone’s time and money to watch. This means the People Who Matter need to provide their time and money to watch. They have the star power in The Big Deal and Nico Hischier. The NHL is giving them a shot; the Devils have to put in the work to make the most of it. A pro-Devils crowd at MetLife and a quality squad will not only make for a memorable night. It may also show the larger hockey world that the Devils should be highlighted and showcased more often. I, for one, would be excited about that.
As for the other game, that will help the league in making it a successful weekend. The Islanders and Rangers hate each other on a level beyond the Devils-Rangers rivalry. It is an older rivalry, it has a lot of history, and it is entirely possible both teams are playing for the same thing by February 2024. This should garner a very large and very energetic and raucous crowd. Should it all come together like I think it will, then the NHL should be very pleased with the results at the gate and the networks should be very pleased with the broadcasts.
The big wildcard is the weather. February in New Jersey can be tough to gauge. Sometimes, it does snow. Sometimes, it is mild - except at night. When it is cold, it can be brutally cold. And windy, which adds to the discomfort. The safer bet may be to have these games in the early evening such that sunlight will not be a factor and to help ensure it is cold enough for the rink. But that will not make it any more fun for the fans in the open-air stadium. I remember how cold it was at Yankee Stadium back in 2014 and not appreciating the sunlight-caused delay for the glare from the ice as it meant being further out in then-bitter Bronx cold. No one can control the weather. It is something to keep an eye on as February 17 comes closer. All the same, prepare to bundle up if you do go.
Until then, expect more announcements and news related to this game later in the year. Such as a jersey. The 2014 Stadium Series saw the return of the 1980s style Devils jerseys. Some loved it. Some, like me, did not care much for it. Given that current Devils ownership and management have introduced a third jersey and other alternate designs, I am speculating they will come up with something new for this game. I am hoping it is not ugly and lazy like their third jersey and other alternate designs. I am not holding my breath given the recent past.
What I would like to know in the meantime is your take on all of this. Are you excited that the Devils are hosting Philadelphia at MetLife on February 17, 2024? Do you think the Devils will make the most of it to possibly get more events like this one? Most of all, would you be willing to go to MetLife for this game? Please leave your answers and other thoughts about this announcement in the comments. Thank you for reading.