The Case For And Against The Devils Holding The NHL All-Star Game

July 11, 2019 - Devils Army Blog - View Full Article

I have a love/hate relationship with summer. I love the beach, the bars, the beach bars, and clinging on to my childhood memories of having no school or responsibilities for three months. But, I do hate the lack of hockey. Fortunately for me, I have the sweet embrace of Major League Baseball keeping me company in between my long days of sunbathing and dreaming about Jack Hughes and P.K. Subban lifting the Stanley Cup.

With any baseball-watching summer comes watching the MLB All-Star game. While I watched the American League win for the seventh straight time, it reminded me that I’ve never been to an all-star game. Sure, I’ve had my chances when the MLB All-Star game came to New York. But, what about hockey? Since I lack the funds, have too much respect for myself to go to an all-star game at MSG, and the fact that the Islanders don’t really know where they’re playing in the future it really only leaves one option. Our hometown Prudential Center.

Unfortunately, the NHL has never had the All-Star Game at the Prudential Center, and all signs point to that not changing anytime soon. The only time the Devils played host to the NHL All-Star Game was in 1984. Of course, that was when the Devils still played at Brendan Byrne Arena. So here it is, the case for and against the New Jersey Devils once again hosting an NHL All-Star Game.

The Case For Them Hosting

The main reason why the Devils should host an All-Star Game is because of the Prudential Center itself. The Devils’ home is a hockey lover’s paradise. It arguably offers the best fan experience in the NHL. The building – although a multipurpose arena – was built with hockey as the main attraction. All seat sight-lines, backstage areas, and dressing rooms were tailor-made for hockey and the hockey media. As if that wasn’t good enough, The Prudential Center is also one of the NHL’s only rinks with a practice facility attached.

Maybe the Devils haven’t had the same success at their new arena as they experienced at the Meadowlands, but “The Rock” is a far superior facility. It’s a great place to watch the game as a fan, and a perfect arena for the NHL to show off while collecting game revenue. And, with the Devils as the arena’s primary tenant, there’d be little obstacles securing the building for the length of All-Star Weekend (Seton Hall basketball remains the main competition for space).

The Devils have also done a great job building up the surrounding area outside of the Prudential Center. That’d be a great area for all-star festivities to take place. The Devils did a fantastic job organizing their 2019 draft party, mainly by utilizing championship plaza and the bars along Edison. The same area can serve a similar purpose during an all-star weekend.

Then, there’s the appearance of the newly constructed park across the street. Although the 2019 draft party was a big event for the Devils, an All-Star Game would beat that tenfold. Not only would Devils’ fans descend upon “The Rock,” but the whole hockey world would as well. The new park would not only be perfect, but also big enough for any festivities the NHL and the Devils want to hold.

Also, underrated is the Prudential Center’s accessibility. One of the key reasons the Devils decided on the site is due to its proximity to mass transit, highways, and the Newark Penn Station. That makes it easy for league personnel and hockey-lovers to get in and out of the game. After some problems arose from Super Bowl XLVIII being held at MetLife stadium, any transportation issues would most likely be solved, making it a much smoother commute.

As if the trains and buses weren’t plentiful enough, Newark Airport is also a stone’s throw away. Let me put this in perspective for you: I’ve met Canadian hockey fans from North of the border who will literally fly into Newark for a game and then fly home because of its convenience and accessibility. I know it may not seem that important to us who are used to driving or taking a train to Devils’ games, but the airport is a great asset to have nearby.

The Case Against Them Hosting It

There’s a long list of reasons why the Devils should host the NHL All-Star game, unfortunately, there is also a list on why they shouldn’t. Luckily, this list isn’t very long. However, there is one reason on that list that stands large. That reason being Newark, New Jersey itself.

Newark is a lot better than it once was, and the presence of the Devils and the Prudential Center are a major reason for that. The Devils have constantly tried building up the area with community improvement projects. The new park across from the Prudential Center is their latest betterment to the place they call home. Still, to some, the area still needs more improvement. Possibly, due to that reason, Devils’ fans don’t tailgate like they once did at their old home in the Meadowlands.

Unfortunately for the Devils, Newark isn’t as great a destination city like some other places. The NHL likes to turn the All-Star Game into a city-wide event. That way, they can market NHL All-Star Weekend as a huge event, with the overall city serving as an experience. This type of marketing works well for places like Nashville, New York or Tampa Bay. However, it may not work as well for Newark, New Jersey.

Yes, the Prudential Center is a great arena, but what else do you usually do in Newark besides physically go to the game? Maybe you hang out for a bit after at one of the surrounding bars. But other than the actual game, and a quick after-party there’s nothing keeping you in Newark. There are no bars, restaurants, or sites that anyone from out-of-town is dying to see. Newark is a great place for a hockey game, but not much else. Remember, even when the Prudential Center hosted the NHL Draft in 2013, the league shortened the normally two-day event to one long day. For a week-long event like NHL All-Star weekend usually is, the NHL most likely wouldn’t approve the idea of Newark hosting it.

While this may sound like a list of complaints about Newark, it’s not. The city – even with its problems – is vibrant and upcoming. But, you also have to realize that if you’re a hockey fan, or a journalist traveling from Canada, it’s not exactly an appealing location. That’s the uphill battle the NHL would face if they chose the site.

The Compromise

As much as we hate to admit it, New Jersey has always had a little bit of an inferiority complex to New York. Even though their football teams play here, they’re still the NEW YORK Giants and NEW YORK Jets. The Statue of Liberty sits in our waters, yet is a beloved New York City icon. Besides, when was the last time a television show not named, “The Sopranos,” or the MTV reality show – that should not be named – was set in New Jersey?

But, maybe New Jersey and New York should put their differences aside once again and team up. That’s what they did for Super Bowl XLVIII, as they labeled the event as being in, “New York and New Jersey,” even though the game was played in our Springsteen-loving state. Aside from the statewide hurt ego, it still allowed us to hold the biggest event in sports.

Maybe, just maybe, the NHL would announce the NHL All-Star game as a double-bid. Have the surrounding events – media press conferences and branding – in New York, but have the actual game at the Prudential Center. Dividing up the event allows festivities to be held throughout the area, and not just tied down to one place or arena. It’s an idea that’s crazy, but it’s so crazy it just might be the only way to make this work.

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Why Devils’ Shero May Stay Put

July 10, 2019 - Devils Army Blog - View Full Article

It’s been one week since NHL free agency began, and the main stars like Sergei Bobrovsky and Joe Pavelski are off the board (what’s all the fuss about this Panarin clown?), and the list of impactful players without allegiance has shortened. So where can New Jersey Devils’ general manager Ray Shero turn to next?

Restricted Free Agents

The more attractive list is that of the restricted free agents, many of whom proved their NHL potential in a massive way. So much so that teams are wary to offer sheet them, knowing that the compensation may be too costly. For example, no teams have thrown an offer sheet at Mitch Marner because they’d have to give Toronto four first-round picks on top of paying his $11M contract. 

This table depicts what a team must compensate based on the value of the RFA

Then there’s the possibility that you low ball the offer sheet, like the Montreal Canadiens did with Sebastian Aho. And the team holding the player’s rights get their guy for less than they were willing to pay.

Knowing that, there are just a few restricted free agents that actually make sense for New Jersey to offer sheet. First, you’d have to consider what the Devils need most, which has changed a lot in the past month. With P.K. Subban and Ty Smith jumping in next year, the Devils have drastically improved their defense from the days of Ben Lovejoy and Steven Santini. The focus, therefore, shifts to the wing position, and the general consensus is that New Jersey should get a right-handed winger. After all, they have collected some pretty good left-handed players like Taylor Hall, Jesper Bratt, Jack Hughes, and Jesper Boqvist. But while those players are talented, they can’t all protect themselves yet. 

Shero Takes Action

So Shero, being five steps ahead of everyone else, trades for John Hayden and signs Wayne Simmonds. Two huge, intimidating, right-handed wingers that can skate, even if they haven’t been racking up points recently. Still, some Devils’ fans seem to think they’re not good enough offensively, suggesting they trade with Vegas for Russian winger Nikita Gusev (See last two articles), or target an RFA like Kyle Connor of the Winnipeg Jets, or Brock Boeser of the Vancouver Canucks.

What Now?

Though it’s fun to talk about who the Devils could chase, after the moves Shero has made, it’s logical to question whether it’s worth it to keep buying. By adding a top-six winger, they’ll likely push Hayden out of the lineup, and Simmonds back to the fourth line. Not to mention they’d be taking away a chance from Joey Anderson and Nathan Bastian to crack the lineup, which doesn’t seem fair since they’ve only played a limited number of games on the abysmal 2018 Devils’ team. So perhaps instead of drooling over the costly remaining free agents, it may be wiser to focus on who could step up for the Devils this year.

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