Improving Devils win second straight & other random thoughts

No, I didn’t get to watch last night’s Devils game either (before I get called out on this, I wasn’t even home from 6-9 so I wasn’t watching anything until then) but rumor has it the Devils actually won their second consecutive OT game in three days, beating the Coyotes 3-2 in spite of blowing two third period leads.  Unfortunately the only part of this game I got to saw was after I got home and turned the last minute of regulation on in between watching the Mets, and seeing the Devils blow a late 2-1 lead with the empty net.  So apparently our empty net defense stinks whether it’s our own net or someone else’s net empty.  I turned the Met game back on in annoyance, but thankfully Adam Larsson won the Devil game in OT with a surprisingly crisp finish in front of the net on a 3-on-1 where he looked better than most of our forwards would.

From what I have read and observed, it seems like the Devils are doing what they need to do to win games.  For all the talk about fast, attacking and supportive from our now unshackled PR department, new coach John Hynes isn’t beating his head against a wall trying to live up to that mantra.  This team is doing what it has to do to try to remain competitive, leaning on an improving young defense and terrific goaltending.  And unlike last year they aren’t giving up 35-40 shots a game (yet).  It may still not be pretty but if you’re a Devils fan all you want this season is hope.  So far the Devils – and specifically the D/goaltending – are at least accomplishing that, getting five of a possible six points in their last three games.  Even if they still don’t have a regulation win yet…baby steps though.

Of course Sunday’s game I couldn’t watch either, not because of the Mets but because of the Jets since in the NHL’s infinite wisdom they decided to schedule a Sunday 1 PM Devils-Rangers game for the middle of the NFL season.  It’s a rare day indeed when all three of my sports teams play (and rarer still, they all won).  I can’t ever remember a sports calendar with this many conflicts early in the hockey season, then again the Mets have only made the playoffs once in the previous fifteen years.  It’s annoying on the one hand that I feel like an absentee fan of the Devils right now since the only two games I’ve watched were the ones I’ve been able to attend, but on the other I’m grateful for this Mets run, which is getting a bit of a ’95 Devils type feel to it with Daniel Murphy playing the Claude Lemieux role.

Still it’s not a crime to prioritize your sports teams, depending on what point in the calendar we’re at.  Given the Mets are in the playoffs and the Jets only play sixteen games in a season of course I’m going to choose watching MLB and the NFL over the Devils right now.  Sorry to anyone who it may offend, the same holds true the other way around in April and May too – when the Devils are competitive I very rarely watch the Mets during this time period and almost never go to a Mets game until after the Devil season is over.  Watching the Mets and Jets doesn’t make me any less of a Devils fan just like watching more of the Devils in April doesn’t make me less of a Mets and Jets fan.  Those teams don’t play each other, it’s not like I’m being a fan of two teams in the same sport.  Granted I’m probably more of a hockey/football fan when push comes to shove, but the Mets were my first sports love after all with the mid-late ’80’s teams that were the talk of town.  Prioritizing the Mets or Jets over the Devils isn’t exactly a comment on fanhood, I jumped on someone online recently who I thought was taking me to task on this subject ,but it turned out this individual was being sarcastic and had himself been dissed similarly for being a faux fan because he dared to prioritize one team having more important games over the other.

While I’m on my soapbox I’ll also go off on another target – Devils ticket ops.  It seems like the worse the team gets (recent results aside), the worse customer service gets.  This isn’t a condemnation of my own personal ticket rep, who’s actually very accomodating but more a complaint over how things are run in general.  First of all, if you’re going to give us all very expensive food cards as a season ticket holder perk you’d better have the machines working once the regular season starts.  And if the machines don’t work, just don’t tell people sorry, we can’t run your card – actually figure out an alternate solution before the lines start to get crowded.  The sorry, we can’t do anything line doesn’t work for unsuspecting people who’ve been in food lines several minutes or more during intermission.  Finally the cashiers started writing down card numbers and names to charge your food card after the fact, after the food lines had cleared out for the most part.  It’s not as if the machines didn’t work on Opening Night either, but nobody’s food card worked at the second game I was at last Friday or apparently at the previous game against Nashville either.  So it took them two games to figure out a solution to the problem and the machines still aren’t fixed?!

Another supposed season ticket holder perk was seperate entrances dedicated to sth’s, but it turns out the Devils remove said entrances by 6:30 because of increasing foot traffic.  That doesn’t exactly do people a lot of good if you’re only getting to the arena between 6:30-7 the way most working people do, hence why foot traffic increases in the half hour immediately before the game.  It isn’t baseball where you can sit around and try to catch balls in BP, the only real incentive for getting to a hockey game before 6:30 is to eat/drink and see other people.  The sth entrances don’t really affect me since I usually go in the less crowded back entrance anyway, I can’t imagine a sth entrance being more convenient than that – but for people coming in via NJ Transit who are closest to the big front entrance it would be nice if this perk did what it was supposed to as well, especially with the new metal detectors at every entrance.

Also quite ironically it seems like the sales department’s gotten even more secretive (not less) since new ownership’s come aboard.  Prior to this year every season ticket holder got a chart detailing what their game was ‘worth’ both at the box office and with sth pricing and in most seasons – including this one – you can actually buy extra tickets at season ticket holder pricing.  Which would be a nice perk except that to get the chart this year you have to actually ask your rep to e-mail you one.  Even after you get the chart though, there’s no guarantee you can actually figure out what your pricing is since there are like 23425 different colors including multiple ones in every section and multiple ones of a similar color shade.  All this made it far more of a project than it needed to be just to get my friends a pair of lower-level seats for Opening Night.  You would think ticket sales would want to encourage people to spend more.  Maybe they’re just afraid people will see their true pricing and vomit.  Of course, the other factor is box office prices can also change at the drop of a hat the way they did for the early February game against Edmonton once it turned out there was going to be a certain legendary former Devil goalie getting a number retired on that night.

Even in the offseason though, ticket ops were pretty secretive during their relocation event when season ticket holders come to the arena.  In the past we were able to see seats that were available.  Presumably cause they didn’t want to sticker half the building this year, they no longer put available stickers on seats at the most recent relocation event, instead you had to go to your rep and have him or her run a bunch of locations through an ipad just to see what was available, without pricing listed of course.  Not that I really wanted to move from my aisle behind the net location anyway but it would have been nice to see if there were similar seats available at a different price point since my row is basically right at the cutoff point before prices decrease a few bucks a game for the people immediately behind me.  And instead of being able to see your rep and ask questions during a game outside the Fire Lounge where they had the sth ‘lounge’ last year, now this year you have to go upstairs in a hidden corner of the resturant to find the sth lounge this year.

Albeit all these are small inconveniences in the end, but if you are going to raise prices, decrease benefits (the previous few years’ sth barbeque was replaced with an open practice with no other player meet and greets on the schedule yet for this year) and have a declining team you’d better at least show some form of customer service if you want to have any hope of retaining people through bad seasons who aren’t just season ticket holders by rote because they like their location, the people they’re with and/or are old enough not to want to deal with the secondary market.  I love my location but honestly another price increase combined with the decreasing customer service may finally push me onto the StubHub plan.  Of course I’ll lose tenure, but is getting the ability to sit in a suite for a couple games – or whatever rewards I pick from their limited rewards chart – worth the other aggravations?  I guess I’ll find out this year.

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