Fan bases of any team are composed of countless factors and those of the New Jersey Devils are no different.
There are the casual fans. These fans enjoy going to games, sometimes it is because they have nothing better to do, other times it’s because everyone else is doing it. They may not know every player on the team, but they’ll go to fill a seat and enjoy the experience.
The fair-weather fans are part of every fan-base as they come and go with the momentum of the team. It happens everywhere, as frustrating as they can be, but it does happen to every single team out there.
Some of the most financially invested fans are those who are season ticket holders. Their fandom and commitment, in all honesty, cannot nor should be questioned. Whether it’s a corporation that is investing in the tickets for their employees and potential clients, or it’s the generations of families who pass the tickets down to their relatives in order to maintain a tradition, season ticket holders are some of the most dedicated fans to any organization.
Lastly, of course, there are the die-hard fans. Some of whom can’t make it to every game for one reason or another; some are even season ticket holders. These are the fans who bleed Devil crimson, they spit fire at any insinuation that our team is nothing more than the bane of the NHL, the fans who rally together, whether they believe it or not, to try and will the team to victory. These are the fans that support the team, regardless of how they do it, simply for the love of the organization. These fans now have an avenue to further show their passion.
And they want all types of fans, yes ALL fans, to join in and share the fanaticism, unified as one massive unit.
A few months ago, while the Devils were marred in one of their worst starts in franchise history, a group of fans began to spitball an idea. With the attendance and energy at the Prudential Center becoming abysmal and confidence from the team at an all-time low for most players, the fans thought of an idea how to try and help out.
The idea of a Supporters Section had been tossed around before, but this time it seemed to grow more momentum than in the past.
During good runs, people had ideas of how to improve the experience at home games, but they would gain some interest then eventually fade away. This time, however, the concept struck a chord with nearly every fan who became involved with the talks sustained their enthusiasm.
The questions that usually asked “what can be done by the fans to show we still believe?” quickly changed into “how soon can we make this to happen?”
Everyone had different motives for trying to get this to finally, unlike all of the others, become a reality.
“I love the idea,” Devils fan, and Supporter Section frequenter, Gokce Yildirim said, “The standing and cheering. I’m a big fan.”
Adam Miller, who is another Supporter Section regular, echoed similar sentiments: “Last year I attended three games, and two were in the playoffs. The atmosphere was incredible in game two both inside and outside of the arena, and I feel like I’ve been chasing this feeling and atmosphere all year.”
The first “Supporter Section” game was officially announced on the website NJDevs.com on December 14th that their first meeting/game was to be that Friday, December 17th against the Predators. Support for the idea quickly spread, yet there were some skeptics.
One member even scoffed to the tune of “This is sure to fade away just like all of the other idea’s we’ve had here.”
Chant lists, rendezvous points, and even ideas being bounced back and forth between those expecting to attend, proved that statement wrong. Using the inspiration of their college, high school and even professional fan clubs, the group based their chants and cheers to create a list that the rest of the fans would be able to join. Roughly 40 fans purchased tickets through the exclusive link, and while their chants weren’t always organized, it was an impressive effort right out of the gates for an idea that many had doubts about.
Of the event, one of the founding members who wishes to remain as anonymous as possible stated, “The goal of the section from the start was to give people who wanted to be a little bit more louder than normal an opportunity to do that around other Devils fans who want to do the same. This section is a meant for all Devils fans of all ages and it is open for anyone to join, all we ask of you is to be ready to stand, chant and wear your Devils red proudly.”
Throughout each of the Supporter Section games, they have followed through on their initial beliefs and mottos. The latter portion of the founder’s quote, however, has become more problematic as the word of the section is passed along many fans looking for ticket deals overlook the purpose of the section.
“I’m hoping they [The Devils] are willing to help us make this more exclusive next season so that fans are aware of what the section is before buying the tickets. Being spread out over parts of two sections also doesn’t help,” Miller said following the Devils 3-0 loss to Washington Friday night.
One thing is for certain, whether or not the Devils make the playoffs, the Supporters Section has become a success.
Season ticket holders have even abandoned their seats for these few games to be part of the section. “I think that, in close games, the Section brings a lot of energy and excitement to the fans and team… this is a very good start and hopefully it will build as time goes on,” Colin Menchin said of his experience and outlook.
Everyone associated with the group does agree the impact extends beyond just the section.
“There is a clear positive impact on the arena, players and fans all comment on how loud and passionate the game was after each Supporters’ night…We make a difference upstairs and liven things up,” Yildirim said.
Miller had similar thoughts but focused on the impact the section has on the players. Player chants have increased dramatically during not only the success of the team, but with the emergence of a Supporters Section, those fans who normally haven’t joined in now can. He observed, “[When you chant a player’s name] This isn’t an ego boost, but this is a demonstration of how when you give loud fans a chance to come together (as opposed to not wanting to be the only person in your section saying Let’s Go Devils) these chants and player appreciation can come to fruition.”
As the season draws to a close, and the Supporters have had roughly a half season to perfect their craft, they can look back and say they have accomplished many of the preliminary goals.
They helped generate more passion in the organization at its bleakest point. They helped show the players that the fans still believe in them, no matter how impossible the goal had seemed. Lastly, they sent a message to the rest of the league. As season ticket holder and supporter section member Menchin said it, “They showed other fans that you have to stand behind your team through thick and thin, and I believe it made our fan base stronger.”
Just like the team, the Supporters Section has nowhere to go from here, but up.