The New Jersey Devils had their home opener on Friday night, losing in a shootout against the New York Islanders. When Damien Brunner opened the scoring 2:29 into the first period, the crowd at The Rock was elated.
That is, until the blaring horn faded into the goal celebration song. And then the fans booed.
Gone was “Rock and Roll Part II”, a.k.a. the “Hey!” song from glam rock artist and convicted child molester Gary Glitter. In its place was “This Is Our House”, from New Jersey native and Jon Bon Jovi and his band.
Listen to the crowd turn:
Now, this is notable for a few reasons, none the least that Bon Jovi was booed in Newark, which might be grounds for deportation in New Jersey. (OK, maybe just a shakedown from the feds; booing Bruce would mean deportation.)
“Rock and Roll Part II” has been a part of Devils tradition since before their move from Colorado in 1982. They were one of the first franchises to adopt the arena rock anthem, and it’s been their goal song on and off for decades.
We say “on and off” because there have been other attempts to replace it. When Glitter was serving jail time, the Devils went with “Zombie Nation” by Kernkraft 400. They used Blur’s “Song 2” and the Bouncing Souls’ cover of “Ole!” in the past. Each time, the fans demanded a change back to “R&R”.
But switching up the Devils goal song is more than just aural aesthetics. It’s taking away a part of the fan tradition at The Rock - albeit a vulgar one.
Fans have, for years, chanted “YOU SUCK!” after each “Hey!” in the Glitter song, a boisterous but ultimately off-putting tradition for some. If the song change was an attempt to end that tradition, it’s something the Devils have tried before with other arena traditions: The sweet, innocent “If You’re Happy and You Know It (Clap Your Hands)” was dropped for some time because it was turned into a vulgar anti-NY Rangers chant at the Meadowlands.
— Brian Kushner (@ibkushman320) October 5, 2013
But there’s also a contingent of fans that feel the change is necessary, given the traditions attached to the previous song.
I have to admit I was extremely disappointed when I heard the displeasure of the crowd on Friday night. I understand that change, after years of having the same goal song, will rarely be taken well but I know it was merely the chance to scream “You suck!” that the fans missed. Have the Devils faithful really become so dependent on tasteless traditions that they would ‘boo’ after their own team scores, rather than quickly invent a new creative way to get involved? Perhaps I’m expecting too much, but I can’t say it didn’t bother me. I hope that Devils fans can find a way to tastefully embrace the new goal song so that everyone feels comfortable coming to games and everyone can enjoy the hopefully frequent occurrence of “This Is Our House” filling up the Prudential Center.
My take, as a Devils fan? Bring back Gary Glitter.
“Rock and Roll Part II” is as much a part of the Devils’ legacy as Martin Brodeur, parking lot celebrations and Christmas tree jerseys. Yes, even though its performer is a monster. And yes, even though it seems to solely exist for a chant you might have you going “earmuffs” with the young fan next to you.
I’ve seen Devils fandom change dramatically in the last 20 years, from quiet and passive at the Meadowlands to raucous and engaged at The Rock. These types of chants – mocking and shaming opponents – are an engrained part of that fan tradition that’s doing something the team’s struggled to do for years, which is create a sense of community and atmosphere at the arena.
Bon Jovi can sing “This Is Our House.”
The “Rock and Roll Part II” goal celebration tradition, however, is irrefutable evidence that it is.