The New Jersey Devils have opened a contest in which fans can choose the team’s new goal song, which is a pleasant change from having some obscure Bon Jovi tune foisted upon them. But that’s not the news.
The news is that Devils ownership and management felt it necessary to scold those fans that turned the previous goal song, franchise standard “Rock And Roll Part II” by noted pedophile Gary Glitter, into an avenue for gleeful vulgarity.
As in, every time Glitter said “HEY!” in the song, the crowd’s Pavlovian response was “YOU SUCK!”
This tradition, stolen from the college sports ranks, has been ongoing for years, but most prevalently at Prudential Center in Newark. It’s part of a Devils fan vibe that has its rough edges – this team “sucks”, this team “swallows” and so on – but undoubtedly has created a more electric atmosphere at the Rock than the Devils every had consistently at the Meadowlands.
But management doesn’t appreciate the means to that end, and the “You Suck!” stuff has to go as they explained to Devils fans that "haven't lived up the high standards" the team established on the ice.
This is, like, high school stuff. This is the principal lecturing the student body about sportsmanship. This isn't what a professional sports franchise should be communicating to its core paying audience. It's condescending and would seem to indicate that the franchise is embarrassed by the passion of its fans -- passion, by the way, the team stoked with a supporters section in the arena.
From an open letter to Devils fans from the team, published on Tuesday:
The Devils' decades of success on the ice comes from a dedication to key principles: integrity for hockey, a team-first commitment, class, and dignity. Our players never taunt or disgrace our opponents no matter the circumstance. We play hard every shift and we play for the front of the jersey. These core values have defined what it means to be part of the Devils Family. Unfortunately, the organization hasn’t always lived up to the high standards we have established on the ice. We are charged with changing that.
Universally loved traditions should never change. Over the last few years certain fans started chants that offended a large portion of our fan base and turned off others. Our strength is our unity. We want a game experience that represents what we are on the ice, makes all age groups proud of who we are, and represents our community.
You are the key to making that happen. We want to reset a tradition that represents who we are on the ice, what it means to be in the Devils Family.
And that’s Family, with a capital ‘F’.
The letter is signed by Lou Lamoriello, the team’s new CEO Scott O’Neil and team president Hugh Weber. It smacks of market research that likely pointed to lewd language as a reason casual fans don’t attend more games, never mind NHL ticket prices being what they are.
What it doesn’t account for, of course, is that changing the goal song is just going to spawn something else. Perhaps the crowd organically keeps the chant alive after a goal is announced. You know, like this:
Oh well. Clearly the Devils are ready to sacrifice a fan tradition to chase the white whale of the “casual fan”, much like they were willing to sacrifice any semblance of marketing for about 15 years in the name of Devils Hockey (with a capital ‘H’).
The fans who pay to attend the games want Times Square of the 1970s, and the Devils want the current Disneyfication of it.
First they came for our tailgating. Then ...
Meanwhile, we’re left wondering why these fans who want to avoid the vulgarity and lewdness of the current in-arena experience just don’t do what everyone else does to avoid it: Watch games on a weekend afternoon, and sit downstairs.