Being past the twenty-game mark of the season, this is a good time to comment on how the organizational transition to the NJ Devils has been so far. With all due respect to the Vancouver Canucks being a part of the Devils organization so far is OUTSTANDING. When the news initially broke earlier this spring some fans were hesitant to jump straight into the Devil’s State of Mind (check out the Devils State of Mind Podcast on all major podcast platforms), and understandably so. Since 2013 the blue and the green have been flown proudly here in Utica so with that has come a fair bit of loyalty but it’s time for the doubters to admit this change is exactly what this fanbase needed.
There’s a certain energy back in the Aud that’s been missing the last few years. Winning for starters helps that immensely. However, there is more to it than meets the eye. Quick disclaimer a portion of this is going to be personal opinion based but I like to think of myself as an everyman typical hockey fan so many share these opinions I’m sure. Let’s kick it off with the obvious, the color change is tremendous. The black and the red is a perfect scheme to fit the grit of this town. From the on-ice product to the freshly painted walls inside the building and everything else in between the sleek new look to the organization is a welcomed change.
The next major improvement you notice is with the system in place. Coach Kevin Dineen has managed to prepare this team for war every night AND FINALLY, we are playing a structured style of hockey. It’s tough, it’s composed, crisp passes, move the puck, set up offensively, protect your teammates, score, win. Absolutely lovely and a much-needed change of pace from that unreliable “dump and chase” Vancouver system. In addition to that New Jersey simply is in a better place depth-wise and operationally than Vancouver. It felt like we had a new roster here in Utica every thirty-six hours. Life as a fan of an AHL team can be rough. You get attached to players in the same way you would any other team. One of the worst feelings is to hop on social media to see one of your favorite players called up. WHAT MAKES THAT EVEN WORSE VANCOUVER is for someone to get called up just to be a healthy scratch for a week; it happens but the Canucks make it into an art form. It’s possible with their new regime that Abbotsford won’t experience this but they are right down the road so what’s the difference.
This leads to the next point, location. For the sake of logistical convenience three hundred miles give or take is much easier on players and front office personnel than three thousand. A major benefit to that is the fans as well. I know a whole lot more Devils fans than Canucks fans. Being the NJ Devils second appearance here in Utica, along with the short drive to Jersey, we are an ideal location for this organization.
All in all, in my professional super fan opinion it’s safe to say this is a great fit. Our friend Neil Villapiano from the Devil’s State of Mind podcast shares my excitement for our new partnership. As a lifelong NJ Devils fan and active media member, Neil expressed how Utica is a near-perfect home for the organization in the eyes of many New Jersey fans. Having an enthusiastic fanbase to develop prospects in front of is an advantage that not many teams have. The pressure of playing in front of a full house at this level is a terrific tool to help mold New Jersey’s future stars.