SOFT ROCK ATMOSPHERE
I've seen a lot of debate on line today about the crowd and the atmosphere at the Prudential Center.
As someone who sits in the building for these Flyers-Devils games, I think I can speak on this subject with some authority.
The atmosphere at the Rock stinks.
It's depressing, for the sport of hockey, to have a playoff game with a bevy of unoccupied seats.
The Devils' announced a sell out for Game 1. It was a crock. They may have sold the seats, but the actual numbers in attendance were far less.
There were whole rows of seats empty. There were sections with sporadic attendance the entire game.
Oh, and the fans sit on their hands far too much.
That's not to say Devils' fans in attendance are bad hockey fans, they're just not passionate. There's a big difference.
Walk into Bell Centre in Montreal or the Verizon Center in Washington and you can't hear yourself think... in pre-game warmups.... for a regular season game.
Those fan bases are loud, boisterous, and know how to have a good time at a hockey game. They also give their team a decided home ice advantage.
Not in New Jersey.
Nope. The Rock is dead. There are always a large contingent of Flyers' fans who travel to nearby arenas, but nowhere are they louder than New Jersey. That's because although they might infiltrate Washington or Madison Square Garden in New York, the hometown fans do a fine job of drowning them out.
Not in New Jersey.
And this is nothing new. The Devils have always had a below-bar environment. From their days at the cavernous Meadowlands Arena that had a variety of names - most notably Brendan Byrne Arena - it always seemed the visiting Philadelphians were much more cacophonous.
The Prudential Center is a fine arena. It's a huge upgrade over the Devils' previous home. The seats are comfortable. The amenities are far superior. The concourses are open and spacious.
But, the atmosphere has not changed.
Yes, those were chants for Boucher you heard coming through your television sets, not Devils' fans voicing their displeasure in their team's Game 1 defeat.
So, in my mind, there is no debate. Playoff hockey should have a unique environment. One that is electric, anxiety-driven, and full of raw emotion.
It is practically everywhere else.
Just, not in New Jersey.