Rumors about the New York Devils potentially relocating from the Garden State have been around for years. Could any of these be true?
The New Jersey Devils are the one team the Garden State gets to call its own. While the Giants and Jets play their home games in New Jersey, their name and logo, obviously, identify with New York.
The Nets played several seasons in New Jersey in both East Rutherford and Newark, but moved to Brooklyn in 2012, leaving the Devils all by their lonesome.
But for how long? The endless conversation never ends, the one that needlessly strips New Jersey of its only team. There have been rumors swirling for years that a potential relocation could make sense.
In 2018, it appeared those rumors would be shut down when new owners Joshua Harris and David Blitzer made it clear they wanted to keep the team in Newark.
“The vision for Newark is to attract over time people into the area that then have the opportunity not only to work in Newark, but to work in New York City,” Harris said in 2018. “Once they get to Newark, local business will be supported by the kind of economic development.”
Harris talked about attracting folks into the Newark Area, and, as an owner of the Devils, was likely hinting at bringing fans to into the Prudential Center to watch his hockey team play.
Since Harris and Blitzer took over, the attendance numbers aren’t pretty. In ownership’s first season (2018-19), the Devils finished 26th in the NHL with an average attendance of 14,834 in a building that holds 19,500 fans.
A big factor in the lousy attendance that season was the poor product on the ice. The Devils finished last in the Metropolitan Division with a record of 31-40-10 and 72 points.
As a result, New Jersey landed the first pick in the 2019 NHL Entry Draft, in which they used on Florida native Jack Hughes.
Looking to get back into contention while attracting more fans, the Devils also acquired one of the NHL’s biggest names, P.K. Subban, in a trade with the Nashville Predators.
By adding the three-time all-star and former James Norris Memorial Trophy winner and having the games top amateur prospect in Hughes aboard it appeared the Devils were all in on trying to win in 2019-20.
That has been far from the case. After a 9-1 loss to the Buffalo Sabers to knock the team’s record to 9-13-4, the Devils fired head coach John Hynes.
The team hasn’t improved all too much since then, as they’re currently 15-21-7 with just 37 points. Their 37 points is the second-worst in the NHL only ahead of the Detroit Red Wings (27).
As a result, the attendance at the Prudential Center hasn’t improved much from a year ago. The Devils currently rank 27th in the NHL in attendance this season at 15,042
While this is a very slight increase from their 2018-19 number, it isn’t what the new ownership could’ve imagined after voicing confidence about the team’s future in Newark and having a big offseason in 2019.
With all of these factors, it’s safe to pose the question: Is the Devils future in New Jersey, and if not, where?
While Las Vegas recently got the hockey team they had been fighting for, and Seattle will get their wish in 2021, there are other cities still actively working on landing an NHL franchise.
One city linked to potentially bringing back NHL Hockey is Kansas City, Missouri.
The Devils and Kansas City will be forever linked. The Devils franchise originated in the City of Fountains as the Kansas City Scouts from 1974-76. While hockey did not last long in Kansas City in the 1970s, it has a better chance of surviving today.
Kansas City is not home to an NHL or NBA team, yet is home to the 18,972-seat Sprint Center that opened in 2007.
This summer, a city of Kansas City Spokesperson told KMBC News that the city is “is not soliciting professional teams, but that it would be happy to land an NBA or NHL team if the city was approached.”
Thus, if the Devils ever did consider leaving New Jersey, the current ownership group could potentially look to the city’s history in Kansas City as a possible relocation spot or see if there are any owner groups interested in the Midwest.
Another city where there is quite a bit of buzz at potentially landing an NHL franchise is Houston, Texas. Houston is an NHL team away from being a four-sport city as the fourth-most populated city in the U.S. is already home to the Astros (MLB), Rockets (NBA) and Texans (NFL).
Back in September of 2019, Houston Rockets owner Tilman Fertitta told Craig Cohen of Houston Public Media that he’s had several conversations about bringing the NHL to the Space City.
“There’s not a month that goes by that we don’t have some type of talks about the NHL, Fertitta said. “And it’s definitely something that one day I look forward to bringing to Houston, Texas.”
The question for Houston will be, “Do the fans care enough about the sport of hockey to buy tickets?”
“The studies we have done, it’s a little harder below the Mason-Dixon Line. It’s a little harder to put butts in the seats,” Fertitta said in the same interview. “And we’ve got to find the right team, and then we have got to just make sure that we can put the butts in the seats.”
Could a team with rising star Jack Hughes, world-renowned star P.K. Subban be that right team? Maybe.
Regardless, it’d be a shame for New Jersey to lose the Devils, but fans need to be in those seats and winning hockey has to be played in order to put these questions to bed for good.