Continental Airlines Arena
Continental Airlines Arena
On May 27th 1982 a team on the move finally found it´s home when the Colorado Rockies, who had failed after coming into the league in 1974/75 in Kansas City before, became the New Jersey Devils. In both home markets prior to New Jersey the team failed to establish any succesfull relatonship to a healthy number of fans and to the corporate community. The team also ranked last or close to last in the league and had not won more than 22 games in a full season prior to 1982, even though the team managed to climb into the playoffs in 1978 where a first-round exit against the Philadelphia Flyers followed.
At first it appeared as if the new New Jersey Devils would also fail again in the Meadowlands-Arena, just a couple of miles out of New York City. Hockey-fans of the Big Apple supported the mighty New York Islanders or the world-famous New York Rangers, the market was just too crowded with competition for the new team. On January 22th 1987 the Devils set a team-record with only 334 fans in attendance. While one could blame the disastrous weather on that day the number also reflects on the respect people in New York City and it´s surroundings had for the team. Wayne Gretzky´s famous remarks towards the team when he called the franchise a "Mickey-Mouse"-team just added to the impression that things where awfully wrong once again.
As time crawled by the number of spectators also rose even though more than 10.000 fans only showed up for games against the Rangers or other top-teams over the course of the years.
In 1995 the packing-procedure started again and the team was trying to find a new home in Atlanta, Houston or any other city willing to take an NHL franchise. But somehow the incredible happened, the team finished sixth in the Eastern Conference, got better with each round of the playoffs and stormed over the Detroit Red Wings in a sweep in the Stanley Cup finals. All of the sudden the Devils overtook the Islanders in the standings and in the stands, finally ground was broken for success at the box-office and in the New York media. A new contract with the Meadowlands Arena was signed, keeping the Devils in the area for at least another 15 seasons and that while a move to Nashville had been almost worked out before (Nashville would get an expansion-team instead).
Ever since 1995 the Devils are one of the premier teams in the league, the Meadowlands Arena turned thanks to a sponsorship-deal into the Continental Airlines arena and crowds below 10.000 became the exception. The team followed up on several great season with a 2nd Stanley Cup in 1999-2000 and became only the third team of the 90s besides the Pittsburgh Penguins and Detroit Red Wings to capture the important hardware more than once. The team advanced to the finals again in 2000/2001 but lost the series in seven games to the Colorado Avalanche after the team seemed to have it´s third cup in seven years secured when they won the fith game in Denver and took a supposingly comanding 3:2 lead in the series.
The Continental Airlines arena belongs to the bigger NHL-arenas around the league this days with a capacity of 19.040, and thanks to it´s design it´s probably the highest venue of it´s capacity anywhere I would know of. It might not be high enough for air-shows but if you´re standing in the last row of the arena it really appears as if you´re looking down a valley.
Discussions are going on at the moment about the construction of a new home for the New Jersey Devils and the NBA´s New Jersey Nets, who also play at the Continental Airlines Arena. As of right now a building is planned in Hoboken, just along the Hudson River and only a bit of water away from Manhatten. No ground has been broken so far.
Tips for visitors:
Ticket-prices in New Jersey range from 20 to 65 US-dollars with most of the tickets in the upper range. The lower level sells for 65 dollars, tickets in the upper level start at 52 and depending on the row and section fall to as low as 20 dollars. I would advise you to buy tickets for 20 or 32 dollars and just use the fact that the arena is never too full in order to move around a bit. Even though the team turned into an incredible succesful franchise only a few games result in sellouts (all games vs the New York Rangers, most games against Philadelphia), and even when the arena is sold out there are always quiet a lot of no-shows. If you´re in the arena for a weekday-game against a weak opponent and the Devils are not running a 21-game-winning-streak or need a win to make the playoffs you can go into the lower level during the warmups and just forget to go to the upper level again. The worst thing that can happen is that you have to move a couple of times or an usher finally kicks you out and you have to move up to the upper level but in most games this strategy can work just fine. Or just enjoy the game from your cheap seat in the upper level in the first-period, keep an eye for an empty row 20 rows lower somewhere in the upper level and change between periods. As I already wrote, when the Rangers or Flyers are in town you will probably get what you paid for, the place might be filled. If you´re in the area for a longer time I would advise you to catch one of those games. For both matchups thousands of Flyers or especially Rangers-fans come to Continental Airlines Arena and the atmosphere is usually great with both fan-groups chanting against each other.
If you want to order tickets prior to your trip to the arena I would call Ticketmaster at 212-307-7171 and be on hold for half an hour before you get a free representative or just order the tickets on the internet.
Getting to the arena is rather easy. The Continental Airlines Arena is part of the Meadowlands Sports Complex, also home to the New York Jets, Giants and the local horse-racetrack. Right to the arena or the football-arena there is more than enough parking available, space is not a problem, besides the skyline of Manhatten on the horizon on a clear day you won´t see too many buildings around. If you´re staying in Manhatten the easiest way to the arena is a shuttle-service from Porth Authority (40th street, near Times Square). 2 hours prior to the game buses start to serve the arena every 30 minutes, 30 minutes after the end of the game the last bus pulls out of the parking lot at the arena. I think a roundtrip was about 8 dollars even though I am not really sure at the moment. A taxi ride by comparison will wind up at 50 dollars from Manhatten. If you´re by car I can´t give you exact directions but you will definetly find the sports complex on every mediocre map out there just a couple of miles from the Hudson river to the west of Manhatten.
Seating chart provided by www.eishockey.com.
Links to the team:
Homepage of the Devils: www.newjerseydevils.com