It started with the installment of new ownership in the summer of 2013.
After being put on the brink of financial ruin by their predecessor Jeff Vanderbeek, new owners Josh Harris and David Blitzer made it clear the organization would undergo a drastic degree of conformation that would revolutionize the way the team is managed and how they appeal to local and national audiences.
There’s no denying the amount of progress the Devils achieved under the helm of the new regime. Despite the rebuilding path the team is on, the fans have accepted and embraced most of the changes that have come about. Having said that, there are some conflicts of interest between the Devils faithful and their team’s new owners that are still presently ongoing.
Hoping to bring about a more tasteful politically correct atmosphere, the Rock’s goal song was changed in the 2013-2014 season, a move that was consensually unwelcomed by Devils fans. Gary Glitter’s “Rock and Roll Part II” (popularly known as the “Hey! Song”) was used until the 2012-2013 season. The celebratory tune was a hit with the crowds, who incorporated the infamous “Hey! You suck!” chant into the song, followed by berating the Devils’ opponents with repeated recitations of how that team “sucks!” after the goal song’s first verse.
It was a tradition Devils fans were very proud of that electrified the crowd, regardless of what the scoreboard read. The image ownership thought this trend was giving the organization along with the stories that surfaced about Gary Glitter, factored into the decision to discontinue the song’s usage.
After the fans booed in reaction John Bon Jovi’s “This is our House” being played during a 2013 preseason game, ownership held a contest for fans to vote on the team’s next goal song. The consensus of voters went with the White Stripes’ “Seven Nations Army”, which only lasted for one season. The crowds at the Rock defied the new owners’ decision and found a way to incorporate the aforementioned “You suck!” chant into the White Stripes song. Instead of working the “this team sucks!” part into the song itself, the crowds adapted and would implement this chant when play resumed.
Once again, the Devils faithful had no regard for the score and kept focused on keeping one of their homemade traditions alive.
The Devils goal song changed again when the 2014-2015 season started. “Seven Nations Army” was dropped for “Devils Rule”, a song Rich Andruska specifically made for the team. It was another surmountable obstacle for the Prudential Center crowds, who added in the ongoing “You suck!” chant in between the elongated “goal” lyric the song repeated in the beginning. The recital of the “other team sucks” taunt was worked in between the “Lets go Devils!” phrase of the new goal song.
The actual “Hey! You suck!” chant was eventually brought back by the crowd themselves, starting back at some point last season. While still persevering with the incorporation of the “You suck!” chant in the current goal song, now you’ll hear a blow horn go off once play resumes that recites the “Rock and Roll Part II” melody, to which the majority of fans in the building participate in the “Hey! You suck!” phrase with their voices.
This year marks the third season in a row the Devils have gone with a different goal song. Going with a verse from “Howl” by the Gaslight Anthem, the upbeat indie rock melody begins with a series of elongated “Ayes” and has an overlapping air raid siren, which coincidentally covers up the brief pause in between each prolonged “Aye” lyric the song contains. The crowds at the Prudential Center have proven to be defiant and ambitious at preserving the “You suck!” chant, easily seeing past the goal song’s air raid siren and identifying the opportune times to chant their long held phrase.
In an institutionalized-like effort, new ownership has stepped up their efforts this season towards banishing the “Sucks!” chants from the Rock. Dating back to the days at the Meadowlands, the crowds at Devils home games have chanted “Sucks!” for years after the scratches and starting lineups of the Devils’ opponents were announced. To combat this, the opponent’s scratches and starting lineups are merely displayed on the scoreboard screen. Even this year, the fans have yet again brought the “Hey! You suck!” chant back to Devils home games when play resumed after they score on their opponents.
While they have the organization on the right track, a case can be made that this current ownership group might not have been as mindful of the sentimentality some of these longstanding traditions hold with the crowds that come to support the Devils at the Prudential Center. Devils fans haven’t had much to cheer for since the 2012 playoff run and have endured a great deal of change that we all knew was inevitable. Whether some of these longtime traditions at Devils home games may have lost their place in the modern NHL culture, trends like these that the fans hold on to, regardless of their moral nature, distinguish Devils fans from the rest of the league.
Should the Devils organization allow fans to be hockey fans and chant as they wish, or should the organization continue to censor chants to create a more family-friendly atmosphere?