While the New Jersey Devils’ former home at the Izod Center in Rutherford, New Jersey, has a lot of history and special memories for Devils fans, it was time to move on when the Prudential Center in Newark opened prior to the 2007-08 season.
“The Rock,” as it is affectionately known, seats 17,625 for hockey. Although the New Jersey faithful don’t always pack the house, it is arguably one of the best arenas in the NHL.
Unlike the Izod Center, The Rock is easy to get to via public transportation. Fans can take the PATH train, which links New York City to New Jersey, Newark Light Rail and New Jersey transit. There are also buses and an Amtrak train that will bring fans to the arena.
Those who drive to the arena will find a wide variety of parking options. There are reserved lots around the building, and there is an attached parking garage with a walkway on the fourth level that brings fans right to an arena entrance. Although the parking is costly, the options are convenient and located a short walking distance from the building.
One of the big attractions outside the arena is Champions Plaza, a popular gathering place before the game starts. There is a large, gold statue of a hockey player where visitors like to take pictures, and on some occasions, there are games for fans of all ages.
When it’s time to enter the arena, visitors go through an entrance tower that lights up red at night. After getting their tickets scanned, they get on an escalator to take them to the main concourse, which has concession stands and access to lower level seating. Those in the mezzanine (100 level) or upper level (200 level) seating areas take a second escalator on the concourse, which has additional concession and restroom options and entrances to the other two seating areas.
The seats are red or black, depending on the section, and padded. In the club section, the seats are black leather with the Devils logo.
While the lower level seats have a lot of leg room, the upper level can feel a little cramped, especially during the more crowded games. The front row of the 200 level is protected by a railing with a panel of glass. This does not present a problem for watching the game, but it does leave less room to spread out and feel comfortable.
Concession options are fairly traditional as far as arena food is concerned. One of the best foods available is nachos with chicken or beef and other fixings such as sour cream, lettuce and salsa. Fans can also find chicken fingers, hamburgers, French fries and pizza, as well as ice cream. The prices are typical for venue concessions, but perhaps a little higher due to the fact that the arena is located in the New York City area, which has higher prices regardless of where visitors go to eat.
The ushers are professionally dressed in black sweater vests and pants and white button down shirts. They are very helpful in helping fans find seat locations and answering questions. They’ll also allow anyone who’s interested to sit in the lower level seating for warmups, but understandably, if anyone does not have a ticket in that area, they will be asked to move if the ticket holder comes during that time.
The Devils’ game-day experience features Devils Dancers, who, while talented, are generally not well-received by the crowd. The P.A. announcer will try to get fans excited for the dancers’ performance, but they get little to no applause before and after their routines. An organ plays traditional and popular music, and it’s always fun trying to guess which top 40 song the organist is playing before warmups.
After the game, it can be slow to exit the building because escalators are jammed with fans and the concourse, while wide, gets packed in a hurry. Anyone who drove to the game will find traffic is heavy and slow moving, and those riding on public transportation may have to stand for part of the ride. However, once fans get passed the traffic jams and get breathing room on the trains, the rest of their journey will be smooth sailing.
New Jersey fans are friendly and spend a lot of the game mocking the New York Rangers or wondering how the Rangers game is going (if New York is playing that night). With this in mind, it’s pretty easy to have a good conversation with a Devils fan and exchange some teasing, but it never gets out of hand.
Overall, the Prudential Center gets four-and-a-half out of five stars, as it’s hard to find any flaws in it, even if it hasn’t seen as many winning moments as the Izod Center.
This article also appears at The Hockey Writers.