The Devils, on the strength of a gorgeous overtime goal by Travis Zajac, pushed their Eastern Conference Quarterfinal series with Florida to a decisive Game 7 on Tuesday night, winning 3-2.
But before the puck was even dropped in Newark this evening, New Jersey had already notched a big victory with their fans in the social media realm.
Yesterday afternoon, Panthers president Michael Yormark took to Twitter to declare that the familiar plastic rats, thrown onto the ice following Florida victories, will not be sold at the arena team store like they had been in past years due to some of them being tossed onto the ice during play.
Rather than alienating his own fan base by blaming them for firing them onto the playing surface during game action, he took Devils fans to task, claiming the opposing team's fans were deliberately trying to draw a penalty on the Panthers by repeatedly interrupting play.
Listen, Mr. Yormark. We're not saying you're definitely wrong here. But for a fan base that failed to sell out Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Finals in 2003, we're hard-pressed to think there's an awful lot of them congregating in Sunrise for a few first-round matchups.
Now here's your daily reminder of why Twitter is a fun social media tool: no matter who you are, if you tweet something stupid, you will be held accountable. Yormark was no different, receiving plenty of responses from Devils fans irate with his allegations. Rather than take the high road, you know, like an established high-ranking official of a professional sports team, he chose to snap back at a few select fans:
No one cares what you think?! You mean to tell me that nobody in the Panthers offices caught this and even thought about mentioning something along the lines of "Hey, uh Mike? Not sure that's the best idea. Kind of makes us look like a bunch of confused degenerates."
Oh, and by the way, Mr. Yormark, this is the first time since the turn of the century your team is participating in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Let the fans enjoy the ride. And in case you hadn't noticed, you're not exactly running a cash cow down there in Sunrise. Who are you to turn your nose up to a revenue stream, especially one that just-so-happens to be connected to the only time in your franchise's history the team wasn't a total embarrassment?
The Devils social media department, upon getting wind of this, showed Yormark a thing or two about taking the high road. Will Carafello, New Jersey's Director of Digital Marketing, personally reached out to Lauren Rubino, also known as @LaurenAshley07:
This was no bluff. A few minutes later, Carafello posted a photo of the tickets he was leaving for Rubino, who in fact attended a memorable Game 6 victory for her beloved Devils.
Oh, and as for her follower count? The Devils official Twitter account (@NHLDevils) as well as a number of bloggers, including Yahoo! Puck Daddy's Greg Wyshynski (admittedly a Devils fan) have spearheaded a campaign to get their fans to follow her. A number that sat at less than 75 around noon now stands at well over 1,000 and counting. Wyshynski pointed out that she's now only trailing Yormark by roughly 2,000 followers. It appears as though people do care what Ms. Rubino has to say after all.
Yormark and Carafello exemplified the glaring difference between the Devils and Panthers. Forget the on-ice success, or lack thereof in Sunrise. This is just the latest example of the Devils scoring huge points with a small, yet rabid fan base in New Jersey.
With the Flyers and Rangers to compete with on either end of their state lines, success at the box office becomes contingent on a number of factors besides just wins and losses. Interaction with fans is paramount. And few do it better than the Devils. Hats off to their social media department, who continues to be among the best in pro sports with regards to interacting with the people who essentially pay their salaries.