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On a roll at The Rock

The New Jersey Devils open a new season with a new president and a growing fan base

In the last six months, New Jersey Devils officials expanded the team’s content staff from two to 11 people in an effort to create more social media content for fans. In the three months since the NHL draft, they’ve exceeded every content media metric the organization had previously set, becoming fourth in the league in Twitter interactions and third in Instagram interactions.

Newly appointed President Jake Reynolds said that improvement has already translated into business gains for the team—they’re top five in the league for new full season ticket holders, and over 90 percent of their season ticket base renewed—and he wants to keep it that way.

Reynolds joined the New Jersey Devils parent organization Harris Blitzer Sports & Entertainment (HBSE) in 2013. He started off as chief revenue officer for the Philadelphia 76ers before taking the same position for the whole HBSE organization; and as of mid-September, he’s head honcho for the business side of the Devils. He’s learned a lot over the years under the watchful eye of the executives above him, he said, including HBSE Chief Executive Officer Scott O’Neil, former Devils President Hugh Weber, founders Josh Harris and David Blitzer, and Devils General Manager Ray Shero.

Jake Reynolds, president, New Jersey Devils. - NJ DEVILS

Jake Reynolds, president, New Jersey Devils. – NJ DEVILS

With Weber’s elevation to HBSE president and his own elevation to the Devils’ helm, revenue guy Reynolds is tasked with capitalizing on hockey’s growth as a global sport to bring the team into the international spotlight.

“You start to look at how hockey is emerging through other countries. China is the No. 3 country in terms of hockey consumption. There are over 400 ice rinks in China right now,” he said. “So as we start to look at how this is growing throughout the world, we’re excited about the possibility and have the aspirations to grow the game of hockey [and] the Devils brand globally.”

Reynolds draws from his experience bringing the 76ers to China for two games, a trip he helped facilitate in 2018. HBSE sends a group over to China quarterly to meet with businesses and has sent 76ers alums and players to represent the brand. The Devils also just hired a Mandarin-speaking employee.

With its other international conquests—the Devils played a game each in Sweden and Switzerland last year, their first outside North America—team social media recorded 25 percent and 150 percent increases in digital traffic from U.S.-based and European-based fans, and the Devils’ Instagram grew at a faster rate than the NHL’s during that period.

Analytics play a large role in decision-making.

“Every decision we make on the business side is rooted in data and analytics. That’s everything from the type of content that’s created to where we’re delivering that content to who our target demographic is for that piece of content, to leverage different analytics to figure out how we should price our building to what seats we should be using for our season tickets [versus] partial plans [versus] individual tickets.”

An older millennial, Reynolds looks at analytics holistically, and applies them to the decision-making process at every corner.

“Analytics and technology insights have become more critical to stay on the forefront of business and making sure we grow it in the right direction,” he said.

But business doesn’t just push itself forward. As a manager, Reynolds has to take care of his own—through O’Neil and Weber, he learned early on that “there’s nothing more important than your people.”

He said his personal pillars of management are access, development and recognition. Who at the top is accessible to employees, and what types of development programs are they facilitating so that employees can grow within the organization? How are employees being recognized for their work?

With every sale a team member makes, a boxing bell rings in the middle of the sales floor, he said, and each person has a unique song—think of it as a walk-up song—that then gets blasted through the office in celebration. The team member often gets a standing ovation from his or her peers.

“It starts at the top and runs throughout our organization,” Reynolds said. “[O’Neil and Weber] set that foundation for me, and from my end, I wanted to put my touch on it and make sure it was true and authentic to who I was and who I wanted to be as a manager. Those two certainly laid the groundwork for me to build upon.”

The season opened at the Prudential Center in Newark on Oct. 4 against the Winnipeg Jets; the Edmonton Oilers come to town on Oct. 10 at 7 p.m.

Gabrielle Saulsbery
Albany, N.Y. native Gabrielle Saulsbery is a staff writer for NJBIZ and the newest thing in New Jersey. You can contact her at gsaulsbery@njbiz.com.