Do you remember Zoobooks?
If you’re my age, you do. The colorful magazine for children was a fixture during commercial breaks of the shows I watched growing up. I’m living proof that advertising works, because in my basement somewhere is a year’s supply of ZooBooks, special Elephant Issue and all.
Since the magazine was such an important part of my childhood, you can imagine my reaction when I saw a commercial for ZooBooks late one night while watching Adult Swim. In fact, it completely blew my mind. Not only was it the same ZooBooks I read as a child, they were still running the exact same commercial I saw so many years ago. Check the ZooBooks Wiki page, we’re working on our third decade of ZooBooks production. I mean, holy crap, that’s a lot of panda pictures floating around out there.
Check out this set of commercials from 1992. (2:00 minute mark) Almost 20 years later they are giving away the same stickers and tiger poster with your paid order. The only thing that has changed is the price and the amount of issues you get. Hell, I bet the price of ZooBooks rises slower than inflation.
After thinking about all this it finally hit me: the New Jersey Devils are ZooBooks.
No matter how good or bad the Devils are playing, they are always involved in the playoffs when all is said and done. It doesn’t seem to matter who they lose in free agency or what trend takes over the league; in April and May the Devils are playing hockey while a lot of teams stay home.
Even when Marty Brodeur misses half the season they play good hockey and go deep into the playoffs. Their resiliency is uncanny, and also a bit surprising. While the majority of the league chased after teams like Buffalo and Carolina in the post-lockout NHL, the Devils stayed put and watched as play slowly slid back in their favor.
It’s scary to say it but the Devils are an institution; as consistent a force in the NHL as there has been over the last few decades. The Red Wings may have won more, but the Devils have a bona fide style of hockey bemoaned by almost any hockey fan not wearing black and red in Newark.
So yes, the New Jersey Devils are the NHL’s ZooBooks, with Marty Brodeur the special Elephant Issue. You may forget about them for a decade or two, but every once in a while you remember they are still there, doing what they’ve always done to be successful. In an ever-changing industry they are a quiet constant, displaying a longevity Hannah Montana dolls can only dream of.
Which is why I still can’t believe the Sabres beat the Devils the way they did on Wednesday. Watching Jochen Hecht beat Brodeur in the shootout was as unlikely as watching a blue-footed booby kill an elephant. It’s not often that elephant makes a mistake like that, let alone the booby has the chance to make him pay.
It may be a goofy comparison, but I think it’s one that fits. Take a look at the standings and you’ll see it: Buffalo is a point behind New Jersey with a game in hand. The Sabres are going to be there in April, and so will the Devils. You may not be impressed by what they do, but if anything is going to happen this season I have a feeling it goes through them.
Any team can be a fad, but every team wants to be something more.