The New Jersey Devils’ on-ice product may be struggling, but the club is leading the charge in offering its fans a way to stay connected at the Prudential Center. According to a story in the Sports Business Journal, the Devils are adding iPad rental to their in-arena social media hub.

Devils Arena Entertainment, the team’s arena operator, invested “well into six figures” to build what project officials describe as a digital command center on the venue’s main concourse, with six desktops and six 50-inch high-definition televisions showing the team’s games, said Rich Krezwick, the group’s president.

In addition to the sweet new desktops and 50-inch televisions, the Devils are set to introduce their new iPad rental service:

Later this week, 20 iPads customized with the Devils’ application as well as apps from the NHL and other sports will be available to rent for $20 apiece at the center. IPad users must provide a valid credit card number and sign a short contract holding them liable for theft or any damage while the units are in their possession, Krezwick said.

Does this mean that the Blackberry pounding crowd at Air Canada Centre has some competition in the not paying attention to the game department?  Devils’ president of event marketing Jim Delaney thinks it offers fans a better way to stay connected:

“Every team and venue has a Facebook site and Twitter account … but very few teams engage in conversation. They get the media part but not the social part. We need to connect the dots. It’s not just another office in the corner, but having all the right people in the same [place].”

The New Jersey Devils currently sit at 24th in average attendance, so snicker if you will.  Regardless, the club figures they’ve got a innovative method of drawing fan interest here.  According to the Sports Business Journal report, the Devils plan on giving the iPads away on April 10th – fan appreciation day.  That should bring out the nerds…

Stick tap Sean Leahy of Puck Daddy