Fan Reaction: Rangers/Jets (Feb. 26)

Written By: Chaz King, Rangers Fan Since '89

Being a Ranger fan means a lot of things. It’s not only about pride, passion and cheering at the top of your lungs at games; it’s also letting visiting teams know whose house they’re coming into for a game. Last night, the Winnipeg Jets came to our house. Having just played four straight road games, I figured these Jets would have jet-lag coming into this match-up and have trouble matching our team’s bravado.

Then, there's our team: the New York Rangers. Having experienced some tough losses the past few games, the Blueshirts were hungry for a win to turn things around. While injuries to Rick Nash, Michael Del Zotto and Ryan McDonagh could be factors, I had high hopes going into the game. When one side of the ice needs, I know the other side will step up. It's in our players' DNA. Their blood. Their veins.

As I stepped out of the subway with a crowd of fans, heading towards the game, we collectively bellowed from the depth of our lungs, "Lets Go Rangers!"

Ranger pride takes many forms at the game. Some wear it on their sleeve while others take to social media. Then there's my beautiful, pregnant wife, Marni, who takes it to new heights. With two future Ranger fans on the way, she appropriately donned her personalized "future fans" Rangers shirt for the game, adding the extra "S" for the double-trouble coming our way in June. With tickets in hand, we were ready to head inside."

As we were ushered into the Garden and headed up the escalators, the excitement began to build. There's no better way to experience hockey than seeing it live. For Marni, it was her first time back to the Garden since the renovations began almost two years ago.

“Prepare to be amazed,” I told her.

Our first stop was at the 100-level promenade — known as the Madison Concourse — which is available to all guests, not just those with Club seats. All fans should visit this area when they arrive at the arena. Don’t simply rush to your seats; you want to walk around and take in the sights and sounds. From game-worn sports memorabilia showcased on the walls, to the amazing restaurants and food, you can essentially just take laps around the promenade. The best part is you never know who, or what, you’ll end up seeing.

Then, from a distance, I saw what I needed.

“Babe, beer.”

I gingerly made my way to the bar and ordered an ice cold, tall glass of “ahh”.  My pregnant wife made her way to the do-it-yourself soda machine. This thing was pretty sweet —no pun intended. You can mix and match as many soda combinations as you want using a touch screen kiosk. Marni went with the Fanta and Sprite combo, which I would highly recommend.

Finally, we made our way to our seats. The fans around us were all very friendly and happy to be at the game, away from work, and all the stresses in life. Now it was time to just relax, scream at the top of our lungs and enjoy the game. As we looked around, Marni immediately complimented how nice and clean the arena looks. I agreed, and pointed out the minimal advertising signage along the facades of the arena. They could have plastered the Garden with advertisements, but it’s nice to see they kept the clean design aesthetic, sans company logos.

Then it began. The stadium went dark and the sound system started blaring. All attention was turned to the scoreboard above the ice. Seeing King Henrik lead the team onto the ice was exhilarating. I was excited, and Marni mentioned the babies were kicking. Yeah, it was intense.

Warmups began and I saw all my boys on the ice.

“Cally, what up?” “Hank, how ya feeling?,” I asked.

My wife looked at me with that glare that every husband gets at some point from their wife.

“What babe? You know they know me,” I replied. “They’re just busy. They’ll say what’s up later.”

As the Rangers and Jets skated around the ice, you couldn’t help but notice how much louder and brighter the Garden is following the latest round of renovations. The improved lighting allows you to see the players more clearly and, to be honest, not once during the game did Marni ask me where the puck was.

Then, there’s the sound system. “It kinda goes right through you, right?,” I asked.

With all this excitement, you’d think both teams would come out swinging. Unfortunately, that wasn’t the case. The first period was relatively quiet, and when the horn sounded, both Marni and I rushed to the bathrooms. Approximately five seconds later, we met and concurrently echoed:

“No line!”

You really have to hand it to the Garden. More bathrooms, less lines; what a brilliant concept. With time to spare, it was time for our first meal of the game. We kept it old-school, going with a hotdog and pretzel to start.

Moving along the promenade, I grabbed Marni’s hand and dragged her to the Steiner Sports signed memorabilia. Like a kid who needs to have everything, I pointed to a pair of signed, game-worn, goalie pads.

“Babe, kids room?”

“Babe, No.”

Hey, I tried.

The second period was underway, and finally we had some action. There was a sequence where Ryan Callahan lost his stick.

“Great, this is just what we need,” I said.

Winnipeg was deep in the Rangers’ zone, and our captain was still stickless. Then it happened. One shot blocked. Cally dove in front of the puck like a secret service agent protecting an asset. Then another shot blocked! Ryan dove on the ice to move the puck to safety.

“Who needs a stick!?,” I said.

The crowd went absolutely nuts. It was a gutsy play that showed heart, and that’s why No. 24 is so well respected by the fans.  We were pumped.

Just as fast as we got up, we sat back down when Winnipeg scored on an Olli Jokinen wrist shot. Just a few minutes later, Winnipeg scored another goal.

The crowd went quiet.

Shortly after, Callahan knocked one in, and we’re back within a goal. Then, Winnipeg scores again, and we’re suddenly back down by two. You see where I’m going with this: Up, down, up, down, up, down. I’m happy, then sad. Hopeful, then dismayed.

The period ends and we decide to go to another promenade, hoping the new scenery will change things around a bit. On the escalator, I start chatting with a couple of guys, dressed in Rangers gear from head-to-toe. True fans. We parted ways as we made our way into the 200 promenade. I showed Marni the view from a different perspective and the food sections.

“The babies are hungry,” she said. And with that, we were onto our second meal. Marni wasn’t craving anything in particular, but I sure was. Bacon, cheese, grease and meat. That burger and fries was calling to me. Marni excitedly made her way to the 16 Handles frozen yogurt booth, one of her few vices.

My burger was made fresh to order and it was well worth the short wait. You should’ve seen the two of us, moaning over how good our meals were.

“The caramelized onions…” “The chocolate chip toppers…”

With food in hand, we returned to our seats for the grand finale.

The third period came with us die-hards hoping and praying for the game to go our way. Fortunately for us, the Rangers looked poised and focused right out of the gate, and at first, it paid off.

Pyatt scored off a tip-in, giving us a chance and cutting the lead to one goal. That excitement only lasted for around 20 seconds when a quick snap shot got by the King, and now we’re back to trailing by two.

Sitting in front of me was a guy named Stu, a true hockey fan with a lot of knowledge of the game. We had been chatting back and forth through all the ups and downs of the game, but when that goal was scored, he quietly got up from his seat and headed for a beer. It was that reaction that symbolized the feeling at the arena.

However, much like the rest of the game, the tide suddenly shifted back in our direction. Anton Stralman’s wrister brought us back to within a goal. I’m excited. Stu is excited. The crowd is excited.

Down just 4-3 with plenty of time left, we see Cuba Gooding Jr. on the scoreboard. Like his famous speech in Jerry Maguire, Cuba got the crowd going.

“Show me a win, Rangers!”

The Rangers continued to play hard, and when they earned a power play, it was time to get pumped. It was time to get energized. It was time for Dancin’ Larry. You couldn’t have timed it more perfectly. With three minutes to go, we had every opportunity to get this game back into our hands.

Unfortunately, things didn’t work out that way. Henrik left the net, and with the extra  man advantage, we got some powerful shots on goal. As the time ticked away, the scoreboard read our fate for the evening:

Winnipeg 4. Rangers, 3.

As we filed out of MSG, I asked Marni, “Did you have fun at the game tonight?”

“I had such a good time!”

As I watched the fans leave the game, many were laughing, telling jokes, and enjoying each other’s company. I guess sometimes winning isn’t everything, and for the fans last night, it was still a great experience. Hats off to the Jets for a game well played, especially in net. We have a day of rest today and then back at home against the Tampa Bay Lightning on Thursday.

Let’s get it done.

True blue, behind you no matter what. Go Rangers!