As a sports nut, I have many rooting interests, sometimes conflicts of interest (especially regarding what game I need to prioritize if multiple events are being shown) and mostly conflicting seasons. Meaning, end of summer isn’t just about beginning of football or baseball wrapping up, but it also means that hockey is in my cross hairs.
What’s also interesting is how many people seem to think the same way I do about these events. It’s tough to find many Mets and Rangers fans. It’s a lot easier to find say, Mets and Jets fans, even Mets and Giants fans, but Mets and Rangers are usually as far apart as I don’t know, Yankees and Mets. See, the Mets were an expansion team, and the Rangers are an Original Six. While both have their unique and sometimes quirky history, they are as far apart on the spectrum as any team’s history can expect. However, the way they operate is very similar. They both have clueless front office and ownership is family-oriented, meaning sometimes the best decisions are not necessarily made and it’s done more to protect the family than of making their investment better.
Yet, when Alvin, a Mets friend of mine, suggested a few of us get together and see a Rangers preseason game in New Jersey versus the hated Devils…I couldn’t say no. Preseason games usually aren’t my thing (ESPECIALLY when I have to travel for it), but the people I went with are really good folks and I wanted to see them too since it had been awhile.
Preseason games usually don’t mean anything to me, but when I’m with such good company, it makes the trip worthwhile.
Now first things first, the moment we enter the place, it was like we owned it. Ranger fans are very territorial, and I would say even with the success the Devils have had in recent years, the population is 50/50 at most Devils/Rangers games, and I would even venture to say the over goes to Ranger fans (it’s typically more economical to visit the team on the road in NJ, and especially convenient to the NJ portion of the Ranger fanbase). In fact, when we walked in, a Swedish news reporter asked us about Henrik Lundqvist and why we followed the Rangers. Of course, we all offered our opinionated views on why we love the Rangers.
The arena, Prudential Center, is much nicer than the previous hole the Devils used to play in, the Swamp, er uh…Meadowlands “I’m Calling It Brendan Byrne” Arena. Of course, I am biased with it because while I think The Rock is a nice place, it’s nowhere near as cool as MSG. The thing I will give it over MSG is that a) it’s newer and b) is easier to navigate than MSG. During the playoffs last season, I was claustrophobic walking around the Garden. This place has never given me the shrinking walls syndrome that MSG always does. The food is also marginally better at Pru too. Yet, I feel like I am at high school gymnasium when I attend games there, with their Devils Dancers and the overall homage to Jersey they have. I’m from freaking Jersey, and I hate that this is the representative “Jersey team” and that it’s crammed down my throat.
Nice arena, but certainly not my cup of tea.
Anyway, back to the matter at hand which is the game itself…
Well, Not Henrik played, Uncle Daddy Marty (aka Martin Brodeur) did. We got to see Ryan Callahan and his Sweet C. Even some role guys like Mike Del Zotto showed up.
Some aspects of history were brought up, some sad, some kind of interesting. One thing was that we heard most NHL teams had a dedication to those we’ve lost this summer, most specifically the plane crash that took the lives of the Lokomotiv Russian team. It was a tearjerker for sure, and even highlighted one of the ’94 Rangers, Alexander Karpovtsev.
For the interesting part…not many people know that prior to his now synonymous #30, Brodeur was #29 at the first point of his career. I bet this chick thought she was all hard-core wearing not only her fugly red and green originals, but that she was on board with #29 before everyone else.
As legend has it, the Rangers won in the 3rd period with a go-ahead goal and all was right in the world. Well, I was annoyed and a bit bored since Pru did not get the memo that a) I was there and b) would like to be served immediately if not sooner between periods (especially when all I want is a goddamn soda). Plus, I had to run 10 miles the next morning and needed to get a good night of sleep. Trust me, this stuff doesn’t happen during the season. Plus, it was kind of entertaining to see the Devils fans treat this game like a Stanley Cup playoff. I just had fun hanging with the people who make it worthwhile for me to root for a team and be an active participant as a spectator.
Some other observations I made, albeit quickly and with a watered-down preseason team: Passing looked smoother, they took more shots (no la-la-la pretty set-up dancing) and their power play looked at least a bit tighter. Clearly, the boys did their homework over the summer break.
Yet, the same night, the Mets were supposed to play, and did not because of a rain out. Typically, we are going out all out trying to keep up with the scoreboard watching, even though the Mets game meant nothing, even though it’s a meaningless game in September. But for all intents and purposes, we were also sitting at a meaningless game.
It took more meaning with the people I was with, who also have active interests. This is what happens when my sports worlds collide.
Oh and not only did my sports worlds collide, my arena worlds collided when the only true dancer of hockey, the Blue Seats’ own Dancin’ Larry, came and regaled us with a few moves at one point in the game!
Preseason games aren’t always to warm the teams up, it’s to warm the fans up too. Judging by the turn out for this particular game, I think it’s shaping up to be a fun season.