Derek Stepan

A Red Letter Day

All I want is what you want
I’m always waiting for a red letter day
Like Christmas morning when you’re a kid
Admit you love me and you always did
Baby, I’m hoping for that red letter day today

A red letter day is any day of special significance.  Of course, I was alerted to its meaning by a Pet Shop Boys song.  I can’t ever really say I used the term just for shits and giggles before now, however.

For the Rangers and specifically Henrik Lundqvist, May 13th has held special significance in their history.  According to some folks on Twitter and the Rangers forums I follow (I’d like to attribute this stat to someone, so if you can get me a link, it would be greatly appreciated), this is something interesting:

5/13/13: Henrik 35 saves, Rangers win Game 7
5/13/14: Henrik 35 saves, Rangers win Game 7
5/13/15: Henrik 35 saves, Rangers win Game 7

Two things stand out: 35 saves.  Game 7s.

If I had known that this was a series that Rangers like to extend to Game 7 if only to give us all agita, maybe I could’ve  handled a 3-1 deficit a little bit better.  But it seems like when a few of us were about to give up (namely, myself and Ranger buddy KB – we were just disgusted, and she was about to start hanging up her Ranger skates and follow the Lightning more closely, I was just pissed off they didn’t LOSE), the Rangers score.  And they score again.  And they win.  They win again.

They win again.

And the number 35 is significant or a “red letter” number if you will for the Rangers: our last Stanley Cup winning goalie WORE the number 35.

11231096_10206842438684770_2496654098570330887_n  Other red letter days in Rangers history took place that Stanley Cup winning year as well.  A team they owned in the regular season fought back, and clawed their way to a seven game series.  Only to have the Rangers win in OT in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals.

Kind of funny how that works.  See, in that round, a player by the name of Stephane Matteau scored that game winner in a very stressful series.

In this series, a player by the name of Derek Stepan scored the game winner.

Stephane? Stepan? Stepan! Matteau!

Backs against the wall, Captain Mark Messier makes a declaration, and backs it up with a champion’s performance.

Backs against the wall, Captain Ryan McDonagh scores a definitive goal to keep his Rangers team alive.

Back in 1994, when the Rangers were down 2-0 in what could have potentially been an elimination game against the Devils, I guess I was naive enough to think that somehow the Rangers would pull it off.  My dad on the other hand gave me the “talk” about what it’s like to be a Rangers fan.  Then they win, and I’ll never forget the Dad-man singing, “Happy days are here again.”

This year, I’m on Twitter just SKEWERING the team for not showing up in the playoffs.  I told someone in a forum that I guess he hasn’t been watching the series because this team hasn’t been demonstrative at all.  Then they score a tying goal.  Then a winning goal in OT.  And then they shut me up by winning the goddamn thing.

So I guess my point is, we have days of special significance in our lives, they stand for something important and meaningful.  For me, that day proved that I can’t ever doubt this team, ever.  Someone is going to come through, someone is going to carry the team on their back, someone is going to stand up and say, “We’re not going to take this.”

Oh, and remember that whole thing about a team owning another in the 1994 Eastern Conference playoffs?  The Rangers had a phenomenal record against New Jersey that year, yet a Game 7 was forced.

This year, Tampa Bay basically annihilated the Rangers in the regular season.  By the way, the Rangers also were Regular Season “Champs.”

What does that say?

This series is about to get really interesting.

What, you thought it ended last series??? You thought this would be easy?

MUHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!

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When Did We Become Such Cold Weather Crybabies?

I think it started during the football game in Green Bay, Wisconsin.  Green Bay is not exactly known for its balmy weather and tropical beaches. It’s the midwest.  It’s frickin cold out there.  Even fans of the Packers joke about how many layers they need to wear.  I wish I could find it, but the point has been moot for me, there was an article in the New York Times a few years back about a fan who wore several layers in preparation for late seasons and playoffs games.  It’s a ritual, and something accepted amongst football fans in cold weather climates.  Think: Buffalo, Green Bay, Chicago.

Prior to their playoff game on January 5th, everyone was beside themselves.  OOOOOH, it’s gonna be freezing…in Wisconsin…in January.

I was surprised.  I mean, isn’t it a given that it’s an occupational not to mention a spectator “hazard” that if you work or watch an outdoor sport, unless you are in a dome, you’re going to be exposed to the elements?  I mean, shit, football doesn’t even have postponements or delays related to rain (unless, of course, there is lightning).  You play through that shit.

The beginning of 2014 hasn’t exactly been boastful of an unseasonably warm climate, especially in the northeast, where we’ve had the phrase Polar Vortex become an essential part of our lexicon.  It’s snowed quite a few times, and I’ve even joked around with my friends about how the cold isn’t so bad, but factor in wind and snow elements, I’m over it.

We chat about the weather with total strangers.  We joke about not wanting to be outside in the elements.  People buy dog booties for their dog walks.  We get bundled up to walk to the corner store or even to drive somewhere.  It goes with the territory.

But I draw the line at people complaining about it being cold at a voluntary outdoor sporting event.  Really?  I mean, REALLY, guys?  It’s January, and it’s in the northeast.

IT’S GONNA BE COLD HERE.

I will give fans who attended the game credit: I didn’t see many people complaining on that end about the Stadium Series on Sunday.  Most of the folks there are die hard.  They do get the fact that one needs to bundle up to enjoy the game.  Yet, I see tweets like this that get my blood boiling.

Every single person in that stadium yesterday was there voluntarily.  Each person presumably bought a ticket, and attended on their own free will.

The players, however, get paid a very handsome salary to play these games.  The night before, a game was played in Los Angeles, not exactly a hotbed (pun not intended) of perfect outdoor ice hockey activity.  We didn’t hear one problem with the “ice.”  But in the Bronx in January by the goddamn Harlem River, Devils goalie Martin Brodeur blames the ice on his poor performance (The Rangers scored 6 goals against him before he was taken out of the game…mind you the Devils also scored 3 goals in the first period…no one had a problem with the ice before then??)

Oh, but there’s more.  This week, Super Bowl XLVIII will be held at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, NJ.  Now, all the cold weather crybabies are reporting on the nonstory that “WAHHH! It’s gonna be COLD and elemental in New Jersey IN JANUARY. WAHHHHHHHHH!”

Bite me.

This time around, it’s not Uncle Daddy or any of the players crying about the weather or potential hazard of it.  It’s mostly the sportswriters who all of a sudden have a sympathy for the players who get paid millions of dollars to play on the big stage…in the snow, rain, or sleet.  Shit, I’ve seen frickin beautiful days here with low temps.  Has anyone considered that the Super Bowl could be played in something like THAT??!

The Denver Broncos and the Seattle Seahawks kind of corner the market on playing in the elements.  Denver gets snow.  Seattle gets rain.  The only people I see “inconvenienced” with the weather are people who have to sit in the stands (who are paying around $2,000 for an upper bowl seat) and the writers who are subscribing to some of the laziest journalism I have ever borne witness.

Their headlines are akin to chatting about the weather.  Is this the state of sports writing today?

I just have a tough time believing that when New York/New Jersey was chosen as the Super Bowl venue, that no one considered weather factors.

It’s January in the Northeast.  Guess what?

It’s cold here.

The Shores of Tripoli

I guess in John’s world you can come into our building and start your tough guys, but we can’t do the same here…He’s either got short-term memory loss or he’s a hypocrite.” – Pete DeBoer, New Jersey Devils Coach (March 18, 2012)

“I figured he was just blowing up. I’m sure he’ll apologize today about it and everything will be forgotten.” – Sidney Crosby, Pittsburgh Penguins, in response to John Tortorella’s blowup post-game last night. (April 5, 2012)

What did I hear?

WAH WAH WAH WAH WAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAH!!!

Gimme a break, you crybabies.  This is NATIONAL HOCKEY LEAGUE, not Big Boy Pants Day Camp.

Again, gimme a fucking break.

The first quote was in response to Tortorella starting a line of tough guys at the get go in the game last month against the Devils.  Now, this is pot meeting kettle over here.  DeBoer knew exactly what he was getting into, and when Torts played fire with fire, he got mad about it.  Especially when it worked in Torts’ favor.

Last night was the biggie.  Look, if this was a game that truly meant anything at all, playoff ranking implications, whatever, well, teams need to do what teams need to do to survive.  Reality was, the Rangers are locked in #1 seed in East, whereas Penguins are also in playoffs.  OOOOH do I suspect a little bit of **SHOCK HORROR** JEALOUSY from those igloo dwelling babies?

Look, I didn’t see the game last night as I was (shameless plug) on a baseball podcast and needed to prepare some notes for it.  Plus, I had posted (another shameless plug) on the Rangers getting top seed on YouTube two nights before.  I was riding high on a Mets win in Flushing, then I had to hear about this bullshit.  And it pissed me off.

But you know what made me happy?  Things aren’t that bad.  I mean, of course I hope that D-Step isn’t hurt from that dirty play by Brooks Orpik (look, no matter what side of the fence you are on, you see that move, and it was DICK MOVE no question).  But when I heard what Tortorella said after the game…made me love him even more.

He called them out on the Penguins double standard bullshit basically, calling them the most “arrogant team in the league,” and “whiners.”  You know what?  Every team, no matter what sport, has their crybabies.  I might root for a few of them in my lifetime.  But only look at what Sidney Crosby has to say in response (calling out Ryan Callahan, saying Tortorella spoke in the heat of the moment, dismissing what the real issue is here), let alone the “WAAAAAAAHHHH” mentality of their owner Mario Lemieux.

See, Lemieux makes some very good points, as illustrated last season, the Islanders got fined a shitload of money for disciplinary action against the Penguins.

But you know, he comes across as that kid who grew up across the street with you.  You remember him, right?  He was kind of a douche but he has a pool (inground!), a mom who bakes cookies and lot of cool toys.

Then comes the day when you realize that he uses this against you.  Like, if things aren’t going his way, he threatens to take all his toys with him back to his house or makes you go home because you aren’t letting him win.

Except substitute “one of the legends of hockey” for that bratty fucking kid down the street, and there’s Mario.  (And you’re talking to a chick who was ALL ABOUT Mario Lemieux back in the day).  You know the league isn’t going to do anything to DARE cross Prince Mario’s path.  Noooooooo.  Especially with this two fucking arrogant bastard players, Malkin and Crosby…the poster boys for double-standard practices in NHL.  I get it — they’re good.  And I always had a philosophy that if you dislike a player, it’s really because you secretly want them on your team because they are good.

Well enough is enough.  Even though those two weren’t involved in the hit (and I do think that Orpik should get disciplined, but that’s just me talkin’), they perpetuate the idea that they are above the law in the NHL and that somehow, the rules don’t apply to them.  Well, fuck that noise.

As for Torts, should he apologize?  Is RYAN CALLAHAN somehow as bad with the dirty plays (as Crosby alluded to) that the Penguins do, and then complain about in the next breath when it’s one of their players?  NO TO BOTH.

I’ll tell you why.  John Tortorella is the MAN.  I can’t say I was his biggest fan, I liked him enough, just was like – whatever – when it came to him.  Now, call me in the corner of Tortorella’s camp.

We’re about to go into battle with this guy calling the shots.  He’d take a bullet for his players, and they would do the same in return.  You gotta love that in a coach.  You really do.

Oh and for the record, fuck Sidney Crosby with a rusty nail.