Henrik Lundqvist

One In A Million

Why…
This uncertainty?
It’s not clear to me
Would you rather be independent?
Have I lost your love?
Have you had enough?
Do you feel too much resentment?
How can I make you see
When you disagree
That you just can’t leave?

My arc as a New York Ranger fan is pretty simple.  My dad took me to a hockey game, I was 13 years old, some dude name Brian Leetch was a rookie.

They won the first game I went to at the Garden in 1989.  Even without a win, I was hooked.  I loved New York City, even as a child.  It was so different and interesting and going right to midtown for a sporting event was just mind blowing.  I was used to going out to the boondocks in Queens for Mets games at that point.

What got me was the crowd.  They were INSANE.  Forget the 1986 Mets fans, which was also a crazy time.  Rangers fans were gritty, foul, drunken, loud, crude, obnoxious.  Everything that I loved about a fanbase.  They had every reason to be.  My dad told me about the Broadway Blues and Broad Street Bullies.  He told me stories about the rivalries of the ’70s, how his best friend got in a fight and broke his arm.  How he listened to the Rangers being eliminated on the radio in 1975, in the parking lot of Tom’s Tavern in Farmingdale, New Jersey (If you know, you know).

Within a few years, our hockey team that we pledged allegiance to made it to the top of the mountain: the Stanley Cup.  Lord Stanley placed his hand over the Garden, and we celebrated this victory like it was 1999 (though, it was only five years before…in 1994).

That summer made such an impression on my then-young life (ha, keep your comments to yourself), that I still think about that run with such shock and awe.  I don’t think I’ve ever seen anything like it.  Even the Mets making it to the playoffs or the World Series, that electricity I felt with the Rangers is second to none.

If you’ve followed Gal For All Seasons since the beginning, and especially my posts about the New York Rangers, you’ll also know that I associated that fateful run to the Cup with one of my “desert island” albums: Pet Shop Boys’ VERY.

Whenever the Rangers made it to the playoffs, I always made it a point to listen to the album, if not in its entirety, then at least the first five songs.  That was part of my juju that year.  And the opening chords of “Can You Forgive Her?” can just bring me back to my car and driving to my dad’s to watch the games.  Then on the way to the train station when we brought our juju to the city.

What also made an impression were goaltenders.  I fell in love with Mike Richter that summer of 1994, and he remained my favorite New York Ranger, almost uncontested.  Sure, I loved Leetch, and Messier and Graves and all those guys.  But Richter was something else.  He was the first jersey I ever bought.  I broke it out when they retired his number in 2004.

That’s why after the strike that canceled hockey for a while, I gave up on it.  Richter was retired.  The Rangers had traded Leetch away (whyyyyyyy?).  Messier was old and done.  They were a shadow of themselves, not making the playoffs for years and years and years on end.  When you think about how many teams DON’T make the playoffs, it just made me think that they were never serious about winning.

Then my dad told me I should consider coming back.  “You gotta see these new guys, T.  Their new goalie?  Lundqvist?  …

His number will be hanging from the rafters someday.”

I…
Won’t stand in your way
I can’t make you stay
Though, of course, I feel rejected
You’re a part of me
You’re the family
I can’t bear to leave

So I went back.  Picture it: winter 2007.  The Rangers didn’t score at all, until overtime and won the game 1-0.  Allegedly, I also wrote about this for a Mets site that is now-defunct.

Almost singlehandedly, Henrik Lundqvist not only changed the Ranger dynamic, he brought ME from the dead, a person who said she no longer needed hockey, that it no longer served her well, and she was just fine without it.

With his coiffed look, suave and sophisticated manner, yet aggressive style of playing, no one defined being a Ranger better.  And who realized that he’d not only change the team, he changed the fucking FRANCHISE.

Sure, we had Eddie Giacomin.  And we ALL KNOW about the “ED-DIE! ED-DIE!” return to the Garden.  Sure, Giacomin was a legend to Ranger fans.

Henrik took it next level: He’s a Viking fucking WARRIOR.

I don’t know if the Rangers will ever see a competitor or a player like him again.  I don’t know if New York sports will see one like him either.

I keep talking about Henrik Lundqvist in the past tense.

I think I gotta go back to 2014 to full capture that I felt the beginning of the end of Henrik’s time in hockey.  He was 32.  He wasn’t getting younger.  And the Rangers made an improbable run to the Stanley Cup Final that year.  They didn’t win.  But they made the Eastern Conference Final three times in his tenure with the Rangers.  But after 2015, they sort of fell off the cliff.  I blame Alain Vigneault.  But I think the Rangers just did a terrible job of building around Henrik.  Even guys like Martin Brodeur had Ken Daneyko and Scott Stevens in front of his net.  Who has Lundqvist had?! Can’t tell you how many times we scream about Marc Staal or Tony DeAngelo just fucking everything up in front of him.

I just knew that something was…ending.  It’s now the year 2020.  Everything is ALL fucked up.  Henrik Lundqvist is now 38 years old.  He has many individual accolades under his belt.  He is still missing a Cup.  I look back at 2014 and realize that was the chance.  The chance we let slip away, and acted like it was so cavalier.

Right before the world ended, Mika Zibanejad scored five goals in a game, that I still think about, and it gives me chills.  I could live to be 100 years old and not see another game like that.  Now, if I wasn’t hooked on hockey, then, I would’ve been after that.

What stood out was when the world ended, it meant endings for so much else.  No full baseball season.  No fans in attendance.  Basketball season stitched together.  But without a full season of hockey, we would have no idea how the Rangers fate would have been settled.  In a year that was long touted as “part of the rebuild,” Artemi Panarin and Mika Zibanejad were having monster seasons.

Henrik was mostly watching games from the bench this season.

I have no idea if this was by design.  If he and young coach David Quinn with his new philosophy had come to an understanding of some sorts.  The team was going with youth, and that also meant in the crease.

I knew, no matter what, before COVID-19 changed all of our lives, before Zibanejad scored five goals and before we knew Panarin was a Hart Trophy finalist, one thing was for certain:

It looked like we would be preparing for a future Rangers without Henrik Lundqvist.

And as long as hockey and sports didn’t restart, we didn’t have to deal with that reality.

Feel…
Free…
To leave…
If you think you’re trapped, but
Please…
Believe…
I’ll always want you back

 

The fairest way that the NHL could look at 2019-20 was to have a “play-in” of sorts, and the Rangers were a team that made the cut.

They were swept by the Hurricanes promptly.

And goddamn COVID for not only uprooting our lives, but for denying us the chance to see what this team was actually TRULY made of.  For making them perform lukewarm and not in a home ice situation.

And for having us see possibly our last vision of Henrik Lundqvist as a New York Ranger, sitting on the bench, and not in his rightful throne: on the ice, in front of the net.

That is goddamn tragic.

I was prepared for a sweep, I was prepared for the Rangers not doing much.

What I wasn’t prepared for was how I felt about seeing Henrik like that.

It was almost more than I could bear.  I joked about crying myself to sleep, but it wasn’t far from the truth.

One in a million men
Could change the way you feel
One in a million men
Baby it’s up to me

One In A Million, Pet Shop Boys

When people don’t go to work or make their coffee run or stop at a newsstand to have some sense of normalcy around these parts, they might pick up a New York Post in the morning.  They may see the backpage as clear as day.

HANKS for the Memories.”

Larry Brooks makes sense of what Henrik Lundqvist and the Rangers could do for their mutual futures.  But the writing was on the wall for a long time, at least as long as the “regular” regular season was, and much like the youth movement that made Henrik Lundqvist a star and legend for the Rangers, he would no longer be part of their future.

They’d come full circle.

In 2014, I made it a point to incorporate Pet Shop Boys’ song titles in my posts.  They may not mean much to my two readers, but they have a special place for me. So my blog, my rules, all right?

I never was able to incorporate the song “One In A Million.”  But it appeared I was saving it for Henrik Lundqvist all along.

I wasn’t around for Rod Gilbert.  Eddie Giacomin was long gone by the time I ended up a Rangers fan.  I was able to see Brian Leetch, a home grown Ranger, in his prime, and for that I am eternally grateful.  I got to see Mark Messier, widely regarded as an all-time hockey great, wear a Rangers jersey and bring a Cup to this long suffering fanbase.

But Henrik Lundqvist, man.  I’ll never see another player like him in any sport across any city in my lifetime.

He truly is one a kind.  One in a million, if you will.

I hope that whatever happens, he gets what he deserves: a chance to skate around the rink with the Cup of Lord Stanley.

Until the End of the World

Haven’t seen you in quite a while
I was down the hold just passing time

Remember the anticipation for Christmas morning when you were a kid?  The excitement leading up to the day, making your wish list, going to see Santa, even going to bed on Christmas eve…all with the knowledge that when you wake up, it’s the most exciting day of your childhood.  Till next year of course.

Then when you are an adult…life just kind of flies past you, ya know?

I often say that as an adult, my year officially begins on baseball’s Opening Day.  Each year, I’d wake up with anticipation every day leading up to whatever that arbitrary date would be.  From the last out of the World Series, it really didn’t matter if my “winter sports” teams were doing well.  Baseball took the prize, hands down.

Contrary to what TS Eliot claimed about April, March seemed to be the cruelest month to me, at least.  Hockey would be gearing up for the playoffs, but baseball was also starting.  It didn’t matter how the Rangers were doing: it always took a back seat to baseball season.

This year, Mets’ opening day was to be Thursday, March 26th.  I knew once the season started, and I did my baseball trips, before I knew it…October would be here.

Last September, on closing day, opening day didn’t seem too far away.

Now, the start of baseball is a continuum.  Ergo, there is no start.

And if you feel anything like me, you feel lost, in more ways than one.

I took the money
I spiked your drink
You miss too much these days if you stop to think
You lead me on with those innocent eyes
You know I love the element of surprise

I won’t lie: 2020 has been a weird fuckin year, sports-wise.  As if January wasn’t the longest month EVER, as Sunday, January 26th unfolded, the sports (and the entire) world learned we lost Kobe Bryant, plus his daughter Gianna.  While I can’t say I was the biggest Bryant fan, I certainly respected him and what he did for the sport.  That said, I was glued to the TV and my phone that day, to learn about what happened.  It was other worldly.  I thought, no way does any news top this one.  It was sad.  It was tragic.  I really don’t know if anything was going to top feeling what we felt when we found out Kobe Bryant ceased to exist.  Once his and Gianna’s life celebration happened on February 24th…I thought, maybe we can move on.  Seemed unbelievable, but we’ve done that before.

The universe had other plans, however.

For those of you just getting acquainted with Gal For All Seasons, you will know that I am a big New York Rangers fan.  While I didn’t expect much of the team this season, I attended their opening night in October (another growing tradition in my household), and I expected…I don’t know…something special this year.  Maybe the team wasn’t going to make the playoffs, but they were going to make things fun.

Boy.  Did I get more than I bargained for.

Mika Fucking Zibanejad.  Along with Artemi Panarin, we were getting an exciting scoring opportunity each time they took the ice.  I could live to be 100 years old, and not see another game like the one Mika Zibanejad had on March 5th.  The biggest drama we thought we had this year was wondering if Henrik Lundqvist would ever play again…and that Igor Shesterkin was making a quick name for himself in the few games he played before doing the Duaner Sanchez special (most Post-Traumatic Mets Disorder folks know getting into a car after a successful run is never a good thing).

Hard to believe that shit wasn’t even a month ago.

In the garden I was playing the tart
I kissed your lips and broke your heart
You

You were acting like it was the end of the world

The last live sporting event I attended in 2020 was when the Utah Jazz played the New York Knicks on Wednesday, March 4th.  The weirdest thing of the evening, to me anyway, was to attend a non-Rangers sporting event at Madison Square Garden.

Yet, the weirdest shit happened after that night, something that was beyond anything I could have ever imagined.  The weirdest shit was my connection to the Utah Jazz, and the last sporting event congregated…before the end of the world.

A week later, Jazz star center Rudy Gobert tested positive for COVID-19, the strain of coronavirus that is wreaking so much havoc not only at home, personally and professionally for me at least…but worldwide.  Shortly after this diagnosis, NBA pulled the plug on the season, for now at least.  We found out a teammate, and fellow Mets fan, Donovan Mitchell, tested positive.  Along with several other players, even fans.  That same day, the WHO had declared COVID 19 a pandemic.

Then, the shoe continued to drop.  NHL paused its season.  MLB pulled out of spring training and doesn’t appear to have games on the docket till at least May (and at this point…that seems too soon, with California and New York state going under stay-at-home order immediately).

It seems like a hundred years ago when I was at that basketball game (the second professional hoops game I’d ever attended, believe it or not).  I convinced the husbo to go to that game because “We never see your team, the Jazz, play when they come to New York.” (And full disclosure: I was a huge Jazz fan in the 90s, when John Stockton and Karl Malone were kicking ass together).

March 4th feels like it was forever ago.  But it was just over two weeks.

Now will baseball season start in May?  Possibly beyond?  When I want time to go as quickly as possible, because that means these end times will be dissipating, this last week took forever.  And seems to not want to end.  With only more and more bad and unpleasant news to hit the wires.

All of this is too painful to imagine, awful to fathom.  I realize the world is much bigger than me.  But when my world is all about the sports that help me escape the trivialities of life, a deadly virus has to have me not ignore reality in a big way.

In my dream I was drowning my sorrows
But my sorrows, they learned to swim
Surrounding me, going down on me
Spilling over the brim
Waves of regret and waves of joy
I reached out for the one I tried to destroy
You, you said you’d wait
‘Til the end of the world
Kobe Bryant’s death seems like a million years ago at this time.  I was telling a friend the other day that I thought the weirdest story in basketball this year would be his death.  However, leave it to the Utah Jazz to not only beat that, but cause a domino effect of response…we saw the ripple effects of one person testing positive for COVID 19.  Now this is a big metaphor for what the pandemic looks like world over now.
I sit home because I have to, longing for a sense of normalcy.  I sit home, because it’s the safest and right thing to do right now.  I watch my millionth episode of Man Vs Food.  I see the same episode of SVU…again.  But what I wish for is to go outside.  Longing for the Rangers to take the ice again.  Rushing home from work to take the train to Queens for a baseball game.  Anticipating next Thursday’s would-be opening day tailgate.  Leaving for our first baseball road trip.  I’ll take ANY trip, really, at this point, besides the walks to the grocery stores.
I normally sit home most evenings anyway, as this day and age provides us with a way to stay together, even if there is a separation to it.  We watch and talk about games while on our phones and social media apps.  We don’t have sports to bring us together right now.  But we are all together now, even if we are uniting separately, in our own homes.
I’ll wait till the end of the world, as Bono sang on my favorite song on my favorite album, for baseball season to start and perhaps the rest of the sports seasons to end.
But I hope the end of the world doesn’t come before I can do those things that I have taken for granted.

Yesterday When I Was Mad

‘Darling, you were wonderful, you really were quite good
I enjoyed it, though, of course, no one understood
a word of what was going on, they didn’t have a clue
They couldn’t understand your sense of humour like I do’

You’re much too kind
I smiled with murder on my mind

There’s something to be said about when things click on all cylinders for a team.  Especially teams of mine, when I’m so used to disappointment and ennui.  I’ve been fortunate for the last few seasons with the Mets, that I don’t feel too down when they got off to a not-so-hot start this season.  And the Seahawks. well, I almost feel bad that I haven’t suffered for years like most of their fans have.  But I know dips and valleys happen in sports.  It’s cyclical.

By clicking on all cylinders, all aspects have to operate soundly.  Teams are a “sum of its parts,” as we like to say.  Sure, you can have an outstanding individual, but it’s not everything.  Depth is an aspect to consider.  Having proper backups.  Regulars need to operate at a high level.  Injuries happen, but one should not be enough to bring the entire team down.  All the way up to the coaching.  No excuses!  Blah blah blah.

The anger that usually comes about for me while watching my teams doesn’t usually come out until the spring.  I equate this time of the year to when the Rangers are in the playoffs.  Last year, I knew they weren’t going to make it far.  So I didn’t get too angry.  I reserved that for the Mets and their shitty handling of injuries in 2016.

Yet, my husband pointed out that while the Rangers have had an unusually successful regular season, and they’ve made the playoffs every year since after we got married (I don’t count 2010, the year we actually got married, because we got married after they didn’t make the playoffs), I’m still mad at everyone.

I consider myself a very happy person.  Sports fandom can make a person crazy.  I’ve often maintained that all I want is for my teams to do is be competitive, and then making the postseason will ultimately be a reward for said competitiveness.  Out of all the teams I root for, I’ve said that the Rangers would’ve been my first guess on winning a championship in the near term.  (Note: I said that five years ago).

Yet, every year my frustrations of not winning it all gets the best of me.  Though, on the surface, they are having a very well-maintained successful stretch.  And every year, I walk away disappointed, even though I’ve gotten what I’ve wanted, technically.

Why am I so angry?

‘You have a certain quality which really is unique
Expressionless, such irony, although your voice is weak
It doesn’t really matter ’cause the music is so loud
Of course it’s all on tape but no one will find out’

You hated me too
but not as much as I hated you

Well, to be fair, it’s games like yesterday’s that get to me.

YOU DON’T SCORE FIVE FUCKING GOALS AND LOSE THE FUCKING GAME IN OVERTIME THAT YOU WERE WINNING IN THE THIRD, YOU FUCKING ASSHOLES.

So yeah.  Because it’s all I fucking deal with in rooting for this goddamn team.  Being good, but not great.  Getting to the dance, only to not show up when it counts.

Remember this gem from 2015, when the Rangers tied up a 2nd round playoff game late in the 3rd period only to have the Capitals surprise score a goal, not sending the game to OT anyway?! It was the one fucking time I was actually rooting for a playoff OT game.

And when the Rangers allowed Ottawa to tie it up late in the 3rd, with an extra skater (not to mention the shit show that barely allowed them to keep a two-goal lead intact), I joked about that game in 2015.

But did the Rangers come back?  No.  As my dad later texted me, it was about as worse of a loss as he can remember for a long time.  Me too.  Momentum typically doesn’t carry over in hockey like it does in say, baseball.  But if playoffs are a crapshoot anyway, and that means Ottawa is now on a hot streak, are they now the team “who gets the hottest?”

If so, then fuck us all.

And who knew that of my teams playing at this point of the year, it’s the Mets who would be my darlings?? (NOTE: I started writing this post before the shitshow of a game started on Sunday).

Then we posed for pictures with the competition winners
and argued about the hotel rooms and where to go for dinner
and someone said: ‘It’s fabulous you’re still around today
You’ve both made such a little go a very long way’

I also told my dad in that same text that I’ve just about had it with Alain Vigneault.  He has no clue how to get the most out of this team at ALL.

The only reason the Rangers made it as far as the Stanley Cup Final in 2014 was guys like Martin St. Louis and the heart of other players.  They overachieved that ONE year.  Though they have had relative success in his years as head coach, they have consistently underachieved after that.  And if they don’t make this series interesting and at the very least win, it will be another squandered year.

I have maintained that the Rangers have squandered away Henrik Lundqvist’s talents and his best years.  He turned 35 earlier this year.  He is not getting any younger.

By squandering his best years, the coaches and front office have squandered OUR chances of seeing a Rangers’ Stanley Cup championship and subsequent parade.

If you want to know why I get so angry and curse up a storm on Twitter, THAT is why.  As a fan, yeah, it fucking sucks that I’m used to seeing my teams fall short every goddamn fucking year.  But what I really hate is wasted talent. Squandering away Hank’s best years doesn’t do him or the team or the people who support them any good.  And they’ve certainly failed him.

By failing him, we have also been failed.  That is why I am the way I am, as a sports fan.

Yesterday, when I was mad
and quite prepared to give up everything
admitting I don’t believe
in anyone’s sincerity, and that’s what’s really got to me

Then when I was lonely
I thought again and changed my mind

The Pet Shop Boys saved my sanity in 2015, and they saved me yesterday.

While walking home from that game against the Capitals, I purposely didn’t want to listen to Pet Shop Boys (my go-to album during the hockey playoffs is Very, explained here).  Yet, my iPod knew how I was feeling and put up another song of theirs, “What Have I Done to Deserve This?”  It inspired me to write again, and try to reconcile how I felt about the ending of that game.

The Rangers ended up winning the series.  Momentum didn’t of the Capitals at the end of that game didn’t change the narrative of the series.

And outside of sports, I typically reserve my anger to go towards the MTA here in New York City.

Yet, I went to go pick up dinner after the game and took a much needed moment to myself.  Listening to my music, what comes on?  Oh, my iPod knew once again what I needed to hear.  It was a song off my favorite Pet Shop Boys album.  And thankfully, one that didn’t inspire a title for a post on this site.

I guess my parable in life is this.  I don’t get too jacked up about small stuff.  Like waiting in line.  Have you ever been standing in a line, and the person in front of you starts complaining about the line.  I mean, what the fuck are you gonna do about it, am I right?  I remember once a woman was complaining about a line at a bank (back in the day, when we actually stood in line to transact in banks).  She asked why I was so calm.  I said, “Look, when I walk out of here, I’m never going to remember waiting an extra five minutes at this bank.  In fact, I’ll be in my car going to my next destination.”  She told me that she liked that philosophy and got quiet.  I mean, I’m certain I never saw that woman again.  So I wonder how she took it to heart.  But think about it.  Is it something you can control?  No.  Let it go.

(My husband would disagree, as he thinks I’m very impatient.  That’s not entirely true.  I have my moments.  And usually in my defense, he sees me upset about losing time with the shitty transit system here which is where he gets this).

I purposely wrote this post the day after the loss, because now Saturday is “Yesterday.”  And yesterday, I was “mad.”  I figure at this point a Rangers’ devastating loss in the playoffs is my penance, and something I just need to deal with because I didn’t think they’d sweep the Senators or any team, for that matter.  But I mean, I was pretty pissed off.

Admitting I don’t believe in this team is tough, because I do believe in them.  Russell Wilson once said, “Why Not Us?”  And I often think that about my teams when they have a chance to win something.

But I would be really sad if they blew their chance.  If they blew Henrik’s chance.  And anyone else.  Even if AV wins something, that’s fine.  I can handle a coach I can’t stand getting a ring.

I got lonely without sports to watch and realizing we have to wait till Tuesday to see another hockey game.

I thought again, then changed my mind.

Dreaming Of The Queen

Dreaming of the Queen
visiting for tea
You and her and I
and Lady Di

The Queen said: ‘I’m aghast
Love never seems to last
however hard you try’
And Di replied that

‘There are no more lovers left alive
No one has survived
so there are no more lovers left alive
and that’s why love has died
Yes, it’s true
Look, it’s happened to me and you

If you’re into reading your dreams, a dream about a queen or meeting someone in power (royalty) can take on certain meaning.  One of the encapsulating summaries I read on the topic was this:

If you’re a queen in your dream, it’s likely that you have an as-yet unrealized desire for power, influence, and increased social standing or status. If you’re present in the dream but someone else is queen, especially someone you know, you may be expressing repressed envy for that person, or more specifically, qualities that this person embodies that make them fit and right to be a queen. (Your Dream Interpretation)

The Pet Shop Boys on their Very album had a song called “Dreaming of the Queen.”  I realize now that the title and most of the lyrics were intentional, that they had used the parable of meeting both Queen Elizabeth and Princess Diana, using dream sequences like being in the nude (I thought it might have been an Emperor’s New Clothes reference, but we’ve all had dreams about being naked in situations that didn’t warrant such an outfit).  Even the song itself was about waking up from a dream, inconsolable that love had died.

This song was written over 23 years ago.  The album made a huge impact on me, personally, in the spring and summer of 1994.

This was the last time the Rangers won the Stanley Cup.

The album framed my first year of college, and was rounded out by Princess Diana’s tragic death as I was about to start my senior year.

Both the Rangers and Diana had an enormous impact on my life, and two events that I often intertwine with those life events.  (Think of when Kennedy was shot, or where you were on 9-11).

As it all ended yesterday…I was at a bachelorette party, for one of my best college girl friends.

Fitting, as though one chapter of life was beginning, another one was ending for the New York Rangers.  And it all started when I was in college.

It was appropriate, in my opinion, given how the year would pan out.

************************************************************

Then carriages arrived
We stood and said good-bye
Diana dried her eyes
and looked surprised

For I was in the nude
The old Queen disapproved
but people laughed and asked
for autographs

I’ve been prepared for several months that they would not be out of the first round alive this year.  While I felt I was mostly being facetious and at best, putting up a defense mechanism for the team performance, I didn’t think they would go without at least the most minimal of a fight.

Even we saw signs back in November, when my gal pal, Tracey, and I went to a Rangers game.  I buy a few tickets from NotJeffGorton each year, and this was my first game of the year.

It was a few weeks after the Mets had lost the World Series.  I was still feeling the sting, but the Rangers and Seahawks were doing well.  It was a bunch of good distractions, to say the least.

The Rangers were actually doing pretty well at the time.  There were weird things going on in this specific game.  Rangers were hardly taking any shots.  Refs were calling penalties on imaginary fouls.  Tracey and I were having fun being snarky bitches, making comments a la Statler and Waldorf in the stands.

The Rangers ended up winning, definitively that game.  However, a Rangers blogger made a comment, basically about how the Rangers didn’t win enough for his liking.  That somehow, a 3-0 win in a game where they were getting called left and right on penalties wasn’t enough.

I started laughing.  Like come on, dude.

I do remember that same person in February commenting during a Rangers struggle stretch, saying that “he knew they were *this* bad back in November.”  To which another smart ass hockey fan responded about him being a hockey hipster, “I knew they were bad before anyone else did.”

It was funny.  But maybe, just maybe, the hockey hipster was onto something.  Usually, those hipsters, even if it’s not popular opinion, can see things the rest of us cannot.

No one likes being naked in public.  We try to wear clothes, even in the hottest of situations, but the Rangers’ uniforms were exposing a some very weak links.  And they were slowly but surely being exposed.

I remember this was also around the time I started to say, they’d be eliminated in the first round of the playoffs.

Just because I was prepared for it didn’t mean I was ready.  It still stung.

************************************************************

I woke up in a sweat
Desolate
For there were no more lovers left alive
No one had survived
So there were no more lovers left alive
And that’s why love had died
Yes, it’s true
Look, it’s happened to me and you
I noticed that the Pet Shop Boys write a lot about “surviving.”  They note that no lovers had survived in their song.  There was also a song on a later album called “The Survivors.”
There was no doubt in my mind last season that the Rangers wouldn’t go to the Stanley Cup Final again.  That burned.  That stung.
Mostly, the sting part was about Henrik Lundqvist.  Here we are, we are 11 seasons into his tenure with the Rangers.  The whole not properly building around him.  Eleven seasons where Jim Dolan to Glen Sather to Jeff Gorton have not improved the team the way they should.  If anything, we did it.  We were happy with just making playoffs at first, since that was the team needed to do to compete.  Rick Nash? Bust.  Keith Yandle?  Bust.  Alain Vigneault?  A guy who caught lightning in a bottle his first year as coach.  (Lightning that, by the way, if it was fully contained, we’d have been very happy about).
It was weird this year.  There was less banter between me and my Rangers twitter peeps like NotJeff or Will, because we sort of knew already.  They were facing a very hot team at a very bad time.  Henrik’s 11 years have exposed him as well.  They had plenty of opportunities to not squander his talents and give him a worthy team.  Now we’re looking at an exit strategy.
So here we are.  It’s another year.  Another year where it is not our fucking year.  Another year where there is uncertainty for the future.
I’m sure along with Henrik, we can drift to sleep, and dream of the crowning achievement that we all believe is possible at the beginning of the season.  Only to see how reality decides to treat us in the end.

Happiness Is An Option

Screen Shot 2015-05-31 at 1.59.57 PMI wanted to give myself a few days before fully addressing how I felt about the New York Rangers’ 2014-15 season.  I’ve gone through the emotions of of sadness to anger and being pissed off and near tears at the same time.  I saw a guy wearing a BLUESHIRTS playoff tee in the supermarket, and I got all choked up.  A friend of mine told me (not a Rangers fan, to say the least) that this is the most upset he’s seen me as a Ranger fan yet.  And it’s true.  I don’t think I’ve ever felt this way about this team, and it’s not even disappointment, though that’s part of it.

It’s not even my wanting the Stanley Cup – damn, how I wanted that fucking trophy this year – it’s more of a squandering an opportunity kind of thing.

This is the year I realized that it’s getting close to the later years of Henrik Lundqvist.  Glen Sather and James Dolan have dicked around to the extent that they could have possibly wasted his best years as a top flight goalie.  Guys like Henke don’t grow on trees.  He’s a one of a kind player and goalie, someone we’ll be rare to see in our history of Rangers greats.  And believe me, there are more players who were *great* but never got the championship than special players who actually did win a championship.  But I also think of losing guys like Darren Turcotte and Tony Amonte in 1994, great role players who were traded away for a “win now” attitude that did “win now,” yet ultimately set the team back decades.

Yes, I do realize that they won their only championship that year those two guys were gone.  They could’ve forfeited years of multiple titles had they held onto them too.  We’ll never know.

So my tears after the last horn sounded, signaling the end of the season, was not because of a loss of a game or a series.  It’s almost something of a loss I felt, like it’s the end of an era.  I don’t think things will be as storylike as they were this season.  When they lost in OT to the hated Devils in the ECF in 2012, I was optimistic.  Sure, I hated losing, especially to that team, but I was future thinking.  They had the goods, finally, it seemed.  Then 2013 rolled around and the abbreviated season just seemed like a wash and the team knew it.  Last year, that was a special year.  Though I was disappointed in their performance in the Stanley Cup Final, I knew they could hold their head high by being so close to elimination and never gave up till they ran out of gas.

See, THIS was supposed to be the year they had the axe to grind.  Losing this game and series, in my opinion, was nothing to be proud.  The same old, “Blah blah just to play there is an honor.”  Anyone who says they are “just proud to be nominated” is a lying BITCH.  My friend Will says that he hates losing more than he likes winning.  I could see on the faces of some of the players that the loss got to them.  So they could get that emotion, hated losing more than loving to win.  That loss last year was supposed to make them hungry for this year.  Then backs against the wall and turning it on against the Capitals this year.  Every fan I knew was confident that this was the motivation they needed (not, you know, the motivation of accolades and a championship and being beloved by the best city in the world).

And this was just more than how I felt after, say, the Seahawks lost the Super Bowl earlier this year.  It was more than a loss of the season or a championship, especially they way they lost.  A Seahawks blogger by the name of Ramona over at Dave Krieg’s Strike Beard summed it up eloquently after SB 49: “The sadness I’m feeling isn’t just from the defeat in XLIX, but also from the sudden absence of this wonderful team in my life.”

I felt exactly the same for that Seahawks team.  But the absence of the Rangers team from this season…yeah, not one I’m particularly endeared to right now.

I know it’s incredibly difficult to “blow the fucker up,” with salary caps and being able to move guys easily, but if there’s anything close that can be done for the New York Rangers to get Hank some players who aren’t treating GAME FUCKING SEVEN of the ECF like it’s a Tuesday night game in December, or as Will likes to say, “Get Hank some real bitches who can play.”  Because the lack of killer instinct or wanting to win or PLAYING NOT TO LOSE (I am a Mets fan…I have enough to deal with regarding that shit), that’s what gets to me.

We live in a world where Ryan Callahan, Brian Boyle, Anton Stralman or Brad Richards all have a chance for that crowning glory.  And we live in a world where Henrik Lundqvist may join the pantheon of great players who may never have an opportunity like this year to win it all.  And that just sucks.

If that doesn’t anger you as a fan, I hate to play the “you are not a real fan” card, because that shit pisses me off when it’s said to me…but it should make you upset at the very least.  Or as another Twitter buddy Cristina likes to say, it should make you feel as though a part of you has died.  Because I know that’s how I felt this year.

I’ve been through a lot of things, being a sports fan.  I got over the 2000 World Series pretty quickly.  The funny thing was, I felt like that Mets team was on the precipice of something great, then they did a complete 180 and by the way, fuck Steve Phillips and Mike Bordick (hey, my blog, my rules).  Yet, most fans would tell you that the 1999 team was the one that fell short and was disappointing. And I will always maintain that losing John Olerud was the hit the Mets should not have taken.  And I’m about to get all worked up about what an idiot asshole dickface Steve Phillips was, so I’ll just stop while I’m ahead.

So back to this year.  LAST Year was the “rah rah feel good get-em-next-year” year.  THIS was the take no prisoners, winner takes all year.  I almost threw a shoe at my computer when I read that Martin St. Louis said something to the effect of being proud and waiting till next year.  OH FUCK NEXT YEAR.  NEXT YEAR WAS SUPPOSED TO BE THIS YEAR.  My goodness, I am so angry right now.  I could probably throw something else in addition to my shoe.

And the regular season was a feat in and of itself.  They lost Henrik for a spell, and the team really stepped up their game to give Cam Talbot, who really has endeared himself to most Rangers fans for his performance in Hank’s absence.  It was really a lot of fun to watch them in the regular season.  No one seemed to pass the memo onto the team that the President’s Trophy means dick if you can’t bring home the real trophy.

My friend for over 20 years, NotGlen Sather handled it all in stride.  Like many, though, I want it to be just more than the 1994 Rangers.  But he takes comfort in it, saying that it’s something many generations of Rangers fans ONLY have too.  I was also kind of hoping that the year he expects his first child to coincide with a championship for his favorite sport.

I can’t say it wasn’t meant to be.  It could’ve been.  And that’s what makes me still so angry, two days later.

This one is going to sting for awhile.

**********************************************************************

It is not easy
the war within us
but it gets easier
the more we learn
I don’t need to win
You don’t have to lose
We can choose
happiness is an option

I bought a small bottle of Prosecco for the Super Bowl this year.  Needless to say, I did not open it.  While I had entertained using it for mimosas on a lazy Sunday morning, I decided to hold it for what I felt to be a formality in getting to the Stanley Cup this year for the Rangers.  I will be moving in a few weeks, and it looks like the Prosecco will be making the move as well.

I’ve always used sports as a form of escapism, and this hockey season has left me void of something.  The Chicago Blackhawks won their game seven last night and will be advancing to play the Lightning as well.  But I will always believe in my heart of hearts that this could have been the Rangers’ season.  You can’t even say they got beat by the better team.  They got beat by themselves.

That’s the worst loss of all.

My dad said he’s been a fan for over 45 years and bleeds Ranger blue.  This one sucked, but he said losing games like that doesn’t get easier over time.  I could choose happiness as my option, but the reality is, I’m too angry to even consider being happy.  I guess come back to me when the season starts again.  But I’ve learned to not get my hopes up with this team, ever.  And that, my friends, really sucks.

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!

Not To Worry

I say, I got nothing to worry about…

Because the Rangers play Thursday.  And they will win on Thursday.

They will win because I’ve felt in my bones all along this would go to six games.

I’ve felt all along that they will win.

It’s game like last night they need to have that proverbial glitch in the matrix.  It’s something that’s off but it will rectify itself.

In 1994, I had one guy telling me, “No doubts, no doubts” in game 5 1994 Stanley Cup Finals.

In 1994, I had a guy telling me during Game 6 of 1994 Stanley Cup Finals, “Not.  To. WORRY!”

The Rangers lost both those games.  But they won the games that mattered, of course, and went on to win the Cup.

But just because there was a fucked up game in Montreal last night doesn’t mean that there is a momentum “shift” or any of that crap.

Let’s talk about Momentum Shifts with this video.

Yes, I know I’m looking at shit that happened 20 years ago. But like that year, we cannot deny that this is a special time to be a Ranger fan. It’s a special time for the Rangers. This is a special team.

They’ll have motivation in the form of Henrik Lundqvist, who was pulled just before a game-tying rally, only to have his replacement give up three more goals in a blow out.  But when Rene Bourque says that Lundqvist hasn’t been “much better” than Dustin Tokarski…well, to say that shots have been fired would be an understatement.  This has been a dirty series, a hard fought series.

I just can’t help but think…

The Rangers play Thursday.

They’ll win Thursday.

Finish the damn thing.

Go Rainjuzz.

 

The FUN In DysFUNctional

There’s this great saying, that the more things change, the more they stay the same.

There’s also another great saying.  That the definition of insanity is repeating the same thing over and over, but expecting different results.

And there you can interchange “Glen Sather” with “insanity.”

Yes, this is in response to the firing of John Tortorella as head coach of the New York Rangers.  I guess like many, it came as a surprise but it was not exactly shocking.  One cannot fire a whole team, so you fire the coaches.  And unfortunately, with Torts, the buck stopped with him many time.

Most notably, now, with the recent ousting of the Rangers in the Eastern semis to the Boston Bruins.

Well here is a novel thought, Slats…GET BETTER PLAYERS YOU FUCKING MORON!

I haven’t yet finished my Rangers season wrap-up (and it’s coming, don’t you worry), yet, I’m already getting agita from this bullshit going on into 2013-14.

Yes, this was a shortened season.  Yes, I wasn’t crazy about the prospect of the whole “half a cup” thing. But goddammit, if I didn’t get excited about the playoffs this year.

Yet, I don’t think it’s Torts who failed his team.  Rather, the team failed Torts.

Give the guy some credit.  In a big media market, Torts took the pressure off his team and put it on himself.  Never a media darling, the fans loved him because he could separate the emotional from the professional.  Or at least the fans who liked him.

The fact is, whatever gave him his relationship with the players was his folly this year.

Dan Rosen of NHL.com wrote about the Seven Reasons Why the Rangers Fired Tortorella, and one of the reasons was that his top guys underperformed in the playoffs.

Yeah, no SHIT.  But here’s a swell idea: How about we actually BLAME the players?

What a novel fucking idea.  Instead of playing to win, they figure skated their way through round one, only to realize they can’t do that when the stakes are higher.  Right?

What’s more, is Torts had every right to scratch Brad Richards during the playoffs.  This is the same guy who underperformed ALL season…and he actually has a GOOD relationship with Tortorella! This is also the same guy who dormant during the lockout.

Sure, he may have kept in shape elsewhere.  But the reality is, he underperformed the entire season.

Not to fucking mention, there was a BIG spot missed without Marc Staal healthy.  Add that to the rising shit, and the Rangers were fucking lucky they made it TO the playoffs, let alone make it out of the first fucking round.

Yet, I have to ask, besides Sather basically solidifying future Stanley Cup runs in Columbus, what has he done that has made him so untouchable?  James Dolan has been in rehab: clearly, there must be some kind of damning evidence that Sather has on him that warrants him to be the GM forever and ever.

Could it have been a fluke that the guys he got in the Marian Gaborik trade were hurt? And where the hell was Rick Nash?  Did he NOT realize that yes, your goals count just as much in the playoffs as they do in regular season?

At the end of the day, Torts wasn’t out there NOT scoring on the power play.  Torts didn’t tell Brad Richards – hey, put your job AND mine in jeopardy by forgetting how to play.

To get canned after a half season when it seemed like the team ran on its moxie and mojo from the year prior is an insult.

 

I’ve only been a Ranger fan since 1989. I’m one of the lucky ones, that I only had to wait five years to see my team win a championship.  Like my dad and Kranepool Society, many other fans have been through some dysfunctional times.  To see the team get so far and to fall short.

I’m not sure if Sather, like many people, expected John Tortorella to turn water into wine, or turn the shit that Sather throws to the wall and see if it sticks.

I can only hope that next season the Rangers make it TO the playoffs.  Because Tortorella’s tenure brought back a legitimacy that hasn’t been seen since 1993-94 season.  And remember how Mike Keenan left, and subsequently, cursed the team.

As long as Glen Sather is in charge, we’ll have fun watching these teams, but we’ll be watching a shitload of dysfunction too.

The Lido Shuffle

“He said one more job ought to get it/One last shot ‘fore we quit it/One more for the road”
– Boz Scaggs

Chris Kreider As usual, I found myself ready to hang up my skates, hang up my Ranger jersey until the start of the 2013-14 season. I found it difficult to believe that a team that has seriously looked overmatched and borderline unprofessional would ever come back to tie a 3-game deficit, let alone come back at all.

I only had one wish: that the Garden Faithful would give the boys in blue a send off in a loss.

I had a discussion with a friend about it.  He had mixed feelings about the idea (and he’s not a Ranger fan at all).  He wasn’t sure if he could take another team celebrating on his team’s home ice. I guess I could understand that one.  But it’s not a Cup game.  It’s not like the Bruins would have paraded the cup up and down the ice.

I felt cheated last year because we couldn’t give the Rangers a send off in their season last year.

So last night, I had a few posts in my head, mostly about what went wrong, about Brad Richards’ healthy scratch, about how Rick Nash was “supposed” to be the difference maker (clearly there is an operative term in there), etc etc.  But I also wanted to talk about how the shortened season was doomed from the get go.  Nobody on the team seemed to get in a groove.  And how Henrik Lundqvist managed to nab a Vezina nomination, because I didn’t think he had as close to a dominating season as usual.

Just found themselves behind the 8-ball quite a bit.

I’ve been saying all along that I was comfortable with how this series ended. Win or lose, I had an eerie calm that the chips may fall where they will, and I’d be okay with it.  I don’t have an emotional dislike of Boston, after what they’ve been through this year as a city, it might be nice to see the Bruins give them a feel-good story.  But as far as a rivalry, Original Six or no, I continue to be fine with however the series goes.

Yet, like another Boston/New York series, oh about nine years ago in the fall, when a certain team came from three games down, and managed to win a game in extra innings when the odds were against them.  Then went on a roll to win the ultimate championship.

Of course that was baseball, and Boston Red Sox coming from behind, but it was against the Yankees, so it was all good in my book (apologies to any Yankee fans reading this right now).

The Rangers could very well be ousted in the next game.  Yet, the fact they went out with a fight, and not a whimper, is what the fans needed.  Not some kind of moral victory, that “Well, they made it this far with a shitty ass power play, and with Brad Richards sucking and Rick Nash underperforming and Henrik not having some of his best moments, let’s cheer! YAY!”

No.  I was sorely mistaken.  That crowd needed a home game win.  Something to give them hope that this team was everything they thought last year, and more.

I’ll say that an overtime win was something that I needed to see.  For once, I got to see an overtime work in MY team’s favor.

The New York Rangers gave us something last night, they gave us one more for the road.

 

WHAT ARE YOU, A BUNCH OF FUCKING CRYBABIES?

Once upon a time, a few months ago, someone asked me why I made fun of Sidney Crosby.  A Penguins fan, he claimed it was “sour grapes,” and that “any one of us would love to have him on our team(s).”

walter_sobchekThere may be an element of truth there.  I mean, for years and years, as a Mets fan, we taunted and made fun of Larry Jones…but I don’t think there is any one of us that wouldn’t have loved him on our team or didn’t respect the shit out of him.

But Crosby is different.  He gets the benefit of the doubt with EVERY call.  Anytime something happens to him, legal or not, the league goes RUSHING to his defense.  Mario Lemieux, a player I always loved and respected and would have never ever called “soft,” has become a total pussy when it comes to defending the crown jewel of his organization.

Yeah Sidney Crosby is a good player, a perennial Hart Trophy candidate as long as he is healthy.  But he’s a crybaby.  And in a paraphrase of Walter Sobchek, what kind of hockey player are you if you’re gonna be a fuckin crybaby?

But this isn’t about Sid, entirely.  No, the Rangers, in case you didn’t remember, eliminated the Washington Capitals on their own home ice in a 5-0 blow out Game Seven.  The game, which should have been all about Henrik Lundqvist not giving up a goal for 120 minutes straight, should have been about role players coming through in the clutch, and Captain Cally remembering that he honors a legacy of Mark Messier and tough guys.

But no.  Alex Ovechkin, yet another Hart Trophy candidate, has cemented his legacy as a crybaby official questioner.

“Not saying there was a phone call, but they wanted Game 7,” Ovechkin reportedly said in Russian, translated and tweeted by Slava Malamud, a senior writer for Russian sports daily Sports-Express. “For ratings. You know, lockout, escrow, league must make profit.”

I take it he doesn’t remember this call from Game Three, that worked to HIS benefit.

Or basically any other call that has worked to his benefit.  In you know his entire CAREER.

I don’t get it.  Hockey guys get enough shit for skating around.  I’ve even been known to make fun of them for “figure skating” at times.  But these are big tough guys.  They are hulking beasts.  They hit.  They carry around a shit load of equipment as they skate.  Someone like Henrik Lundqvist needs to wear a shitload of equipment AND make moves to save his team.

And two of the best players in the league whine that nothing has gone their way.

WAH!

Sorry to drag Sidney Crosby into this…because this diatribe really has nothing to do with him, but more so the culture that encourages players like he and Ovechkin to openly bitch about shit that happens EVERY DAY in hockey.

Instead of looking at a dominating performance by one of the best (at least Ovechkin gave Lundqvist his due), and his team not showing up for an elimination game on THEIR HOME ICE, I think the Eagles might have a thing or two to say about that.