NYRangers-411 original photo

I’m so late to the game here, but its been reported that the Rangers will be playing the Buffalo Sabres in the 2018 Winter Classic. That, coupled with tomorrow’s matchup against the Devils, had me feeling nostalgic and thinking back to one of my favorite days as a Rangers fan: January 26th, 2014.

My Rangers fanhood has been frenetic and has followed quite the odd path. I never played or so much as ice skated as a kid, but I started watching the Rangers because a couple of my buddies in elementary school played and would talk about the sport. So right around age 10, I decided to check it out. It’s funny looking back on this time because I became a fan in the midst of the Rangers’ most recent dark era: the early 2000s. The team was mediocre at best but I found myself tuning in every night to listen to Sam Rosen and John Davidson call the games. I got a poster of Mark Messier, Eric Lindros and Theo Fleury for my room. Ah, Theo Fleury! It wasn’t until later that I learned about the tough life he had, but as a kid, it was fun to watch this little troublemaker buzz around the ice, score goals, and piss everyone off. I was slowly getting hooked to this awesome game.

As I grew up and eventually got to high school, I have to say that my interest in the sport waned. Ironically enough, this coincided with my attending the alma mater of Chris Drury, who left Buffalo and would become the Rangers’ captain during my high school career. Sure, I paid attention and watched the occasional game, but I’d seemingly lost my love for the sport. College saw it comes back a bit. One of my best friends at school just so happened to be on the hockey team, so I started to catch some of his games and pay closer attention to the NHL. What really brought me back to the game, however, was the 2012 Winter Classic, when the Rangers visited the Flyers at Citizens Bank Ballpark in Philadelphia. I started watching the HBO 24/7 documentary and fell in love with the players, the personalities (who doesn’t still laugh at Ilya Bryzgalov’s musings on the universe???) and all that went into what ended up being an epic game. And a huge shoutout to Mike Rupp. I’m a huge fan of the tough guy and for him to bring home the game for the Rangers with two goals was awesome. Winning aside, the game brought me all the way back. It was so cool watching two teams go at it outdoors, wearing eye-black, fighting the elements while still delivering such an amazing product to the fans.

Fast forward 2 years and the NHL announced that the Rangers would be playing games against the hated Islanders and Devils at Yankee Stadium. I was pretty pumped at the prospect of catching two awesome games on TV, but hadn’t given an real thought to attending either game. I was honestly more concerned with planning a banger for my 24th birthday. I succeeded. I went all out on the night before the Rangers-Devils matchup. I mean all out. Steak dinner, bottle service, ending up at a cigar bar in the West Village at 1 AM. I did it all and looked forward to nursing my hangover while taking in the game from my couch the next day. Fast forward to about 9 AM on game day. I wake up and its struggle city. I muster the strength to take a few sips of the Gatorade on my bedside table and grabbed for my phone. I’m on a text thread with some of the boys from work, all of whom are huge Rangers fans, and I figured I’d wake up to some excited chatter about the the Stadium Series game. Well, the thread had BLOWN UP. Literally, I had about a half-dozen missed calls and tens of text messages. The boys were desperately trying to wake me up. One of my buddies in the group, Steve (not Stevie Says, but just as irreverently funny) had an extra ticket the the game. I’ve never experienced such a huge jolt of adrenaline. I suddenly had a ticket to THE game of the year and I had to leave NOW to get there. I raced to shower, throw on my beloved Ryan Callahan jersey, and hustle to the train station. I can’t explain the excitement. Every passing second heightened my senses. When I finally got to Yankee Stadium, the atmosphere was unlike any sporting event I’d ever been to. I’ve never been to a Stanley Cup game, but I’m really confident that the crowd at the stadium that day could’ve outdone any playoff or Finals game. Rangers fans, Devils fans, Blue, Red. It was bitter cold, but every single person was dialed in for the game. It was a total carnival. Most of the game is a blur to me now but I still remember some pretty spectacular moments. I remember Dommy Moore’s tying goal, Stepan’s snipe of a penalty shot in the 3rd period, and giving Martin Brodeur so much shit when Peter DeBoer pulled him midway through the game. But my favorite moment had to be at the beginning of the 2nd period. The Rangers were down 3-1 at the time and I was feeling pretty down about it. I hate losing to the Devils, so this was devastating to me. Then, it started to snow. Wow. What aa scene. For those few moments when I looked up at the sky and then looked back at the players cutting through the snowflakes as they flew up and down the ice, I was reminded of the pure goodness of the sport. I felt like I had a bit of an insight on how a kid from Manitoba or Minnesota feels in the winter time, as they lace’em up and hit the pond or the backyard rink with their friends. The game was an amazing 7-3 win, but the snow will always stick with me. It was everything that was good and right about the sport. And as we gear up for another potential outdoor game, I can’t help but feel such a rush of love for this crazy, rough, amazingly beautiful game.