How Suite It Is…

Last night I got to see the Rangers take down the Flyers from a luxury suite at the newly renovated Madison Square Garden. We were living large, just  like the 1% of the population Dolan rebuilt the Garden to attract.

Right on the center red line, the view from these seats was incomparable. Our suite was bigger than most studio apartments in Manhattan. There is a waitperson to cater to your needs. The food and beverages are ordered by the person/organization hosting the suite. Best of all, the suite has it’s own bathroom.

I was convinced my attendance at this game in a luxury suite was a guaranteed loss for the Rangers. Murphy’s Law and all. But Henrik Lundqvist stood tall and once again secondary scoring saved the day. Contrary to what the NBC talking heads would have you believe, the Rangers were dominant for most of this game.

I was surprised that the Rangers gave as good as they got in the hits department. If anything, the Flyers seemed a little flat. The stats show that the two teams were pretty much even in shots, hits, blocked shot and faceoffs. The Rangers executed Vigneault’s game plan, puck possession. That, and most times when the Flyers entered the Rangers zone, there was a Ranger marking the trailing Flyer.

There were Flyer fans in the suite next to us. One of the men looked like he would have been rather unpleasant if the score had been reversed and the Flyers winning. He started spouting off half way through the third period that the Flyers needed a spark, that Simmonds to start a fight. Typical Flyer fan mentality from a Philly suit.

Overall, it was a clean game and for once the Stripes gave the Rangers the benefit of the doubt on some calls. I guess both teams had been warned about taking stupid penalties when the most important two points of the season were on the line. There were no cheap shots by the Flyers until the very end of the game. Simmonds got away with a couple vicious slashes to Ryan McDonagh’s hands.

Some players (other then the obvious guys) stood out for me tonight. I am liking Diaz on defense. This guy has a howitzer of a shot and made some nice defensive plays. Like Klein, another good pick up by Sather. If Stralman wants to stay in NYC, these two boys will keeps his salary demands down.

Every game I say it and last night was no exception. Richards must be bought out at the end of the season. The Rangers powerplay has gone AWOL again and it’s because AV has Richards out on the first unit.

I am beginning to worry a bit about Marty St Louis. He’s about ten games in now and still looks lost out there. I know he has to get used to a new system and different team mates. But if he doesn’t start potting a few pucks, the fans are going to be riding him on the blogs and in the  building.

Finally, you may ask how this humble denizen of the old Blue Seats wound up sitting down with the suits. I was invited because I’m good at my job. But I will never consider myself a suit.

Regardless of how good the view, it’s the atmosphere, the characters in the stands, the Garden Faithful that make the in game experience fun. We never needed a “Blue Crew” or Human Puck Races to have a good time.

I will always miss sitting with all the nut jobs (myself included), our old friends in Section 409 and remember those times up “in the Blues” as the best of times.

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Heart and Soul? It’s All About Goals!

I’ve kept silent while all the speculation was going on. Now that the situation has been resolved, I can only say that I feel sorry for Ryan Callahan.

I say sorry because I do not think any team will pay Ryan the money Glen Sather was willing to give him. I also do not think he will get the terms he was demanding. What GM in their right mind is going to give a marginal second line player a full no movement clause? Garth Snow?

Ryan Callahan will go down in Ranger history as one of their best captains. He lead by example. He blocked shots. He hit anything that moved. He sacrificed his body. He was a warrior. He was not a prolific goal scorer.

It will be interesting to see what happens in July when he becomes an unrestricted free agent. Now that he is a man without a country, so to speak, he should go to the highest bidder.

It’s sad to think that Callahan might find himself on some backwater NHL team. He’s left his home, his friends and fans on Broadway seeking a contract that he probably will not get.

The fact the fans are not calling for Sather to be tarred and feather should be an indication to Callahan that he was pricing himself off the Rangers. Callahan shouldn’t have played chicken with OverLord Sather.

I blame the damn agents that fill players heads with grandiose ideas. They do their clients a disservice.

Sather doesn’t come out of this unscathed. In my opinion he gave up to much to get St. Louis. He should have gotten St Louis for Callahan straight up.

I applaud Glen having a “win now” philosophy. But a first and a second round draft pick is too high a price.

If the Rangers make it to the conference final with St. Louis, this trade will just be worth it. If they don’t, at least there will be money left under the Cap in July to add another piece to the puzzle.

Ryan Callahan could come back in July but it will be for a lot less money and worse terms then those he just passed up. He would lose face. He would have to swallow his pride.

Pride goes before a fall.

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Cautiously Optimistic

After playing the best first period of hockey I’ve seen anywhere in many a year, the Rangers took down one of the best teams in the West.  The Rangers put the pedal to the metal and outplayed the Avalanche for most of the game. All of a sudden they have become an exciting team, a contender even?

The Av’s played a hard won overtime game against the Devils on Monday. They came into the Garden a little worse for wear. The Rangers had three full days off after defeating the Islanders at the Garden last Friday night. This is the kind of game where the Rangers needed to come out flying and score first. They did just that, twice.

After winning their last four games and going seven and three in their last ten, things are all warm and fuzzy in Rangertown. The only fly in the ointment is the contract status of last night’s hero and number one star of the night, Captain Ryan Callahan.

As though scripted, Callahan scored the first two goals of the game (the second was the game winner). He sent a clear message to Glen Sather to “show him the money”. After a week’s worth of speculation in the press about Callahan’s demands, everyone needs to just simmer down and put this into perspective.

Ryan Callahan is one of the hardest working, consistent and mature young players ever to grace the Madison Square Garden stage. He reminds me a young Donny Maloney. That he should want a contract to guarantee he retires a Ranger is understandable. He’s home grown. He’s true blue.

If he can sign stiffs like Drury to big money, long term contracts, why does it seem Sather is digging in his heels about Ryan Callahan? Negotiating tactics not withstanding (Callahan asks for a luxury suite/Sather offers center ice seats on the Chase Bridge), last night should prove to Sather he needs to sign Cally long term. If Callahan needs to adjust his asking price to get that done, so be it.

When push comes to shove, I cannot imagine that Ryan Callahan would want to leave the Rangers. Every player that comes through this organization effuses about how great it is to play here. The treatment, the facilities, the Garden, the fan base are second to none in the league.

Let’s hope both sides see sense and get Callahan’s contract done so the Rangers continue to play their best and secure a playoff birth.

PS. Congratulations to Mark Staal on the birth of his first child, a daughter, Anna Veralyn Staal. It seems like only yesterday when I first saw Staal as an 18 year old boy playing his first preseason game against the Islanders at the Mausoleum.

Mark Staal, another home grown Ranger who I hope will stay with Ryan Callahan and Henrik Lundqvist until they all retire as life long New York Rangers.

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Bronx Cheer

Bronx Cheer – noun

a loud, abrasive, spluttering noise made with the lips and tongue to express contempt. Also called raspberry.

Yesterday’s Ranger/Devils game gave new meaning to the term Bronx Cheer. Ordinarily, giving someone “the Bronx Cheer” is derisive. It’s a way to denigrate the person(s) at whom it is directed. In that sense, I guess you could say that the “Marty” chants replaced “the Bronx Cheer” at Yankee Stadium.

But, on a positive note, the cheer in the Bronx for the Rangers yesterday was hardly derisive. The Rangers managed to come from behind and pull away from their cross river rivals in a remarkable fashion and in a spectacular setting.

After a shaky start by Henrik Lundqvist, the hockey gods looked down in favor of our boys in blue and they were able to turn the tables on the team in the Christmas Elf colors. After a delay of just over an hour (sun glare), the players took to the ice in front of over 50,000 fans. By some reports Ranger fans outnumbered Devils fans by 2 to 1.

The ice in the first period was more conducive to the east/west style of hockey preferred by Jaromir Jagr and Patrick Elias of the Devils. The box score certainly reflected that. But the Rangers managed to find a way to hang on and get out of the period only down by one goal.

One has to question the play of Henrik Lundqvist. For a goalie who usually plays so deep in the net, why was he coming out. The King said the delay had him out of sorts as he felt unready when game time came. With goaltenders it’s all about routine. Matinees are especially hard to players used to a nighttime stage.

Glad Henke was able to right his ship and play well for the rest of the game, despite the worsening ice conditions Brodeur was whining about post game. Henrik was facing the same conditions and managed to get the job done after the shaky start.

Is “Fatso” Brodeur kidding me? I was going to try and take the high road and not crucify “the greatest goaltender in NHL history”. But after his crybaby postgame remarks, he deserves all the crap we can dish out…

All Milbury and the other taking heads on NBC did was to fellate Fatso for a period and a half and when the tide started to turn against Brodeur, they shut up. While they were quick to ride Henrik in the first period, they lavished none of the praise they gave Marty when Henrik stood tall for the rest of the game. This is why Ranger fans hate the NHL on NBC.

They need to get rid of dopes like Milbury, Pang, Pierre and Edzo and get people in there like Ken Daneyko and Dave Maloney who are fairly impartial, call it as they see it and don’t drink the NHL’s koolaide.

And now, on to the ticket fiasco. As a former season ticket holder I would be remiss if I didn’t point out yet another rip off of the subscribers and those buying tickets directly from both organizations.

I heard that the Ranger subscribers had to purchase both the Sunday game and the Wednesday game at premium prices as a package to get any tickets. Not sure about how this went down for the New Jersey fans.

I have heard that prices to Wednesday night’s game against the Islanders are going for as little as $30.00 per ticket on the resale sites. That’s way below the face value of what the subscribers and direct purchasers had to pay.

I’m glad the Rangers won so those who laid out all that money got some small comfort from the victory. Their hearts are true. They love hockey. The NHL and Dolan just love money. They don’t deserve such a loyal fan base.

Finally, to those who are going to the game on Wednesday some advice:

Bring a small piece of cardboard (from a box) to stand on. It will insulate your feet rather than standing on the cold concrete.

For those not driving, if you are going through Penn station, take the E train uptown to 7th Avenue and switch to the D train uptown. Get off at 161st Street and River Ave.

It’s better than being outside on the elevated platform waiting for the #4 train.



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Small Packages

Whoever said good things come in small packages could have had Mats Zuccarello-Aasen in mind. That this 5’7″ 175lb bundle of offensive dynamite is one of the Ranger’s leading scorers and is a testament to the faith and good sense of Alain Vigneault and the hard work of “The Hobbit” himself.

The Ranger’s Little Big Man is tied with Brad Richards with 13 goals and has one less assist. The disparity between their salaries is as different as chalk and cheese. Richards makes over $5.5 million dollars more the “The Hobbit”. Rick Nash has one less goal and 14 less points than Zucca and makes $6.5 more than Frodo from Modo.

If Tortorella were still the head coach of the New York Rangers, Mats Zuccarello would be in Hartford or even Europe right now. So would Kid Kreider. Thank God Sather gave Torts the bum’s rush when he did.

From the little interaction we get to see among the players, it seems all the big guys on the team enjoy having Zucca as their mascot. He’s a source of boundless energy. He’s a great play maker and passer. He has the smarts, the vision and the fire that make him the spark plug the Rangers have needed since the departure of Avery and Dubinsky.

And to think Zuccarello went undrafted. In 2000 the Rangers had a chance to claim another vertically challenged forward named Martin St. Louis. Marty went on to win the Stanley Cup with Tampa and has since put in a Hall of Fame career.

And for all St. Louis success in the NHL and on the international stage, Steve Yzerman, GM of Marty’s own team, Tampa Bay, and the head of Team Canada’s Olympic Team selection committee passed over St. Louis for a spot on the Sochi Olympic team.

While Marty St Louis may be angry and disappointed, he scored four goals for Tampa in today’s matinee loss to the San Jose Sharks. I’d bet good money that Yzerman will be kicking himself in the ass for not choosing  Marty St. Louis in favor of Kris Kunitz or Rick Nash.

R-E-S-P-E-C-T. Small players deserve it too.

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41 Skidoo

After the home stand from hell, the Rangers are quite unbelievably one game over .500  and -8 points on the 6 points in 5 games playoff clinching paradigm. For all the gloom,  doom and bellyaching I’ve heard from coming from some quarters, that’s really not to shabby.

As of this posting, the Rangers, with 42 points, are two back in the Eastern Conference Wild Card Race right behind Toronto with 47 points and Detroit with 46 points.  The Devils are tied with the Rangers in points (42) but Rangers have 3 more regulation wins.

Coming in closely from behind respectively are Ottawa 41 , Carolina 39, Columbus 38. Florida 36, Islanders 33 and Buffalo 26 are bringing up the rear.

The Rangers and Henrik Lundqvist MUST be better in the second half of the season. Five hundred hockey ain’t gonna get it done. What with this being an Olympic year, it’s not going to be easy to pick up the points the Rangers squandered in December.

While Henrik hasn’t been overworked so far this season, the Rangers may find themselves up against the wall because Lundqvist will be “the” starter for Team Sweden. Remember what happened in 2006? I’m praying for Sweden’s early elimination (not likely).

If Cam Talbot can’t get it done and help Henke, Lundqvist will bear the load down the stretch. Since Lundqvist has been less than stellar, in truth mediocre so far this season, the Rangers must be better defenseivly and they MUST score more goals.

Compound Lundqvist playing for Sweden with Callahan, Stepan and McDonagh being chosen for Team USA and the Rangers need to pick up all the points they can before the Olympic break. How does the selection committee pick Callahan and Stepan over a Bobby Ryan or Kyle Okposo?

Fortunately, the Rangers do not have as a demanding a schedule (travel wise and rest wise) down the stretch as they did at the beginning of the season.

If you want an accurate picture of the Rangers chances in the last 41 games, of how the rest of the season should play out, visit the HockeyRodent’s RealSchedules and RealStandings.

Rodent doesn’t show the Rangers making the playoffs. Let’s hope the Tree Rat is wrong. Rodent’s projections are scientific and weighted and there’s pretty colors on his graphs, too. :)

Happy New Year

Let’s Go Rangers!

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The Toughest Job in Sport?

With the recent news that the Premiership club West Bromwich Albion, one of the favourites to be relegated with Unibet, have sacked their manager Steve Clarke, we ask is the role of the Premier League Manager the toughest job in sport?

The West Brom manager, and his assistant Kevin Keen, have both been sacked after the 1-0 defeat at Cardiff, which was their fourth straight loss in a Premier League run that has seen them win only seven games from the 34 that they have played in 2013.

The 50-year old Scot was placed on gardening leave with immediate effect, and he becomes the fourth Premiership Manager to lose his position after just 16 weeks of the campaign done and dusted.

Sure the Baggies have been on a bad run of late, but this is still the same manager that took WBA to an eighth place finish last season. Where is the patience, in what is turning out to be a Russian Roulette of a job.

Paulo Di Canio was the first Premier League manager to be fired after publicly criticising his players after a woeful start to the season. They have since replaced the over emotional foreign manager with another…over emotional foreign manager in Gus Poyet.

Ian Holloway left struggling Crystal Palace a month later…I mean come on, if you stuck Sir Alex Ferguson at the helm Crystal Palace are still going down. Then Martin Jol left his position after his players well and truly let him down at Fulham.

If the bookmakers are to be believed Sam Allardyce is the next manager being prepared for the chopping block at West Ham with odds of 7/4 that he will be axed next, with Norwich City’s Chris Hughton just behind that at 3/1,

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While many naysayers out there are blasting Glen Sather for paying a 31 year old goalie $8.5 million dollars over the next 7 years, I say STFU! These people are bitter. They are jealous. And, they are stupid.

There are some things just you cannot put a price on. Some things cannot be quantified by money. Some people cannot be measured by what they make. In our what have you done for me lately, show me the money society, there are people whose value truly is invaluable.

The New York Ranger’s organization learned their lesson when they traded away Eddie Giacomin to Detroit all those years ago. Eddie was far from finished. He was still a damn good goalie. It was more heart breaking to me then when they traded Ratelle and Park to Boston. The fans were so angry they booed the Rangers and cheered for Detroit the first time Giacomin returned to Garden wearing the Winged Wheel.

Henrik Lundqvist has been the one constant for the last eight seasons that has kept asses in the seats of the World’s Most Renovated Arena. He’s stood on his head in good times and bad to keep the Rangers in the playoff hunt. He’s been a rock of consistency in a virtual sea of mediocrity. He’s earned this contract. He’s the Eddie Giacomin of this millenium.

Lundqivist has backed up Ranger teams with little defense, less offense and no powerplay. He’s celebrated victories and suffered defeats and done it all with good grace. (Better then Fatso across the river whom some refer to as the “greatest goalie of all time”).

Screw what the rest of the NHL and the hockey world think. They don’t know our Henke. We do. To know Henrik Lundqvist is to love him. He’s not only a great goaltender but a lovely person. He’s good to the fans. He hasn’t changed since the day I met him in Bryant Park all those years ago when he was Kevin Week’s backup.

Henrik Lundqvist is worth his weight in gold. If there is justice in this world, his name will one day be on the Stanley Cup. He’ll go into the Hall of Fame on the first ballot as a New York Ranger.

Henrik Lundqvist will be a Ranger for life. That is how it had to be. Congratulations to Glen Sather and James Dolan for having the balls to make it happen.

Thanks to Henke for keeping the faith with the Garden Faithful. It’s an early Christmas gift to all Ranger fans.

Henrik Lundqvist – Priceless

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Talking Turkey To Torts

As if it were scripted, Chris Kreider unleashed the Kraken against the Canucks by scoring a hat trick to welcome John Tortorella back to Madison Square Garden.

After missing the check leading to Kreider’s first goal, Tortorella screamed abuse at Alex Elder on the Canucks bench. Sad to see that some things don’t change.

If the Rangers could play so well this afternoon as to get puck to Kid Kreider for the hat trick, how do they blow a lead and lose in Boston a mere 24 hours before.

Alain Vigneualt called it a lackluster effort in Boston. Whatever he said to the team between yesterday afternoon and this afternoon must have had some impact. Oh to be a fly on the wall. Somehow I have a feeling that whatever he did say was not in the form of a torrent of abuse.

Benching Del Zotto seems to be having a desired effect. Maybe AV should try it with some others. Is it Staal’s vision or is he just not seeing the ice well? When Stralman is playing better defense then Staal and Girardi, that’s a problem.

I didn’t see Richards’ or Callahan’s picture on my milk carton. Maybe they should be there. With Callahan, I think he may be nursing another injury. Richards just needs to be bought out. He’s as slow as Hagelin and Zuccarello are fast. One third of the way through the season and Richards is out of gas. It’s not the tryptophan. He’s a flightless bird, a turkey.

Two weeks ago when I was talking to Tom Renney at the Mausoleum before the Detroit game, he told me to have faith in Vigneault, that AV was a great coach. Takes one to know one, Tom.

All I could say in response was how glad I was when I found out Torts was fired. I didn’t say anything more. It would not have been appropriate. Tom didn’t say anything negative either. He’s too much the gentleman.

Chris Kreider is also a gentleman. Kreider took the high road when asked if he felt avenged by scoring a hat trick on Torts, the coach who banished him to Hartford. When asked about Torts not trusting him last year  Krieder replied, “I struggled trusting me, too.”

I know I’m always beating my drum for Mats Zuccarello but the Hobbit makes this team fun to watch. He’s so quick. He reads and sees the play so well. His height in inches may be low but his hockey IQ is so high it’s off the charts.


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Old Friends/Bookends

Old Friends
Old Friends
Sat on their park bench like bookends …

A time it was
It was a time
A time of innocence
A time of confidences

Long ago it must be
I have a photograph
Preserve your memories
They’re all that’s left you

-Paul Simon

This weekend Saturday and Sunday nights were hockey bookends for myself and Mr. Hurley. Saturday night we went to see the Detroit Red Wings play the Icelanders at the Mausoleum. Sunday we went to the Garden to watch the Rangers stumble through their second game in two nights against the LA Kings.

Whether at the Garden or on the Island, I always try to see the Wings when they come to town. Now, having moved from the Western to the Eastern Conference, I’ll be getting to see my second favorite team play more often. More Mule, more Zetterberg and especially more DATSYUK!

What a barn burner it was! Every time one team scored, the other answered back. The Icelanders went up 4 -3 at the 4:43 mark of the third period. It looked like the Fishsticks would prevail. Detroit pulled their goaltender and Pavel Datsyuk tied it with 43 seconds left in the third period for his second goal of the game.

The game went to the shoot out. Neither Datsyuk, Zetterberg or Bertuzzi could beat Poulin. Franz Neilson won it for the home team, scoring the only goal.

…from excitement to ennui in 24 hours…

The Rangers had a bookend weekend of their own. They shut out the Montreal Canadiens in Montreal for the first time since 1967. It was the first time the Rangers won in Montreal in their last 8 games at Le Centre Belle.

This was no mean feat for as we all know the calls usually go the way of Blu, Blanc et Rouge at home. It was a shut out for our new sensation, rookie netminder and Quebec native, Cam Talbot.

A mere 24 hours later and the Rangers lost by a score of 0-1 to the LA Kings.

As well as the Rangers played in Hab town, they played equally as badly in Rangertown. Not even a tribute to their biggest cheerleader, Dancing Larry, could rally the Rangers to put a puck behind Kings backup goalie, Ben Scrivens.

If it weren’t for our King, the score would have been at least 4-0. Granted, it was the Rangers second game in two nights. To make matters worse, fog delayed the Rangers return flight from Montreal and they didn’t get home until after 3 am.

Still, it’s early in the season. They just had three days off before the Montreal game. One set of back to back games this early in the season shouldn’t tire them out that much. No excuses. Perhaps Alain Vigneualt doesn’t demand the same level of conditioning as did his predecessor.

Speaking of predecessors, I had a nice pre-game conversation with my all time favorite Ranger coach, Tom Renney, at the Mausoleum on Saturday. Tom currently assists Red Wings head coach Mike Babcock.

We chatted for a few minutes about the Wings, the Rangers and our families. Tom looks great. So much less stress being out of the red hot spotlight that shines on NHL head coaches. So nice to see an old friend doing well. We are both a little older and a lot grayer but happy and healthy.

Speaking of old friends, I’d like to thank Rob Kowal of New York Hockey Talk for including me in on the group tickets his Long Island Dragons got for the Red Wing game. Sorry we couldn’t stay to watch the Dragons play. I’m sure we’ll pass each other in the night as we leave/arrive at some Long Island rink. :)


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