I never liked the New York Rangers. As a 10-year old kid I used to like the Philadelphia Flyers of all teams! I even had a Bobby Clarke poster in my room. Then in 1978, something happened. I watched an amazing playoff series between the New York Islanders and Toronto Maple Leafs. Game Seven went into overtime and that is when Lanny McDonald broke my heart. But I had a new team to cheer for and they played on Long Island, which is a lot closer than Philadelphia.
The next season the Islanders finished with the best point total in the league, 116 and a record of 51-15-14. The Montreal Canadiens finished with 115 points and a 52-17-11 record. The Isles and Habs also finished 1-2 in goals scored, 358-to337. The Stanley Cup finals were predetermined in my mind. It would be the Islanders and Canadiens.
Then a funny thing happened on the Islanders way to the Stanley Cup Finals – The New York Rangers. If Mr. McDonald broke my heart the year before, The Mafia Line of Phil Esposito, Don Maloney and Don Murdoch (the Godfather and the two Don’s…get it? –one of my favorite line names of all time) stepped on it, kicked it off the roof of Madison Square Garden and on to 8th Avenue where traffic ran over it again and again. Thus my hatred for the Rangers was born!
Fortunately the Canadiens took care of business in five games and the chant of 1940 lived on! If the Islanders-Rangers Series of 1979 destroyed my heart just think about what Ranger fans went through the next four years. The Islanders won the Stanley Cup from 1980 through 1983. Revenge was mine! Four championships in a row including 19 straight playoff series wins. Take that you obnoxious blue seaters! Those four championship years more than made up for that one playoff series loss.
After 11 years of no Stanley Cup finals in New York City or Long Island, another funny thing happened. The Rangers actually won the Cup in 1994. What a great spring that was for the city of New York and Madison Square Garden particularly. The Rangers and the Knicks made it to the finals of their respective sports with both series going seven games. The powers that be at Madison Square Garden had to be happy with that.
The Knicks lost to the Rockets and the Rangers of course beat the Canucks. And you know what? My life didn’t change one bit. Oh sure I could no longer chat 1940 at Islander-Ranger games, but there are worse things in this world. The majority of my friends that are Ranger fans gave me grief. But life went o and my hatred for the Rangers sort of subsided after they won.
A few years later as my sports career progressed, I actually got to meet and interview many members that made up the core of that Ranger team that won the Cup in 1994. And you know what I realized? They were a great bunch of guys.
Mark Messier, Brian Leetch, Mike Richter and especially Adam Graves were some of the nicest athletes and more importantly, people, you would ever want to meet. I enjoyed covering their practice sessions; I liked being around them and talking to them and writing stories about them and the great game of hockey even if they were my team’s arch rivals.
One of my former editors, who’s as big a Ranger fan as you can find, put it best, “Like the players hate the uniform.”
Jerry Seinfeld had a bit about when a player on “your team” moves on to another team, and all of a sudden you are booing him. He was so good last year now he is no good. So technically you are rooting for clothing. The player puts on a different shirt and he gets booed.
I saw this first hand when covering a Ranger game vs. the San Jose Sharks in the late 1990’s. Former Ranger playoff hero Stephane Matteau was now with the Sharks. He got into a scrap with a Ranger player and fists started flying with the Ranger player getting the best of Matteau. The Ranger fans in Madison Square Garden actually started cheering. A fellow reporter turned to me and said, “How soon they forget.”
I just nodded at him. Remember it was Matteau’s goal against the Devils that got them to the Stanley Cup Finals in 1994. Rooting for clothing indeed!
As a Yankee fan I can’t root for the Red Sox, as an Oakland Raider fan I can’t root for any other team in the NFL, especially those in the AFC Western Conference. And as an Islander fan, well I just can’t root for the Rangers, nice guys or not.
The only ways I’d root for the Rangers to win are:
1.) If it could help the Islanders in the standings and
2.) If they played against a team made up of al Quada and Taliban operatives.
Since the Islanders are a few years – and that is being kind – away from being a playoff team, and terrorists don’t play hockey in the dessert, I am pretty safe.
Let’s Go Kings! And if the Kings falter, I will NOT be at the parade in lower Broadway.
Sorry Ranger fan friends.
Now where did I put my old school royal purple L.A. Kings Marcel Dionne jersey?