Now the hockey season can really begin…


I have become, in my advancing age, somewhat of a jaded sports fan, which is the inevitable occupational hazard for those of us who write about sports for a living. Don’t get me wrong, I have my teams — Mets, Jets, UNH hockey, Indiana Hoosiers basketball (that’s a long story) — but more often than not, it’s difficult to separate your personal interest in sports from your professional ones.

I mention this because, yes, I’m happy the Yankees lost last night, not only because I’ve been programmed to dislike them from a young age (blame my dad), but also because the elimination of both New York baseball teams opens the door for greater exposure for hockey. Like I said, it’s a warped way of thinking, but it’s true. As long as the Yankees were making a run in the postseason, the greater the likelihood that hockey would be relegated to agate type in your sports pages.

Granted, it’s still a long way to go until hockey truly becomes relevant in this town, especially with the Giants showing signs of life, and of course with Joe Torre’s days “as a manager apparently coming to an end”: The playoffs are what truly matters to the casual fan, and by all expectations, the Rangers figure to make some noise once they’re there.

But at least now we can soon avoid situations like a couple of weeks back, when I met one of my buddies outside the Garden before the Rangers-Islanders exhibition game just to catch up, and he said this:

“By the way, what are you doing in town?”

“The Rangers,” I said bluntly. “They have a game tonight.”

My buddy looked shocked.

“Really?” he said. “Hockey already?”

And so it went. You get my point. One of the reasons I love hockey is that it does exist in its own universe a lot of the time. It’s not for everyone, but those of us who do follow it do so with unrivaled passion. Whether the game leads the sportscast or is on the front page every day has little bearing on my interest, or how I do my job. But I’m also of the belief that the game we love deserves better than to dwell in anonymity.

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  1. For what it’s worth Sam, In the Home News here in the New Brunswick area, your stories usually get printed at a decent size and aren’t buried.

  2. longtimerangersfan on

    Right on, Sam…hockey is THE best of all the sports and doesn’t get the recognition it deserves but I love it.

  3. I, too, was rooting for the Yankees’ demise and for the same reasons–tribal hatred, and the hope that hockey might be the lead story in the sports section sometime soon. Not long ago, I was walking down the street in my Manhattan neighborhood, and the word “hockey” caught my ear. One twentyish young man was saying to another, “The thing to remember, dude, is hockey is not, like, so much a sport, dude, as it is a cult.” While his speaking skills weren’t much, he certainly had a point.

  4. Doodie Machetto on

    My buddy looked shocked.

    “Really?� he said. “Hockey already?�

    That’s the EXACT same reaction my roommate had when I told him I was headed to a bar to watch the Rangers-Panthers game.

    We gotta get back on ESPN.

  5. Oh Sam, don’t open yourself up like that. You know you’re going to get all sorts of crap now about being a Mets fan.

  6. The Rangers or any other area team won’t make the cover of any newspaper unless there is some sort of Chris Simon incident. Then it’s front page news.
    There just isn’t enough people interested in hockey. it doesn’t sell papers.

  7. Probably one of the most open and honest things you’ve written here for us, Sam. While I am a Yankee fan, I can’t say I disagree at all. Opening night against the Panthers was infinitely more exciting and important for me to tune in to than the Yanks playoffs.

    It does bother me that Baseball, an incredibly dry, boring, (and, now tainted) sport gets undying attention while hockey runs out its season in the shadows.

  8. I was just checking out the stats for the game yesterday. How the hell do the Islanders lose a game that DP made 10 saves in?? Thats crazy, and pathetic.

    Im not looking foward to playing the Caps. But i hope Orr knocks Brashear out this season. There’s nothing id want more.

    The countdown is on….Who will be the first knockout victim this year??

    Janssen, Asham, Brashear, Laraque, Eager, are some on that list that i hope get bi*ched by Orr

  9. BTW

    Orr verse Boogaard this season, guarenteed. If anyone wants to check out there two fights from back in 00 – 01 and 01 – 02 or some time during those year, its on

    Orr wins both, in my opinion. I dont care what anyone thinks about the guy, i think he diserves a spot in this lineup for 82 games. Hollweg should get dumped, unless he gets his balls back, and starts hitting. But enforcers like Orr, that have a right hand like that, shouldnt get dumped. Ever since coming to NY, his fighting is better, his skating is better, and his degensive game is a whole hell of alot better. He has a few sweet take-a-ways. Actually one this season and one in pre season, but both nice. If he can get more sspeed to his game, then theres absolutely no use for Holly on the team.

    I miss Orty, i cant stand to see him in that ugly Preds jersey.

  10. Salty

    I definitely hear ya-
    Opening night was way more important to me than any Yankees game, although I am a life long Yankees fan and former season ticket holder.

    My brother in law thinks I am nuts that I would prefer a regualr season Rangers game over post season baseball.

    With Hockey, it seems that either people absolutely love it and live it, or they are just not too interested in it at all. (Canada is a different story)

    Most friends of mine would turn down free good seats to a Rangers game. It still amazes me how MSG is fully sold out.

    For all these reasons, that’s why the NHL will probably expand soon to Europe…. and don’t kill me, but that may actually be good for the sport.

  11. when NYR swept ATL, the back page of the Post was a headline about “who might *not* pitch on sunday” for yankees. it was asinine. It was as if they went out of their way to avoid talking about the rangers playoff sweep.

  12. SALT

    What the hell is that supposed to mean…Im a fuggin die hard NYR fan, i can give a fugg about any sport including a borfest like baseball which is one of the most dragged out sports. I dont give a damn about anything except for NYR and hockey, and Tennis, but only for Sharapova.

    Fighting is one of many parts of the game i enjoy, and if nobody likes it then turn the g*d damn channel. God forbid Orr gets traded, then ill back up the next NYR enforcer, unless its Hollweg.

  13. Salty

    They just wanna sell papers.
    A good part of the NYC population are people from other countries who grew up knowing and worshipping only soccer and baseball.

    Most that I know who love hockey, do so from a very young age.

  14. I know what you are all say, and it definitely deserves more recognition, but I kind of like it the way it is. It is “ours”. I like having this kind of secret that most people don’t really know about. I like introducing people to hockey, and taking them to their first game and watching them fall in love with the sport the same way I did when I was 5 or 6 years old. I feel like once you go see a game live you are hooked, no matter what the age. So let the stories get lost in the back pages, because we all know what the deal is.

  15. NASTY 1

    Damn, i was just gonna say that. I feel the exact same way, as cheesy as it sounds, its like a cool little fanclub that nobody knows about. Ive got two of my friends into hockey, and they cant get enough of it. When i was in school the other day i had a Hockeynews mag, and everyone was saying OMG its a hockey fan, im one of the only hockey fans there, along with a few teachers, but barely any students.

    I wouldnt want to change a thing.

  16. And I will say this. You have your die hards in any sport, and I like many sports, but no fans are as passionate about their sport than hockey fans, there is no doubt about it.

  17. ….and imagine how much MORE expensive the tickets will get than they already are-

    The only downside to the game staying small market is all the BS that Buttman will do to try and make it bigger.

  18. I dont give a damn about anything except for NYR and hockey, *and Tennis, but only for Sharapova*.

    Fighting is one of many parts of the game i enjoy, *and if nobody likes it* then turn the g*d damn channel. God forbid Orr gets traded, then ill back up the next NYR enforcer, unless its Hollweg.


    Just makes me wonder. You care about tennis, I’m assuming because theres a hot girl that plays? That is what you are saying, no? …why not just get into a playboy (or whatever)… then there’s no need to bother with all that ball and raquet tennis stuff.

    I also didn’t say I don’t like fighting, It just seems thats the most important thing to you…why not just get into boxing? then you wont have to worry about all that skating, passing, shooting stuff.

    sorry i’m sick and grumpy today – i should just turn off the computer and go home.

  19. One of the problems connected with marketing hockey, is the fact that most NHL players are “faceless,” whereas we know what all baseball players of any stature look like. Before helmets in hockey, star players, and even many journeymen, enjoyed instant recognition.

    When helmets took over the game, I wrote to Brian O’Neill, then a top NHL executive, and recommended the adoption of transparent fiberglass helmets, so that the players would still have “personality” and recognition value. I still think it’s an idea worth considering.

    Also, I wonder if the adoption of helmets has made the game safer, or more dangerous, as, before helmets, we didn’t see many, if any, deliberate shots to the head. We seem to have more concussions now than at any time in league history, even discounting for the expanded number of franchises. I see visors protecting the eyes as having value, but I think discarding the helmets altogether, would be a big plus for both cleaning up the ugliest part of the game, and making the game more public relations marketable.

    As it is now, playing 82 regular season games to qualify a 16-team playoff league consisting of faceless players – well, it’s interminable, and you could say the hockey season actually begins in April. No wonder so many are turned off, or never tune in.

  20. SALT

    Sharapova hasnt done playboy and probably never will. but if theres nothing on and im bored then ill watch some tennis. Im 17, i can get away with it.

    Boxing is boring, Ill watch UFC when ever its on but i wont pay 50 bucks to watch a bunch of guys fight, when i can turn on MSG and watch Fedoruk get carried away on a stretcher.

    Im not trying to be an asshole about it, i like fighting and every part of hockey exceot hits to the head for obvious reasons. I just dont like it when someone questions my love for the game.

    You dont wanna know me during the summer, when theres nothing but heat and hockey rumors, i lose my mind. I need hockey in my life more then anything, and thats that.

  21. Captain Of Jazz on

    you guys are right about hockey basically being a cult. but what i’m jealous of is that living in the n.y. area you guys can not only see live games but you could also *gasp* have a real conversation with someone about hockey. i’m a lifetime rangers fan who happens to live in west…virginia. even when i originally lived in southern ohio there was still no one that i found that had even a passing interest in hockey. heck, years back when i first subscribed to the hockey news i was told by the girl on the phone that i was the ONLY person in the state of wv at that time that subscribed. so here i sit in a dumpy state with only center ice, the hockey news, and the internet to occupy the hockey part of my brain. you guys in big metro areas and in canada are lucky. you could be like me and basically be marooned on a hockey dead planet.

  22. Yeah man, I am definitely bummed out in the summer also. Remember during the lockout when those rumors of a shortened year came out and got us all excited to only find out the next morning that it was definitely not going to happen. Well, I was so depressed, my wife told me she thought she was going to find me in the bathtub with a razor blade and warm water running.

  23. Sam, I must say I couldn’t agree with you more. I’m attending college in Tampa now, literally less than half a mile from the St. Pete Times Forum, and the YANKEES get more coverage HERE than hockey. Not that that is really surprising considering I’m well below the Mason-Dixon line, but regardless it’s pretty crazy. I’m watching the Blueshirts every game though, so no worries.

    In reference to “the cult” aspect of hockey, it is absolutely the truth–and I’m trying to convert others.

  24. Well, this is certainly one of the more philosophical discussions this comments section has seen in some time.

    I certainly agree that hockey has formed into an entity with a cult following. I mean, I am a Mets fan, but last night I tuned into the Detroit-Edmonton game rather than watching the demise of the Yankees. It was good news to hear they lost, but it certainly couldn’t have been too exciting. Compared to hockey, baseball never is.

    I, too am all for “converting” people into hockey fans (halfway there on my girlfriend – she claims she’s a Mark Messier fan, not a hockey fan – hey, it’s a start). It’s not always easy though. I mean, my company is having a free outing to our local AHL team up here in Albany. Out of about 50 employees, I think 8 of us got tickets for us and our families. That’s insane. I asked a couple why they’re not going and they say “I don’t know anything about hockey”. Well, what better place to learn that at a live game?

    I never understood why people are so confused by the rules. Sure maybe it would take a bit to understand icing and offsides, but overall, it’s “shoot the puck in the net”. Why can’t people deal with that, but they can deal with the insane rules in football and baseball. “Intentional grounding”? “Ineligible man downfield”? These things just come naturally to people? I doubt it. What about balks in baseball? Explaining a balk to someone is like speaking in Latin.

    I guess at this point, I’ve come to accept that I’m in the minority and I’m fine with that. Still, I just don’t understand why people don’t even give it a chance…

  25. Screw Versus, we don’t get that at my college. Like someone else said, bring the NHL back to ESPN!

  26. Hi Sam,

    You are right about hockey existing in its’s own universe and hockey fans are like no other with unrivaled passion with no other sport existing! Having said that, I am the only female in my office with avid male sports fans and all anyone was talking about this morning were the Yankess, finally, I stood up and told them to put away their baseball bats and get out the hockey sticks, isn’t anyone the least bit excited about the upcoming Rangers-Islanders game tomorrow night????

  27. It’s not exactly a surprise the Yankees get coverage in Tampa, though.

    And it seems to me that hockey, for better or worse depending on how much you love having a “secret” sport, may well be served by the expansion of HD. Most people I know say things like “going to a hockey game is awesome, but I can never tell what the hell is going on on TV.” And, to be fair, unless you’ve done it a bunch, hockey is simply harder to follow on the tube than most other sports. Now, though, HD is making it easier to follow the puck and maybe that will allow more people to enjoy it on TV. To me, that’s a good thing.

    Also, it’s very hard to imagine, I think, that they will roll back the helmet rules. Hockey has simply gotten faster and thus rougher (hitting-wise), and the athletes have gotten larger and stronger. As for see-through helmets, that’s one funky idea.

  28. Sam~

    Gotta love hockey! Carli’s post is spot-on. Hockey is a cult sport, one that few understand. Seems like all the people I know who are into watching also play at some recreational level (including myself). I am even fortunate enough to be working with someone from Canada, the mecca of our fav sport.

    I equate it to the addiction to golf, if you know anyone with that disease.

    At least we got coverage. My parents live in FL, and if its not related to the gators, hurricanes, or seminoles, its not on the map. Football is king there (right down to the HS level).

    Sadder truth is most everyday people think that hockey is all about the fighting. That’s just sad.

  29. I couldn’t believe SportsCenter last night (well I could, since it wasn’t a Wednesday or Thursday when Melrose is on) in that they showed hockey clips in the opening, then spent the whole show discussing *TWO GAMES*! Cowboys – Bills and Yankees – Indians. Granted thos two were pretty good games, but it was an 89-minute show; I think they could have shown the three hockey games in five minutes, or probably less.

    Bonfire – As I remember correctly (responding to your post on the last thread), your Philthies got swept out of the first round, leaving them with a worse record than the Mets. The Yankees should go back to the lower-priced players that worked in the late ’90s. They are now turning into the Mets of early this decade, with players like Burnitz and Alomar. I compared them to the Rangers at that time more.

    When is that hockey game at Yankee Stadium happening?!

  30. hockeymanrangers on

    SAM I KNEW WE HAD A CONNECTION JETS, METS AND RANGERS. I rarily watch any baseball, but will sit down and watch the Jets from time to time. Hopefully they (the jets) can pick it up a bit. But as most have all said,I am a killer, die hard HOCKEY and NY RANGER HOCKEY FAN AT THAT. To me there is no other sport as good as hockey. And I used to watch a LOT of football it didn’t matter college, pro, semi pro. But then I got the hockey bug and there will never be any turning back. Us hockey people are very passinate about our hockey and I think you either love it and are crazy about it or your ho hum about it.

  31. Ha! I live in Los Angeles, a market with two teams (including the defending champs), and there’s no one here to have a real conversation about hockey with either.

  32. A few girls i know say that there scared to go to a hockey game cause they think hockey fans are crazy. And fans from other teams beat up fans from the other. I told them that those were just Flyer fans.

    And yeah, that is annoying when a-holes think hockey is all about fighting.

    Is Jovo a Ranger yet? (Dont answer that one, i just wanted to go Brklynblue on you)

  33. Fruity Cupcake on

    Fellas, I don’t buy the “faceless” player argument for why hockey’s not more popular. I’ve run into dozens of players in my neighborhood (hello, Henrik) and recognized them in their street clothes. Why? Intermission interviews! If you’re watching a game, you’re going to see players without their helmets on. While Jagr will never be confused with Jeter, it’s not because of helmets. It’s the exposure, stupid! Where are Jagr’s Dodge endorsements? Where’s Shanny’s toothpaste deal? Avery’s BenGay ads? How come every fan in America wants to see playoff beards come off on a Gillette ad, but Madison Avenue doesn’t know about the playoff beard tradition?

    As far as folks not seeing the puck–watch the players’ body. Good GRIEF people, it’s not brain surgery! (On the other hand, if you can’t follow a simple game, I don’t need you sitting next to me at the Garden!)

    Someone’s cranky! I need lunch. See you all at Cult HQ on Friday: Grand opening, NHL store. 47th St. at 6th Ave, 11-2ish.

  34. Hockey’s biggest problem is that it transaltes so poorly onto the TV. The puck is hard to follow – the fact is, most hockey fans aren’t watching the puck. It takes going to a lot of games to really understand the game and have enough of a feel for it to be able to really enjoy it on TV. Perhaps widescreen and HDTV will help.

    Football, conversely, is a made for television sport. Going to games always strikes me as much less interesting and exciting. When the action isn’t near you, it’s miles away. The best seats in the house for pro football are on your living room sofa.

  35. Robby Bonfire on

    Hey, West Virginia native – While there is a derth of hockey out your way, at least you have the slots at the Charlestown Race Track. LOL.

  36. Robby Bonfire on

    Re my Phillies getting swept in the first round – to a “wild card” team, no less, I don’t make excuses for any of my teams, including the Rangers, when they bomb. (The fuking Patriots duplicity vs. the Eagles in the Super Bowl, notwithstanding, ranking 2004 in football up there with 1919 in baseball.)

    The difference between the Yankees and their fans, and the Phillies and their fans can be summed up in one word: EXPECTATIONS. The Yankees expect to win it all, every year, while the Phillies and their fans just know something will go wrong before it goes right. Certainly the Phillies entering this year’s post-season with a basically Triple A pitching staff did not raise anyone’s expectations for the team, before that reality was confirmed in round one.

    I used to be actually glad when a team of mine under-achieved with a bunch of old guys, thinking that now the club would clean house and rebuild. But, incredibly, they don’t do that, they just bring in new names – new burned-out, over-priced pitchers, who peaked 3-8 years ago.

    My team is my team, whether first or last or in-between. Not a “fair weather fan.” Actually, the mood in Philly is quite positive re winning the division and hopefully building on that when the current fossilized GM retires after next season.

  37. It’s not surprising because the Yanks are a huge thing in Tampa(notice I didn’t say the Devil Rays–poor kids). I’ve finally figured out the only way to get someone to truly enjoy hockey is to bring them to a game. I used to work for an ECHL team in Trenton, NJ, and my friends came to see one game and were hooked for the rest of the season. There is nothing like a live hockey game, absolutely nothing like it.

  38. I just want to say that this:

    *years back when i first subscribed to the hockey news i was told by the girl on the phone that i was the ONLY person in the state of wv at that time that subscribed*

    is awesome.

    Also, sorry for being a ahole earlier Orr, I love ya but sometimes I don’t get ya.

    Robby, see through helmets? like an old school spacemans fishbowl helmet? i would love to see whatever it is in your head that you envision this “clear helmet” to look like!

    Also, something thatI don’t think anyone has touched yet on the subject of popularity is the fact that hockey is *expensive*. Anyone can play baseball, basketball, footvall, soccer in any street or park. Hockey requires ice which is not always easy to find, and even if you can find ice, ice time is not cheap. Not to mention all the equipment required for youth participation.

    This is a setback, when it’s much easier to sign a kid up for little league rather than pee-wees….etc. A lot of people might not develop much interest if its something almost intangiable that they don’t or cant relate to, and grow up “acting out” as their heros running around a sandlot instead of a rink. It’s understandable.

    There are programs like “Hockey in Harlem” which raise money to get inner city kids equipment, ice time, clinics, etc… It’s my understanding that they have developed some pretty good players over the years. I do believe the best way to get people into a sport is to get them physically involved though… the sooner you get that stick in your hands and your feet gliding the sooner you can actually appreciate a Chris Drury toe-drag to his backhand to pop a waterbottle off the net.


  39. Fruity Cupcake on

    Hey Swing, good point about the expense of playing—I sponsor a niece who shows little natural talent, but HUGE heart. She just LOVES playing the game, but it’s pricey.

    Thanks for the Ice Hockey In Harlem shout-out! I’m a volunteer for the program and would like to say that while we’ve gotten kids to the next level (college) none of the kids have been drafted yet… Although that day COULD come!

    A young goalie named Gerald Coleman was the first to graduate from the NHL’s diversity program—out of Chicago—to be drafted (by Tampa Bay, currently in the Ducks org.) Maybe wouldn’t have played hockey if there wasn’t an afterschool program for him to join.

  40. I agree with Fruity Cupcake about the “faceless” arguement being ridiculous. Uhh – Football???? And spot on with the lack of endorsements holding the sport back.

    As for hockey being expensive sport to get into – my take is that you dont need ice to get into it. I and many of my friends all had rollerblades and sticks and played on pavement in NYC parks growing up. We’re all diehard hockey fans now and will be all our lives because we got a feel for the game. Why cant the NHL promote roller-hockey more as a stepup to ice??

    Basically, the league needs to take a serious grassroots approach to developing interest. Make teams give a percentage of earnings to their cities to build hockey rinks. Hell – just put some boards on a paved lot and kids will come play. Even soccer has taken hold in America with that strategy. You dont need to go to Harlem for some PR (that only really gets press in New York) to convert so called “casual fans”. It just doesnt happen that way.

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