I don’t know a lot of hockey fans. If a NHL team signed a Chinese player, most of my friends may be more inclined to care. But of the hockey fans I do know, they live and die with their teams and experience the highs and lows throughout the regular season and the playoffs.
Usually, people will start giving fractions of a shit about a team if they make it to the playoffs or compete for a championship. Yes, the dreaded bandwagon fans show themselves when they haven’t watched a single second of a sporting event in their lives.
With the New York Rangers, I had always given some level of interest in them, even when I grew up with no cable TV and my NHL fix was in the form of the NHL on FOX on weekends (yes, and I remember Fox Trax and their glowing puck with the occasional red streak fondly). In particular, I grew to love the Rangers because my brother would always play as the Rangers in EA Sports’ NHL 94 (or was it NHL 95?). And because they play in New York, I felt like I had some obligation to cheer for them.
I don’t recall much of the Rangers’ playoff run in 1994 but I only remember bits of it through watching video highlights on YouTube. With each video I watched, the names all start to ring bells: Richter, Graves, Leetch, Messier, MacTavish, Tikkanen, Kovalev, Matteau.
With the 2011-12 New York Rangers, people kept making comparisons to 1994—especially when the Stanley Cup Playoffs began. There was the thrilling 7-game series with Ottawa and then the thrilling 7-game series with the Capitals. So many highs and lows that have collectively shortened our lifespans by a few years. Some were thinking the Rangers could go all the way.
I couldn’t think that far ahead. I wanted to take it one game at a time and to see where things would go from there.
The Rangers met with the Devils in the Eastern Conference Final and ultimately could not get past them. Was I disappointed? Yes. Was I in tears? No. It’s frustrating but that happens in sports; things don’t go your way all the time.
There’s always next year…