Tuesday, 7 December 2010

Ever fall in love with someone you shouldn't have fallen in love with? Let's Go Rangers, Let's Go

It is fair to say that football is my main love. Not the namby pamby soccer charlatans of the Premier League, or the over-privileged prawn sandwich brigade in the Stamford Bridge executive boxes. But football. Proper football.

For me, Brighton and Hove Albion were a match made in heaven. In no way glamorous, but in every way attractive. Downtrodden? Tick. Retro crap old ground? You bet. A team which loses more than it wins? Certainly used to be the case.

Watching a lower league football team is like discovering a brilliant new band before your bandwagon jumping mates hear them on Radio 1.

"You support a League One team?" people often say. "But who," they ask, "is your Premiership side?"

Anyone who asks that question does not deserve an answer.

Strange then that on a recent trip to New York I fell head over heels in love with a sport which boasts the sort of razzmatazz and glitz driven glamour so wonderfully absent at the Withdean.

I went to see the New York Knicks. It was fun. They were crap. I ate popcorn. I left happy.

Then the next night I managed to get a pair of tickets to see the New York Rangers in the NHL. And. I. Loved. It.

Every last minute of it.

I would rather vote Conservative than see the crowd ramping up style hoo-har of American sport pervert my beloved soccer. Sorry football.

But from the moment the American national anthem played - complete with whooping at the end of most lines - and climaxed in an Orwellian minute's hate esque frenzy, I was hooked.

I could go on about the athleticism, rave about the balance and skill of the burly players who somehow manage to stay stood-up on the ice despite being smashed into a wall by another 14 stone plus behemoth.

But it was detract from the real reason I left Madison Square Gardens feeling like a teenager on a first date. In ice hockey, you see, players are positively encouraged to scrap. The referees even get out of the way and let them.

The first game I saw (New York Rangers 3 vs 2 Buffalo Sabres) lacked any real fisticuffs. The second though, an 8v2 ownership of Edmonton Oilers, boasted a scrap which resulted in a total of 128 penalty minutes being dished out.

But, the odd dry slap flung in the direction of a Canadian is not, on its own, enough to secure such levels of affection.

The whole - and yes, I realise I sound like a nouveau sports fan when I say this - the whole experience was unlike anything I have seen at a football game.

Home and away fans sitting alongside each other (but still hurling out unrepeatable banter at each other), welcoming season ticket holders (or subscribers as they call them) happy to fill you in on the rules, food delivered TO YOUR SEAT, top level entertainment, a brilliant atmosphere and a ROOF. A ruddy roof. Rainy days at Withdean eat your heart out.

In the ten days I was in the Big Apple, I caught three games. Two wins and a loss. Or 2 and 1 as our cousins from across the Pond would say.

I also invested a near £100 of my own money on a New York Rangers shirt. Sounds a lot, but the club has only changed its top around half dozen times in its 85 year history. A lesson Manchester United could maybe learn from.

The dilema on which name to get on the back was solved after seeing Brandon Prust (#8) wrestling his way through the Oilers line.

Mild panic followed when I realised not a single person in the stadium had Prust's number eight shirt - but a friendly New York couple reassured me. Prust it seems is an undervalued player only "hockey experts" fully appreciated. His words not mine.

Lucky guess then. I only got it because he threw a nice punch.


  1. Great write-up, from a New York-born Rangers lifer. Welcome aboard!

    Be sure to somehow watch the Winter Classic on New Year's Day. It. Is. Awesome.

  2. Excellent, excellent post! I'm glad you enjoyed your experience.

    Brandon Prust is what hockey fans refer to as a "grinder." He's not flashy offensively, rather he excels at doing to dirty work required to win games--throwing his body around, working hard down low and in the corners, blocking shots, etc. He's an energy player and a fantastic teammate. Solid choice for a sweater.

  3. Born in NYC, live in London now, it's hard to catch the Rangers games. but ESPN player does the job for me, and i dont miss a single one. No sport like hockey to mix the adrenaline, low scores, physical play, and finesse into one.

  4. cool story.

    hockey is awesome!

  5. RPM, my name is Nick Brener and I work in the New York Rangers Marketing Department. After reading your great post about how you connected with the Rangers and the game in such a short time, we would love for you to be a Fanatics Club member of our Official Fan Community, Blueshirts United – on us. We are always looking to connect our out-of-market fans to the team and spread the love of the Rangers globally. We currently have members in Germany, Ireland and Australia (to name a few) that all share the passion of the Rangers. Through Blueshirts United we really feel this is a great way to do so. Please click the following link to explore more about Blueshirts United and your new Fanatics Club membership at www.blueshirtsunited.com. If you could please email me at Members.BlueshirtsUnited.com, we can work out all of the logistics.

    We look forward to hearing from you!

  6. RPM, email me at Members.BlueshirtsUnited@thegarden.com