Saturday, May 20, 2006

Thank You New York Rangers

In practically every rink in the National Hockey League this year the words 'Thank You Fans' was printed in the middle of each rink. Well, I have to return the appreciation to the 2005-2006 New York Rangers.

For far too long there has been an unbearable stench inside Madison Square Garden. The circus? No, elephant dung could never equal the smell from poor performances by overpaid athletes that donned the Rangers' sweater since the Philadelphia Flyers swept the Blueshirts in the 1997 Eastern Conference Finals.

I can't say all of the players were bad. There was Wayne Gretzky who gave his all and if only he had a couple of wingers to pass to, things may have been a bit different. Right wing Pavel Bure arived five years too late on a bad wheel. Sandy McCarthy, Todd Harvey, Matthew Barnaby gave 100% most nights. Of course there were the franchise guys like Mark Messier, Brian Leetch, Adam Graves and Mike Richter who did as well as they could. However, they were also misused by the various coaching regimes at MSG.

But I could go on and on and complain about the effort given by the many players who played hockey on West 33rd and Seventh Avenue. I won't name names but you guys were a disgrace.
Enter the new NHL. Enter the new New York Rangers.

Tom Renney, the Head Coach, set the tone and immediately got right wing Jaromir Jagr to buy into how things were going to get done. The team truly came together from day one. They played hard every night and only a handful of games this year were truly out of it. Normal slumps for the long grind of an NHL season.

Yes, I would have loved to have seen them beat the New Jersey Devils. Sure, they went into a slide at the end of the season which carried into the playoffs. The slump was largely attributed to injuries. An excuse? Hardly, you take three of your best players out of the lineup on any team and tell me it won't matter. Looking at the big picture, however, this was a great place to start.

After a lockout wiped out the 2004-2005 season this edition of the Rangers made the fans believe again. Great young players mixed with veterans who had something to prove equaled playoffs on Broadway.

So many memories from this season such as Marek Malik's shootout goal against the Washington Capitals, Hendrik Lundqvist becoming the King of MSG, the retirement of Mark Messier's number 11 where the late Dana Reeve made her last public appearance serenading Mess.

I look forward to next year but take this moment to thank this year's Rangers. The stench is gone it is now safe to go back inside the world's most famous arena.

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