Operation Hat Trick: An Amazing Night


It happened. For one night, in Atlantic City, with 40 NHL'ers playing a hockey game (at a far slower tempo) including our heroes who don the red, white and blue and represent our city, I was somehow able to suspend reality and forget about the NHL lockout.

The hockey game that took place on Saturday night was unlike anything I've ever experienced before. The first and most noticeable thing was the amicable nature in which Rangers, Flyers and Devils fans got along with one another that will make even the smallest follower of the sport feel a little dirty inside. Although there were many Ranger fans in attendance, when the Philly team scored you felt like you were inside the Wells Fargo Center.

 Of course, the most important part of Saturday's game and entertainment raised needed funds towards Hurricane Sandy relief efforts. There is still plenty that needs to be accomplished in order to return a sense of normalcy to the NJ coastline. I was in Margate, NJ which is just a few miles south of Atlantic City a week ago. The beaches are virtually gone, piles of sand cover first floor windows of buildings facing the ocean, stores are still closed from water damage and garbage lined curbs out in front of homes, street after sobering street. Margate is just one of the many towns along the coast that will need a lot of assistance to get these towns back on their feet. Hopefully the money that was raised will be put to good use.

The epic chants of "We Want Hockey", "Fire Bettman", "MAAAARRRRTTTTYYYY" and "Crosby Sucks" were just as much of a highlight as the 57 saves from the King who stole the show.  Hank was in mid-season form right from the start as shown by his 23 save, first period shutout despite his last game coming nearly 6 months ago to the day. Lundqvist even stopped 2 shots on 2 man breakaway. Penguins winger James Neal, who was booed all night by Ranger fans and Flyer fans alike, led the way for Team NY with 4 goals.

As for the other Rangers during the game, Girardi was all over the place defensively, sliding on the ice a few times to prevent cross ice passes, Boyle had a few chances, Staal played the role of a more offensive defenseman, cheating down into the slot at various times. Eminger was invisible despite having being only 1 of 4 defensemen on the team. Asham was preoccupied with Carcillo for the first two periods. (more on that in a moment) Taylor Pyatt's charitable contribution to the game was little more than eye fodder for the female fans in attendance. Halpern played with Corey Perry and Bobby Ryan at times and did little with the opportunity.

Penalty shots took the place of power plays but the goaltenders were more than up to the challenge. On one particularly interesting sequence in the second period. Arron Asham and Dan Carcillo were mixing it up before a faceoff. Once the puck was dropped the ref immediately blew the whistle and issued penalties to both players forcing them both to take penalty shots. Both goaltenders made saves.

Touch icing made its first unofficial appearance in the NHL and I have to say I like it, but it seems like when the first icing took place it took some of the players by surprise. It will take some getting used to though.

Overall, Operation Hat Trick was a huge success. We'll find out in a few days exactly how much money was raised. I never wanted that game to end. But there was a sense of finality walking out of the arena. Sadly, I think Saturday nights' game was the last time we'll see an organized NHL game for quite awhile, especially if the NHLPA de-certification plans come to fruition. Hope I'm wrong.

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