Living so close to Madison Square Garden nets me the privilege of going to many Rangers home games.
There’s nothing quite like the camaraderie and sense of pride you get seeing an ocean of blue and white jerseys. You get to experience decades of Rangers history just by reading the nameplates on the backs of countless blueshirts past, present and future walking along the concourses.
The journey to MSG itself on gamedays is a fantastic experience, no one journey or train ride are ever the same. It starts at your home, when getting ready and putting on your Rangers jersey of choice is quite the decision. We’re *ALL* superstitious to some degree so it will take us at least a good 20-25 minutes to decide which jersey you want to wear. Home? Away? 3rd jersey? Which era? And when you’ve finally decided, you might also put on whatever else you own that has a Rangers logo on it. Be it a hat, a scarf, a purse, some boxers, a hoodie, or even a Rangers t-shirt underneath your jersey just for that extra bit of luck.
So you leave your house and make your way to the train or subway station and start your ride toward MSG. In the beginning it’ll just be yourself and possibly your friend or significant other by your side, talking about the expectations of that night's game. But at every stop, the train takes on more and more people with Rangers jerseys, and soon enough, the train is filled with a sea of white and blue Rangers jerseys.
Once you finally arrive at MSG and start walking towards the arena then your seats, you feel a buzz in the air from the crowd. There’s excitement and it’s not really quite that loud either, not yet. It’s just chattering, excited conversations just loud enough for you to hear snippets of people talking about tonight’s line-up.
Who’s the healthy scratch? Is the team we’re facing tonight on a hot streak? Can we break that streak? Are we going to win tonight? By how much? And who will be the goal scorers? It all starts to blend into each other. Everyone is just as excited as you are and everyone is there for the same purpose that you are. You know that everyone wearing a Rangers jersey at MSG has gone through the exact same trials and tribulations that you have. The same heartaches, the same pains and the same emotional ups and down that comes with the territory of being a New York Rangers fan.
So when you spot someone wearing the Rangers logo, whether it be on the street, at a bar, on the subway, a mall, on the bus, or even a sticker on a car, it instantly creates a bond with the other person. It gives you the opportunity to strike up a conversation, and it doesn’t matter whether or not the both of you agree on a players’ performance or potential, whether or not you agree if the latest signing makes sense, whether or not Michael Del Zotto acts like a spoiled brat on Twitter (he does), it all doesn’t matter.
You may get into a heated argument in the beginning, but what matters is that at the end of the day, the both of you have infinitely much more in common than the issues the team might have on the surface. The both of you will almost certainly end up buying one another drinks, reminiscing, and talking about Rangers games of the past, present and future.
Admittedly, I myself have not been to many Rangers away games. The away game that I have been to are Coyotes/Kings vs. Rangers games while living out in the West Coast, and most recently Game 3 against the Devils of the Eastern Conference Finals. (No, I haven’t been out to Nassau Mausoleum, it’s on my list of things to do <not really> eventually)
Being at an away game is… different. You might look harder for those blue Rangers jerseys in the beginning, whether it be on the train or the walk to the arena. You’re looking for some familiarity, someone that you can associate with, and someone that understands what it means to be wearing a Rangers jersey in enemy territory.
Then finally you spot your first Rangers jersey besides yourself and he/she spots you at the same time and you both give each other a little nod. That little nod can give you an even bigger sense of pride, that little nod is like a secret handshake that says even though you’re in enemy territory, no matter what happens, we’ll all in this together, win or lose.
Being at an away game, in a foreign arena means that goals against the Rangers hurt twice as much and goals for the Rangers feel twice as good (hearing the Rangers goal song being sung by the fans? Priceless). And when the Rangers win in someone else’s arena? It’s even BETTER. Just looking around at all the other jubilant Rangers fans, you can see it in their eyes and hear it in their voices. We came into enemy territory, we endured and we conquered. Walking shoulder to shoulder with the other blueshirts, and being surrounded by the deflated home team’s fans as smattering chants of “Let’s go Rangers” break out throughout the concourse and on the walk back, there’s nothing quite like it in another team’s arena.
Fans of "Original Six" teams travel well. Rangers fans travel well. We’re well represented across the 29 other team’s arenas. We’re always loud and always make our presence known. We're even able to make our presence known across the TV broadcast as well. It doesn’t take much for Rangers fans to co-ordinate a chant and for the entire arena to join in.
Rangers chants at MSG are notorious and quite well-documented on YouTube as well as on this blog. I’ve been quite privileged to be a part of some of our more notorious recent chants including Kevin’s “Can you hear us?” chant he organized during the Rangers/Capitals playoff series and the “You can’t beat us” chant against the Flyers.
It’s quite a rush to hear an entire arena chant something in unison that was planned on the internet just a few days ago. There’s just nothing quite like it. No words can describe it and I only hope that every Ranger fan will be able to experience it once in their lifetime. It is *THE* biggest sense of blueshirt pride you will ever experience as a New York Ranger fan.
Being a New York Rangers fan doesn’t mean just loving and supporting the team itself. It doesn’t end there. It’s the entire experience that makes BEING a part of the blueshirt nation one of the best fan bases in the NHL.
I’m proud to be a part of the New York Rangers experience, to be a fan, and to be a part of each and every one of you.
Find The Broadway Hat on Twitter: @TheBroadwayHat