Tag Archives: NHL

Sabres Bruins

My wife and I spent the weekend upstate in Buffalo, and while we were there, we saw the Sabres play the Boston Bruins. Besides a few Rangers games at Madison Square Garden, I’d never been to any NHL games that weren’t the New York Islanders playing at the Nassau Coliseum. And so it was like being in a parallel universe, watching two teams playing that I’ve never really followed.


Everything about the Sabres is pretty cool. They have cool jerseys, their arena is cool, and it was really cool that they could pack their entire arena on Saturday night. Because the Sabres are a pretty terrible team, and they got crushed by the Bruins. I say that not as knock, because I know what’s it like. I’ve been an Islanders fan my entire life, and, aside from this year’s impressive start, they’ve been pretty terrible for about as long as I can recall.

So it was cool that the fans showed up. But I couldn’t help but notice a lack of energy from the people in attendance. What I mean to say is, based purely on my experience of watching hockey games at the Coliseum, Islander fans have a way of cranking up the energy. The participation, at the beginning of every game anyway, is always nearly universal, people chanting “Let’s go Islanders,” and, “Rangers suck.”

And maybe it’s not fair, because the Sabres wound up losing four to nothing, so maybe they could have gotten excited. But people just kind of sat there. It was like they were expecting to get blown out right from the beginning. When the Bruins drew their first penalty, four ushers started waving these giant white Sabres flags from all corners of the arena in anticipation of the power play. As the stadium speaker system blasted the guitar riff from Rage Against the Machine’s “Bulls on Parade,” I thought, OK, finally, maybe now we’ll see some excitement. But no, everybody just kept sitting there, not cheering. Maybe every now and then a dozen or so fans would join in the artificial “Lets Go Buffalo” suggested by the Jumbotron over center ice.

And then Boston started scoring goals. I never figured out what kind of a reaction a goal would draw from the home team, but there was actually a pretty decent wave of applause for every Boston goal. Boston is like six hours away. I have no idea how they got so many people to make the trip. The periods dragged on, whatever existed of Buffalo’s energy disappeared, and gradually that power-play-flag-waving Rage Against the Machine ceremony twisted into this sort of mocking joke.

Again, I’m not trying to dump on the Sabres. It’s really hard to get pumped up about a team that doesn’t do anything year after year. But I was expecting some of the obnoxious blind faith that I’ve seen at Islander games even toward the end of last year, when it was clear that there was no shot of them finishing above last place in the division. It was a fun night, and I’m happy I got to experience a game from a different market. But yeah, hopefully the Sabres pick up a little momentum or something. Because I kind of felt bad watching the stadium empty out after they announced the fifty-fifty at the middle of the third period.

Oh yeah, I used to think that the Islanders had a good fifty-fifty. But after participating in the fifty-fifty at Buffalo, I realize that I had no idea what I was talking about. Whereas the jackpot at the Coliseum might be a grand or two, Buffalo was able to collect thirty thousand dollars in fifty-fifty tickets. They had vendors walking around the aisle with little printers that spat out lottery-style tickets. We should do that, because it was awesome. In fact, for a while I was positive that I was going to win. I could just feel it. I didn’t win, but whatever, neither did the Sabres. I bet you a Boston fan won the fifty-fifty.

Drive for five

I’m so pumped. I’m on my way to go see the New York Islanders at their last home opener on Long Island. I have mixed feelings about their move to Brooklyn, but only because I have a nostalgic attachment to the Nassau Coliseum. I’m not even kidding, one of my earliest memories was of my dad taking me to a game, Islanders vs. the St. Louis Blues. I must have been like four years old. I didn’t even have the concept of ice hockey in my head, and yet there I was, my dad explaining to me to root for the guys in the white jerseys.


Overall though, I think the move to Brooklyn is the right one. It’s going to elevate the franchise into such a bigger market. Unlike the Coliseum, the Barclay’s Center is accessible by train, so it won’t be a headache to get to games without a car. And it’s going to attract a lot of attention to the Islanders, much in the same way the Nets’ move from New Jersey seemed to revitalize their team.

This year is going to be a big one. I know that Islanders fans say that every year. It’s definitely become something of a refrain on my end. The Islanders haven’t exactly been a standout team for a while now, and they haven’t won a playoff series since 1993. But this year I’m actually pretty optimistic about their chances. So optimistic, in fact, that I bet my brother-in-law Matt a hundred bucks that the Islanders win the Stanley Cup this year.

The Islanders brought the Cup to Long Island four years in a row, the last being in 1983, the year right before I was born. So It’s like, the Islanders won their last Cup, and then right away I was born. And as soon as I made my appearance on Earth, the Islanders took a huge nosedive, never really recovering. I’ve always felt that, despite my fandom, my very existence has been somewhat of a hex on my hometown heroes.

But this year is the year. It’s totally going to happen. And the Rangers aren’t even going to make the playoffs, because they’re terrible. The Islanders are going to bring the Stanley Cup home to Long Island one last time before bringing it to New York, securing their place as New York City’s hockey team. And the Rangers are going to sink further and further into irrelevance, Henrik Lundqvist is going to let up like fifty goals in the first ten games alone, and so they’re going to have to reshoot that Advil commercial, the one where Henrik is guarding his net from a charging rhino, only instead of turning into a barrage of pucks, the rhino is going to turn into a wave of Flintstone’s gummy vitamins, and then he’s going to retire in disgrace.

Let’s go Islanders.

NHL Stanley Cup analysis: Why the Rangers can’t win

The problem with the New York Rangers is a fundamental and a simple one: they lack heart. You need heart if you want to win big. Without heart, sure, you might win a few playoff series, you might even get all the way to the finals, but unless you really have what it takes deep down inside, that intangible quality that I’m talking about here, heart, the one that the blueshirts unfortunately seem to be lacking, most seasons, of course, but this season even more than ever, you’re never going to rise to the occasion, you’re never going to win the Stanley Cup.


And I guess I should put it out there, for the sake of objectivity, I’m not a Rangers fan. But I pride myself on being able to keep an open mind. Although I can’t really picture any way the Rangers would be able to win me over, sure, in the infinite possibilities contained in the universe, there has to exist at least one way in which I’d jump on the Rangers bandwagon. But I can’t think of what that situation would look like.

Maybe if they had a little more heart. Well, I probably wouldn’t be a Rangers fan, but maybe I’d start to at least respect them just a little. It’s just that, you can only go so far in pro hockey without heart. I think this year’s playoffs have shown us that you can go pretty far. All the way to the end even. But without heart, it looks like second best is as good as it’s going to get.

Who knows? Maybe something will happen. Maybe the Rangers will find heart sometime between now and game four. I can’t really see it happening, seeing as how they’ve been playing without any heart for years now. It’s just who they are, it’s not their fault necessarily. They get out there on the ice, they think they can skate a good game without even taking a second to consider what role heart plays in the larger NHL equation. And yeah, they’ve done pretty well for themselves.

But just look at where they’re at now. It’s totally deflating. And like I said, I’m not even a Rangers fan. But as a human being fan, I’ve got to say that the Rangers’ performance for the past three games has actually shaken my faith in the very definition of heart. I always thought that, even if you were generally devoid of heart, that there always existed a little bit of heart, even just a sliver, somewhere deep down, that heart had to exist in all of us universally.

But I don’t know, I see these guys getting manhandled and I’m thinking, this is what the void looks like. Here exists proof that life can exist without any heart whatsoever. And it’s just depressing, you know, I don’t want the Rangers to win, but I didn’t want to see them get completely annihilated either. Where’s the fun in that? I would have much rather watched the series go to game seven, maybe a triple or a quadruple overtime, and then maybe Nash or St. Louis or even some fourth liner could have accidentally scored on their own net by mistake. That would have been awesome.

But this. What else can I say? You need heart to win. But I said that already.

At least New York won’t have to endure the total absence of heart for much longer. After this next season, the New York Islanders will be officially moving to Brooklyn, once and for all giving New York City hockey fans a reason to get excited again. Sure, the Islanders came off a disappointing 2013-14, but the future looks bright for the Isles, arguably one of the best teams in professional sports history.

And if the Rangers have any hope at all of actually finding some heart and making a play for game four, they better look to their future cross-river rivals. The Islanders are one of four teams in sports history to have come back from a three to nothing playoff deficit. They did it in 1975 against the Penguins. Unfortunately for the Rangers, one of the other four teams happens to be the 2014 Los Angeles Kings, when they came back from three zip to beat the Sharks.

Oh well, sorry Rangers, sorry Rangers fans, just remember, it’s not about the goal, sometimes it’s more important to focus on the journey. What a ride. You made a pretty good run. But, and I’ll say it one more time here, just to really drive the point home, without heart, you’ll never be able to go all the way. There’s no chance. And this year’s Stanley Cup finals are proof.

New York Islanders update: I caught a free t-shirt

I went to see the New York Islanders a couple of nights ago, and one of my lifelong goals was realized during the first intermission. After the Zamboni worked its rejuvenating magic to the rink, the Ice Girls skated out armed with their t-shirt guns. Even though I don’t want to look overeager, I always stand up, ready for that infinitesimal chance that a t-shirt might be launched my way.


Everyone wants a free t-shirt. I don’t know why the Islanders don’t just give out free t-shirts with the price of every ticket. “Welcome to the Nassau County Coliseum,” they’d usher you inside after a vigorous pat-down, “Here’s your free t-shirt.” Ticket sales would be up at every home game, I guarantee it.

But then I guess if everybody got a free t-shirt, I wouldn’t be feeling as special as I’m feeling right now. Yep, that’s right, I caught a free t-shirt. It finally happened for me. Never again am I going to come home from a game, staring at my shirtless torso in the mirror, forced only to dream of what I’d look like if only I were draped in an XL, one-size-fits-most one hundred percent white cotton tee, the New York Islanders logo screen printed on the front, an advertisement for the Roslyn Savings Bank displayed even larger on the reverse side.

But I’m getting way ahead of myself. We got to the Coliseum and I hurried through my pre-game routine. To be honest, free t-shirts weren’t really even on my mind. I’m not even sure hockey was at the forefront yet.

First things first: the fifty-fifty. As far as I know, the Nassau Coliseum is the only place outside of a senior citizens’ church bingo luncheon that regularly holds a fifty-fifty. And I don’t understand why the fifty-fifty isn’t more common, because its allure is universal. Everybody put in some money, and we’ll pick one of you to win half of the total. It’s so simple, it’s genius. No gimmicks, no games. Besides going to a Seven-Eleven, buying a bunch of scratch-offs, and having the guy behind the register immediately scan the barcodes without you having even done any scratching, the fifty-fifty is about the closest you can get to straight gambling. It’s like freebasing, but on a stadium-wide level.

After that, I’ve got to swing by either Gate 7 or 15 to buy my chance to play Chuck-a-Puck. It’s another Islanders game staple. For ten bucks, you get a bag of five orange foam hockey pucks. Right after the second period ends, they put this giant bulls eye in the center of the ice. You then chuck your puck, and the closest to the middle gets a cash prize. Fifty-fifty, check, Chuck-a-Puck, check, now all I needed was a hotdog, a pretzel, a churro, and a large Mountain Dew, and I’d be ready to watch some hockey.

The Islanders were playing the Dallas Stars, and by the end of the first period, I had all but forgotten about the t-shirt guns. And boy was I happy when I saw them being locked and loaded. I needed some positivity. We all did. It wasn’t a good start to the game. The Stars scored almost immediately, and then the Isles’ goalie Evgeni Nabokov hurt his groin. Upon replacing Nabby in net, backup goalie Kevin Poulin broke in his pads by letting up another goal almost instantly. At the end of the first, it was 2-0 Dallas.

I almost didn’t even feel like standing up for the Ice Girls. Maybe if I hadn’t just watched one of the worst first periods in NHL history, I’d be more enthusiastic about waving my hands in the air for a t-shirt that was unlikely to hit my direction. But something inside pulled me to my feet, and then I saw one of the Ice Girls aim in my direction.

Boom! The t-shirt arched in the air and, right before I reached out my hand, time seemed to freeze beside me, like I could see this thing hovering right in front of my face. I looked around, all of the other fans jumping and reaching my way. But I didn’t even have to compete. It was as simple as extending my left arm and welcoming it into my open palm.

The guy sitting to my right gave me a high-five and told me, “Awesome grab man!” and for a few minutes, I was stunned, like did this really just happen? Did, after twenty-five years of attending New York Islanders games, did I just effortlessly catch a free t-shirt from an Ice Girl?

I can’t say for sure that my good fortune had anything to do with what happened next, but going into the second period, the Islanders immediately turned things around. Where the mood just moments before was grim, a current of positively charged energy jolted the crowd to its feet as the home team scored one, then two goals to tie the game, then a third one to secure the lead. As the final seconds of the game ticked by, the Isles wound up crushing the Stars with a final score of 7-4.

It was everything I could have wanted out of hockey game. You know, besides winning the fifty-fifty or the Chuck-a-Puck. And also, they were out of churros. But it’s OK, I had some Dippin’ Dots instead. Captain John Tavares scored a hat trick. I’d never seen one outside of a video game. The fans actually threw hats, it was awesome! And I won a free t-shirt. My very own free New York Islanders t-shirt.

My wife looked at it and said, “When are you going to wear an extra large t-shirt?” And I just laughed to myself, I thought, “Ha. When am I not going to wear it?” Because seriously, I’m never taking this thing off. I’ll wear it forever. I’m wearing it right now. And it didn’t cost me anything. I won it. It was free.