Despite frustration, going to games still fun for this Ranger fan who sits in the Blue Seats


For those of you who enjoyed Friday night’s Rangers 5-1 win over hapless Carolina at MSG, it was fun to be at. It’s always nice to attend home games. These days, I don’t get out to as many as my family and brother’s friend.

So, my fourth Ranger game of the season evened my record at 2-2-0. I also went Tuesday. A frustrating 5-4 loss to a bad Florida team with a no name winning it with 1:09 left in regulation. That’s hockey.

The loss to the Panthers was more entertaining. The Rangers rallied twice from three goal deficits as I accurately predicted to my Dad and Tommy. Sometimes, you can just tell. Florida is poor defensively. By the cruel ending ruined it.

Truth be told, last night’s game wasn’t as entertaining. Sure. The Rangers won despite playing down to their opponent. They took advantage of Canes’ miscues. None bigger than fraud Scott Darling fanning on a pass which resulted in a easy David Desharnais power play goal that tied it at one. It was one of the worst plays I’ve ever seen from a goalie. The same one who flat out missed a Mika Zibanejad shot from center ice in a Rangers blowout win at Carolina.

The Canes had more shots and better chances. It didn’t matter due to Henrik Lundqvist recovering from allowing a soft goal to Justin Williams 56 seconds in. He finished with 32 saves in a much needed bounce back win.

Michael Grabner not only got the game-winner on a nice one timer in front off a brilliant Kevin Shattenkirk pass. But recorded the oddest hat trick by scoring not once but twice into a vacated net. One of our buddies remarked that it was the cheapest hat trick ever to which we chuckled. It was definitely bizarre.

Here’s a stat for you. Grabner has now scored seven empty net goals. He leads the team with 13, meaning over half his production has come with the opposing net vacated. Even crazier, the seven empties match Sabres third-year center Jack Eichel’s season total. That speaks to how much a struggle it’s been for Buffalo and Eichel.

But it’s also signifies how important Grabner has become. He’s so reliable defensively that Alain Vigneault trusts him on the penalty kill, five on five and at protecting leads. His game breaking speed and defensive acumen are factors when the Blueshirts win.

If you were the Rangers, how do you not bring Grabner back? His price tag has increased. He could ask for a significant raise going from a $1.65 million salary to possibky double next summer. Much depends on where they are in late February around the trade deadline.

As I noted earlier, live games are always fun. Hockey is a great spectator sport. I’ve been going to Ranger games for over 20 years. We’ve always sat in the famed Blue Seats. From the glory days of Section 411 in the old Garden to the current ones in Section 419 right beneath the Chase Bridge where beer costs at least 12 bucks and a hot dog will run you seven dollars.

Gone are the days of being able to spend decently at a game. Much has to do with the renovation. The World’s Most Renovated Arena isn’t as fan friendly for loyal blue seaters. A fan that is almost extinct in Jim Dolan’s new M$G. Many have already been priced out. But if you sit in the last two rows with a obstructed view due to the angle and overhang from above, you still get to attend games for less than 40 bucks. It’s 35 for season ticket holders. My father shares one with a friend and they split it up.

In the days where it costs more to go, we decide which games we’ll attend. Busy work schedules help determine it. You can take advantage of the Ticket Exchange and make your money back.

The Garden is still a main attraction for newer fans and tourists who love going to see a match. I always meet some of the nicest couples from other countries who are visiting New York City. On Tuesday, it was a couple with a young one from Switzerland. On Friday, they were from Australia. A place I would love to visit. But that can only happen when I am more secure financially and have enough saved up. It costs a lot. For now, I’m looking at a more affordable range for a possible winter vacation around Christmas.

Our section used to be pretty strong with regulars. Some familiar faces still exist. That’s part of the appeal of going. The fans we see become part of our extended family. There are plenty of jokes and fun banter exchanged during play. Not to mention some old fashioned dry wit usually aimed at the two refs (blind mice) for how bad they are at their jobs. The “interference” penalty on Desharnais wasn’t. I could tell live. The replay confirmed it and I had a few choice words from my perch above. To the NHL and their ridiculous rule book which only confuses the officials more. You can’t fool us.

The thing about change is it isn’t always good. Sure. I’ve had the pleasure of walking around the Chase Bridge and taken plenty of cool shots of the live action and the legendary banners that hang above. That is quite a attraction.

But when you have so many newbies who don’t understand that people who are already in their seats want to watch the live action, it frustrates us. There is a unwritten rule.

Wait for the whistle. Garden security used to enforce it before the renovation. They don’t anymore because they’re hardly around. If fans get there late while play is going on, they should have the common decency to wait for a stoppage. It’s the right thing to do. You can still see the action. It is downright rude to go to your seats when they’re in the middle below and block our view. This is a regular occurrence.

Unless you have an end seat or are at the top, it would be nice if you realized you’re not the only person in our section. It would be even better if MSG realized we still exist. I don’t mean for one of the cheesy Papa John’s promotions. I am from Staten Island. We have some of the best pizzerias around. I eat real pizza. Does anyone want this?

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I am nice enough to give it away to anyone who wants Papa John’s. They only want us to get excited for this promotion or the all too predictable tee shirt toss. No shirt is making it to Row 6 or 7 in Section 419 or the others adjacent to us. They used to actually hand out shirts for a home playoff game. That was cool.

There aren’t many free giveaways. It’s also become harder for fans who use the Chase Entrance to get upstairs. The set up they had before with metal detector checks was better. They did it when you came in and it went faster. Now, they moved it upstairs. So, it turns into a unnecessary traffic jam. You’re lucky to make your seats in time for puck drop. I like to get there for the anthem. Now, I’m lucky if I don’t miss a couple of minutes.

Sadly, I don’t care. I missed the Williams goal in the first minute. After asking my brother and he told me without much description, I guess I was better off. Hey. Look a the bright side. They outscored the Canes 5-zip once I watched!

The great thing about going to so many games is you pick up on things. Especially from the Blue Seats. I can see more action. I’m able to call goals before they happen. I’ve seen so many plays develop that it gets easier. You can tell. It’s the same with penalties or stuff behind the play that can lead to old time hockey.

The distractions are there. The long wait for beer now takes almost a whole intermission. I can’t believe they got rid of Molson Canadian. If not Guinness, that was my go to. I don’t drink much anymore due to being older and the cost. But occasionally, I want to have fun. A good cold one is still nice at a game with your classic hockey discussion which can range from the game to the old days.

One thing I never do is wait to use the restroom. You’ll never find me stuck on a ridiculous line after a period. The wiser fan uses it at a stoppage. You get three. That’s the best time to go. No wait. And back in time for the action. Once, I made the mistake of using too close to opening faceoff in the Spring of 2012. As soon as I heard the noise and excitement, I knew what happened. A fight had broken out between blood rivals, the Devils and Rangers. I rushed back in time to catch the line brawl.

It’s stuff like that that makes going to games so much fun. The crowd loves hockey fights. Even though the day is coming where it could be gone due to the long term effect due to health risks. We understand what brave warriors these guys are. Maybe that’s lost in translation. Sometimes, criticism can be too much on players from us. I realize that. We don’t play and aren’t in the locker room.

Games like last night still give me enjoyment with my hockey family. Even if the renovated Garden isn’t as accessible, we deal with it. Note to Dolan: Escalators should never break down. Not in your expensive arena. Inconveniencing paying customers can cause more problems.

The energy of the building isn’t the same because it’ll never be. That’s the harsh reality of the new stadium era. Games are still what makes it worthwhile for us. The hockey fan remains passionate and unique. We’ll always have that no matter what.

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About Derek Felix

Derek Felix is sports blogger whose previous experience included two stints at ESPN as a stat researcher for NHL and WNBA telecasts. The Staten Island native also worked behind the scenes for MSG as a production assistant on New Jersey Devil games. An avid New York sports fan who enjoys covering events, writing, concerts, movies and the outdoors, Derek has scored Berkeley Carroll basketball games since 2006 and provided an outlet for the Park Slope school's student athletes. Hitting Back gives them the publicity they deserve. From players, coaches to administrators, it's a first class program. In his free time, he also attends Ranger games and is a loyal St. John's alum with a sports management degree.
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