It’s funny the way things can be in life. It was just the other day that I was thinking about John Amirante. How much I missed him. Maybe it’s because there’s no Rangers playoffs this Spring. Or perhaps because of how little the True Blue fans saw him at games since 2015. Ironically enough, the last big run the old core had in them.
We all wanted Johnny to stick around forever. Since 1980, he’s been a fixture at Rangers games, also doubling for the Knicks when he first started at the more fun and less corporate Madison Square Garden.
When I first heard the news that the voice of MSG had passed away yesterday at the age of 83, it was by accident. I had just gotten back to the car from substituting at a nice middle school near Clove Lakes Park in Staten Island. I got a message from a good Twitter friend about her being sad. I wondered why because it’s not like I was on my phone during school hours. I stumbled upon a Facebook status from a loyal diehard fan my age who is as passionate as they come. He didn’t say it directly but the inference was enough to make me realize the wonderful voice who graced Seventh Avenue and 33rd Street was gone. 😢
It’s always sad when you lose someone who felt like part of your extended family. It happened to us last November when a great referee friend of my Dad passed suddenly. He truly was a good man with a keen sense of humor who cared about you if he knew you. Maybe many of us didn’t have that relationship with Mr. Amirante. However, reading some of the stories and tributes to the man are enough to know how great a person he was. A true family person who was professional and unbelievable at what he did before big Rangers games. Who could forget where they were for that memorable June summer night in 1994 when he belted out “Oh Canada” and the Star Spangled Banner with as much emotion as possible in front of the loudest atmosphere I’ve ever seen. That was just watching on TV. Sam Rosen was wowed by the energy of the building recalling how in all his years going to MSG, he’d never seen anything like it. Neither did we.
This was a remarkable performer who was as much part of that ’94 team as the players and coaches. Seeing Adam Graves pen a tribute in Tuesday’s New York Post said plenty about the true admiration and respect they had for Amirante. He still did big events and also some games for charity that Graves, Ron Duguay and other ex-Rangers played in.
The best for me live is Game 6 of the 2014 Eastern Conference Final against the Canadiens when the Rangers closed it out 1-0 to advance to their first Stanley Cup Final in 20 years. That along with a emotional anthem before Game 6 against the Penguins on Mother’s Day following the tragic passing of Martin St. Louis’ Mom France really energized the place.
We were there on that Sunday and the building went nuts, especially when St. Louis scored the game’s first goal. I knew right there there was no way they were losing.
I want to cry and shed tears for a man that was and always will be a true Garden icon. I knew his health was failing. Maybe that’s why I was thinking of him with no playoff hockey at a dim MSG. However, I can’t help but smile and be proud at the kind of a person Amirante was.
He’s in a better place. I’m sure he’s smiling down and belting out those two anthems with the same passion and enthusiasm he did on so many nights. The encouragement near the ending which pumped fans up along with the friendly wave of the playoff towel in recent years. No wonder we loved him. He was and still is one of us.
I’ve always said, “Legends Never Die.” Johnny is a legend who will forever and ever never die. When the 2018-19 season begins, they should do the right thing and play that rendition and hang up his jersey. If Billy Joel can have a banner, then so can our Johnny!
Thank you for all the wonderful years and amazing moments. I’m so glad we were able to see you perform one final time on Jean Ratelle Night. RIP John Amirante 💜😢⭐️