Jay Greenberg meant something to hockey fans

Remembering Jay Greenberg. AP Photo credit Philadelphia Inquirer

A few days ago, we lost a great sportswriter. Former NY Post columnist Jay Greenberg passed away at 71. The cause of death was the West Nile virus. He died at his home in Englishtown, New Jersey. He leaves behind his wife of 44 years, Mona along with daughters Stephanie and Elizabeth.

An outstanding Hockey Hall of Fame columnist, Greenberg went from covering the Flyers for the Philadelphia Daily News to moving to New York where he covered sports for the New York Post. His career with the Post lasted 17 years. From 1994 until 2011, nobody was better at writing columns. He was able to tell a story well by painting a picture that connected with the readers.

Growing up an avid Rangers fan, I always looked forward to Greenberg’s hockey columns. He was someone who always was able to nail the main points that fans were thinking. What I liked most was how well he worded things. Never overly critical, he had a unique perspective that made him a joy to read.

Seeing what Mike Vaccaro wrote in tribute to his former colleague, you can tell how much admiration and respect he had for Greenberg. His work definitely stood out in the sports pages of the New York Post. Especially during the mid to late 90’s when the Rangers and Devils Hudson Rivalry was at its peak. While Larry Brooks and Mark Everson had the beats for each team, Greenberg was the superb columnist you had to read. Especially during that ’97 Eastern Conference Semifinal between the Rangers and Devils.

Even during the lean years when the Rangers were a bad team, Greenberg always had interesting things to say. Ditto for the Devils, who dominated the metropolitan area by winning three Stanley Cups in less than a decade. While they owned the area, the Rangers and Islanders went through hard times most of us would rather forget. Dark Ages is a term I use to describe the misery between ’97-98 through ’03-04. The Islanders could be described similarly until they made it back to the playoffs from ’01-02 until ’03-04 before the lockout canceled the entire ’04-05 season.

At least following that dark time, the Rangers improved enough to end a seven year drought and reach the playoffs. Greenberg was around for the beginning Henrik Lundqvist Era. If only he’d stuck around for the best playoff runs in 2012, ’14 and ’15. He just missed covering some very good teams highlighted by the ’13-14 roster making a memorable run to its first Stanley Cup Final since ’94.

I can only imagine what Greenberg would’ve had to say about the franchise’s first ever comeback from a three games to one series deficit to stun the Penguins. What about that Game Six clincher highlighted by an acrobatic Lundqvist denial on Thomas Vanek before Brian Boyle fed Dominic Moore for the game’s only goal in a 1-0 win against Montreal? Along with Martin St. Louis scoring on Mother’s Day, that’s the loudest the Garden sounded since we started attended games. The 3-1 second round comeback against the Capitals was even better. Games Five and Seven needing sudden death with Derek Stepan playing the ultimate hero.

I wonder what Greenberg thought. I have to think he watched. Maybe that’s the poet in me. Those were fun times. He also missed out on the Devils versus Rangers rematch in 2012 when Martin Brodeur got his revenge. This time, it was Adam Henrique who was the overtime hero in Game Six. Since then, the Devils have only made the playoffs once. The Rangers are currently close to returning. The 2020 Qualifying Series doesn’t count. Ironically, it’s the Islanders that have become the best local team reaching consecutive third rounds before losing to eventual champion Tampa Bay. They should be heard from again.

When I said in a Tweet response to Andrew Marchand that Jay Greenberg was one of the biggest influences for why I write, that was the truth. I really loved his columns. He simply was the best. A true pro. Seeing what those who knew him well have had to say tells you what kind of quality person he was. He will be missed.

JAY GREENBERG (1949 or 1950 – August 12, 2021)

About Derek Felix

Derek Felix is sports blogger whose previous experience included separate stints at ESPN as a stat researcher for NHL and WNBA telecasts. The Staten Island native also interned for or hockey historian Stan Fischler and worked behind the scenes for MSG as a production assistant on New Jersey Devil telecasts. An avid New York sports fan who enjoys covering events, writing, concerts, movies and the outdoors, Derek has covered consecutive Staten Island Yankees NY Penn League championships in '05 and '06. He also scored Berkeley Carroll high school basketball games from '06-14 and provided an outlet for the Park Slope school's student athletes. Hitting Back gives them the publicity they deserve. In his free time, he also attends Ranger games and is a loyal St. John's alum with a sports management degree. The Battle Of Hudson administrator and chief editor can be followed below on Twitter and Facebook.
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