I fell in love with them.
It was inevitable, honestly. I always do.
I like to think of the New York Rangers as a phoenix. Every year they die and then rise from the ashes over the summer; some parts evolving while others stay the same. The core of this team really has been mostly the same since that first Eastern Conference Finals run in 2011, so it's no wonder I feel such a connection with the boys on the wrong end of the handshake line last night.
Hockey is a very personal thing for me. Forget this site, it's really the only sport I root for. And since I can remember there have been two things that have always been in my life: Family and the Rangers.
So I immerse myself in this team at every opportunity. I go overboard. I get too involved. I care too much. I don't apologize for it, but I'm quite aware how dumb it is to care so about about people I've never met, who don't know me from Adam, who are doing something I can't control.
But I can't help myself, because every year I fall in love. I love everything. From every Henrik Lundqvist save to every stupid Tanner Glass shift and everything in between. Oh sure I have questions. You know I'm going to complain about the team's problems. But that's MY team out there, and their problems are my problems and I love every second of it.
This, obviously, puts my emotions on quite a roller coaster during the playoffs. And sometimes people ask why I do care so much, and I don't think there's a better way to explain it than this.
You ever have a moment in your life where the lion in your chest is roaring? Like you're back in high school and you finally get the courage to ask out the girl you've had a crush on since freshman year and she actually says yes and you go out and you have a great time and everything is going perfectly and at the end of the night you have the guts to move in for a kiss and she kisses you back? That feeling is the lion in your chest roaring.
This team makes the lion in my chest roar.
In Game 7 of the second round when I watched Derek Stepan curl his stick around the puck (basically when he took a second to think about the shot rather than just fire it blind) I knew he was going to score. And when he did score I had a flush face, smiling stupidly, jumping up and down, embracing the people next to me and just being irrevocably happy; the lion in my chest roaring because they did what I knew they could do. I was so happy for them and myself, just blind jubilation that leaves you in a glow.
The Rangers make me feel like that.
Last night when I finally got home I did my Joe Fortunato prepare for a Rangers disaster emotional rundown. I thought about everything I do have: a beautiful wife, a fantastic family, my puppy Stanley, the house I just bought, the job I have, this website, all of you and everyone's collective health. It's stupid that I even need to do this, I know, but I do it. And it never works, which is even dumber.
So I lay down and try to find sleep that never comes. I look up at the ceiling and think of everything that could have gone differently. I think about how awful I feel for them, specifically Lundqvist. I feel sort of empty, depressed and especially disappointed. It's like being at the wake of a really good friend. I think about the handshake line, the team hunched over, the slow skate to the locker room. I realize I'll never see that team again, because every team is different and somehow I love each team more than the last and it's horrible to realize that they're gone and it's worse to accept they're gone forever and it hurts every single time.
The Rangers make me feel like that too.
Thanks for the memories, boys. This year was fun.