For But A Brief Moment I Was One Of Them
Editor’s note: My father was one of the fans on the ice two Friday’s ago, as our family celebrates 50 years worth of season tickets. My dad, who was in the building for Game 7 in 94, elected to write on the experience from the perspective of someone who was both there and old enough to remember. Enjoy.
That Friday transported me back 25 years. I was 35 years old again with three small children and a fanatical ranger fan. I remember the day like it was yesterday. I couldn’t function all day at work; all that mattered was the game.
It had been en eventful few days. We’d gone from what I would call a party atmosphere — with people celebrating before the game began — for Game 5 to bring on the brink for Game 7. The faithful would be tested once again, it seemed.
I remember how warm the night was and how tight security was around the Garden.
MSG was both electric and filled with a nervousness that you had to be in to understand. Fans were excited but also aware that if they lost this series after being up 3-1 not only would the 1940 chant and overall agony continue, but it would also become one of the greatest Stanley cup final collapses of all time.
The Rangers opened the scoring with a beautiful passing play finished off by Brian Leetch — who would go on to be the MVP of the series. But the Canucks would fight back each time the Rangers tried to put them away. Clinging to a 3-2 lead, the third period seemed to take forever including two icings at the very end of the game that were questionable at best. When Craig MacTavish pushed the puck into the corner of the ice the celebration began. The Rangers had actually won, and excised the 1940 curse to make history. A memory I will never forget.
All those memories floated through my mind last Friday throughout the day.
Now even though it’s just practice for later that evening, I closed my eyes for just a brief moment to let my other senses fully absorb my surroundings. I felt the cold of the ice beneath my feet. Other than the localized noise close by there was a vast expanse of total silence. I was on the ice rehearsing for the 1994 New York Rangers player’s entrance onto the Garden ice for the 25th anniversary ceremony later that day. The stands at that moment were empty, but not for long. This being the 50th year with season tickets for my family I was invited along with 93 other lucky fans (94 in total to match the year of the Cup) to be on the ice for the beginning of the ceremony. My son and I were treated earlier that day to a lunch with many of the players from the 1994 team who we talked to, got autographs from, and took photos with. We even got to try on Jay Wells’ Stanley Cup ring. When the Rangers celebrate they do it right.
The ceremony is now beginning and I’m on the Garden ice waiting for the payers to make their entrance as they are announced by Sam and JD. But now the stands are full and it’s a different feeling altogether. Once again I close my eyes a few times during the entrances and I know what it feels like to be a rock star or to score the winning goal in OT during the playoffs. The noise at ice level is deafening. As a fan if you don’t think they hear you when you cheer you’re dead wrong. I pretended the cheers were for me and I can tell you even when you know it’s not real it sent goose bumps through my body and my heart was racing.
I can’t explain any better than it’s a pure adrenaline rush. Your brain is overloaded and when you’re not used to it functioning; isn’t easy. We all managed to high five and give some well-earned slaps on the back as all the players passed each of us. We were in heaven for a few minutes and then as fast as it began we were ushered off the ice, reminded that we didn’t belong there and had to take our place in the stands with everyone else.
But oh for just those few minutes ….