This Saturday North America will have the pleasure and the privilege of seeing two of the NHL’s Original Six teams play each other in Hockeytown. It will be televised in the US and Canada on NBC. What a way for NBC to open its coverage of the “new” NHL! This game should showcase hockey at its very best.
As of January 13th, the Detroit Red Wings sit in a tie for second place in the league and, improbably, their old Original Six rivals, the New York Rangers, are in a tie for eighth. Yes, you read that right, the lowly New York Rangers, the team everyone loves to hate and had been predicted to finish dead last, are doing remarkably well with their youth movement.
I am a Ranger fan by birth and I do bleed True Blue. I am a Red Wing fan by choice. Actually, in the playoff desert that has been New York for almost the last decade, I turned to the Red Wings for my post season hockey fix and have learned to love the Red Wings. In the decade since the Rangers last won the Stanley Cup, the Red Wings have been an oasis from the trap and transition style of play exhibited by the New Jersy Devils and the Ottawa Senators, to say the least. Besides, the Red Wings are out of our conference and therefore easier to justify loving. Who in their right mind would root for the Devils?
What I love about the Red Wings has to do with their style of play and, of course, the players. No Red Wing game I have ever watched or had the honor to have attended has ever been boring. I always know that no matter how badly down the Wings are in a game (though very seldom it happens), they can stage a comeback and turn it around. Case in point, the game against the Caps on December 9th, 2005.
It was my only road trip this year and my husband and I traveled down to DC to see what was probably the Yzerman farewell tour.(maybe the Shanahan farewell tour). The marketing geniuses that make up the NHL schedule did not have the Wings playing anywhere in the NY Metro area. DC was the closest they would come to me. So, off I went.
The MCI Center was filled with Red Wing jerseys. I was wearing my signed Shanahan. The place was a sea of red! The crowd behaved like it was a Wings home game. The only thing Leonsis could smile about was that his building was filled to the rafters, even if it was with Wings fans. The Caps jumped out to a 3-0 lead but the Wings went on the beat them 4-3.
I also had the privilege of seeing the Rangers play the Wings at the Joe for a pre-season game in September 2003. I was joined by none other than our very own Clark Rasmussen. He was kind enough to show me a little of HockeyTown, too.
Most of all, I admire the players who have populated the Wings over the last decade. Stevie Y, Lidstrom, Chelios, Draper, D-Mac, Homer, the Professor and the Russian Mob. None more than Brendan Shanahan though! He has been my ideal hockey player and has shown himself to be a fine man as well. I hope that someday he will be NHL Commissioner.
I have that same feeling of affection and pride when look at the “new” New York Rangers. I have followed the “kids” from the minors to Broadway. The Czechs are amazing and work hard. A motivated Jagr is a dangerous thing. I hope they continue to grow together and play well. We have had so many pleasant surprises with the likes of rookies Lundqvist and Prucha and our outstanding penalty killers Ortmeyer, Ward, Moore and Hollweg. I hope Petr Sykora can add more scoring on our second line.
I sincerely hope that this game Saturday night is officiated well and fairly and that both teams play their best hockey. This is an opportunity for North America to see what a great, exciting game hockey really is. Hopefully, the ratings will show that NHL hockey is worthy of national exposure and not be relegated to a mickey mouse network like OLN.
Ultimately, I want the Rangers come away with the two points. Hey, the Wings are in second place. They can spare a couple of points.