I am the first person to admit that I don’t know jack about hockey. In fact, I really don’t care about adding hockey or any other non-MLB sport to my life. At least, that’s what I thought until last weekend.
The Boy [yes, the one from Fries With Steak Sauce] is a die hard, eat/sleep/breathe, has probably considered a commemorative tattoo, walking encyclopedia type fan of the New York Rangers. I’m talking season ticket holder with season ticket holder parents, #NYR memorabilia all over the house, Rangers-only t-shirts [my personal favorite is the one that says ‘Let’s Get Nashty’ because, well, isn’t it obvious?], Rangers blanket, Rangers scarf, Rangers artwork. Rangers. Rangers. Rangers. Him accepting me into his life meant that I was to be educated on hockey and I would be destined to become a fan. For me, it meant a solid time block where I was not allowed to call, text or email and expect a response several times a week. It also meant I’d be dealing with playoff beards [ickle] and a grouchy bastard whenever the team didn’t play up to his standards.
As it turns out, pretty much all of those things are true. What came as a surprise to me is I actually enjoy them [except the grouch part, but he keeps that under control 99% of the time].
In preparation for all of this [brainwashing] to happen, I went ahead and purchased some of the pre-reqs: a Rangers hoodie for myself and a jersey for Autumn. Ended up sending them both back because, well, we are apparently fat asses and they were too small. Sadly, I had nothing Rangers-related to wear to my first game. Luckily, The Boy has 20485730487304867^9999 shirts and we found one that was dang close to my size.
Newsflash: it’s cold at hockey games. A short sleeve shirt + hoodie will not cut it. The Boy came to my rescue yet again with an extra long sleeve shirt, so even when I got too cold, I still looked like I fit in and none of these dedicated [read: fucking nutso] fans would stab me for being in a non-Rangers shirt.
We sat down in his seats and The Boy told me he was anxious that I wouldn’t enjoy myself and I’d end up hating it. I told him I was anxious because I might scream obscenities at the wrong time. During the pre-game extravaganza [seriously, I mean extragavangaza because there are about 20385203587 people celebrating the fact that they’re even at a Rangers game in the freshly renovated MSG], they played a promo about some Rangers goalie from the 60s/70s Eddie Giacomin and something interesting that happened to him [which I missed because THEY HAVE RED SPARKLE HATS FOR SALE AT MSG and I was counting them], and The Boy smiled and said, “I think… I think this is the first Rangers game my dad took my mom to.” He texted for confirmation. Yes. I’ll let y’all ponder on that one for a bit.
Have you pondered? Okay, good. How sweet is it that  he knew the first game his parents attended as a couple and  he realized that we were seeing our first game together as a couple on the same day years later? I’m still swooning and it was several days ago. Needless to say, this exchange hit me square in the feels and left me in some silly romantic and overly emotional haze.
For those of you who have not yet had the pleasure to attend a New York Rangers hockey game [Atlantans: Thrashers don’t count as a real hockey team since they were only here for a minute], let me set this up for you: hockey blood runs deep through families in a way unlike any other sport. You know how Atlanta loves the Braves when they’re playing well and doesn’t support them at all when they choke? You know how Atlanta has the Hawks? Yeah, I don’t know who they are either. You won’t find this kind of attitude in a hockey fan. Once a hockey fan, always a hockey fan. Season tickets run in the family, just like brown eyes, baldness and freckles. The energy around MSG just walking up the stairs is so intense, even my non-hockey loving heart was pounding in my chest.
Sitting down at our seats being close to the ice and looking up is incredible. The seats seem to grow out of the walls and people walking in the aisles look like those crazy mountain goats that can stand on anything. I shit you not, there’s even a row of seats suspended from the ceiling. The entire place is buzzing with noise and excitement. I can’t think of better words to describe this place, so here goes: crazy, insane, nuts, WTF. They introduce the other team and everyone boos them, natch. Then they introduce the Rangers and the camera zooms in on some small, super-secret hallway. Everyone sticks their hands into said hallway for fist bumps and high fives. It was all fine and good until I saw this tiny little baby hand out there and all the players gently tapping it with their fingers. You know how I said I was overly emotional earlier? This shit straight up brought tears to my eyes. It was so cute and so clear how important this game and this team are to people. TEARS. I won’t even tell you about the old hand with saggy skin that I saw getting high fived at the beginning of the third period. Because, well, MORE TEARS. Hockey runs deep.
The game starts and the Rangers are on the other side of the ice. Boo. But it ends up being really great because the Rangers scored on the whoever-we-were-playings and I was actually so in tune with the game that I was quite literally sitting on the edge of my seat and screamed at the correct time. I was watching so intensely that I saw the puck actually go into the net! I leaped up from my seat and The Boy gave me a high five [which he proceeded to do after each of the other four goals the Rangers scored that night]. Then, this high school footballish song starts playing and everyone starts singing about the goal. Think of the World Cup GOLLLLL but with an A, set to a tune and a bunch of people with funny accents singing it. HEY HEY HEY!
You know how I said hockey runs deep? What I meant by that is that everyone in the family is a big time fan, and big time fans scream their asses off at games. The people in front of us kept turning around to look at The Boy, and all I could do was smile and laugh because  if I didn’t, he’d probably stab me and  the energy he was putting out was contagious. I wanted to yell something too, but the only thing I could think of was yelling about how hot the goalie is, whatever his name is [by the way his name has both a Q and a V in it, which makes it seriously difficult to remember and pronounce, so we’ll just call him Shampoo and be done with it]. The good news is, in the second period they swap sides, so I was pretty close to Shampoo and I could imagine what his gorgeous hair looked like under that silly ass helmet.
There’s a big difference in watching a hockey game on television and seeing it in real life. First of all, you can see the whole ice… rink-oval-field-thing. You can tell when people are offsides [I know how to do this now because it was explained to me several times], you can tell when someone smacks the shit from one side of the field thing to the other [this is called icing, I think] and you can see how physically demanding the sport is. There’s this one guy [who is now my favorite player because now that I’ve been to a game, I can have one of those] who is super fast. Apolo Anton Ohno fast, y’all. His name is Hagelin, but we [yes, I said WE because I’ve magically become a hockey fan in less than a week] call him Hags. This couldn’t be more appropriate because it rhymes with Frags, which is what I lovingly call my parents’ dog Fraggle. And to make it double appropriate, they’re both small and they have the same haircut. Now I’ll buy his jersey. Hags and Frags. Sounds like something delicious I’d order from the menu at Friendly’s.
One of the things that I really loved about attending this game is experiencing all of the tradition – goal songs, lifelong fans, screaming, booing and whistling. Apparently, there’s this special tune that fans will whistle and the true Rangers fans with serious historical knowledge chant ‘Potvin sucks!’ So here’s the story that dates back to 1979 before both The Boy and I were even born: this bastard Dennis Potvin smashes the Rangers guy into the side of the rink-thing and breaks his ankle, basically ruining his hockey career.
Whenever the Madison Square Garden organist played “Let’s Go Band” which is a sports arena standard, NY Rangers fans would take the last three notes and turn it into Potvin Sucks! Eventually the tune was banned because MSG didn’t want to encourage “crude” behavior.
So now, folks just do the whistle themselves and people chant it. INCREDIBLE. Tradition at it’s best, y’all.
Did you know that if the same player scores three goals in the same game everyone throws their hats on the ice? Me either. This is a thing. It’s called a hat trick. Did you know that during something else that’s special and I can’t remember people wear fedoras? Yeah. It’s called a Broadway game or something. I don’t know about this, so it’s all TBD, but I have my fedora ready, bitches. I am patiently awaiting my invitation to one of these special games just so I can rock it.
I feel like I got to see so much at this game that I wouldn’t fully understand until I actually experienced it. The Boy is such a crazy person about the Rangers, I just assumed he was legitimately crazy, and I never fully understood it, but I do now. I am so glad that I finally had a chance to go to one of these games, freeze my ass off and tense every muscle in my body. I get it. I finally understand the call/text/email blackout ’cause ain’t nobody got time for that ish when the Rangers are on the ice.