Saturday, May 9, 2015


I have written before that of the three major sports--hockey, basketball, baseball, and football--hockey is my least favorite.

However, there is nothing more exciting in all of sports than Stanley Cup hockey in overtime when your team is facing sudden death. And that was the case last night.

I root for all Boston sports teams, except in hockey. There my allegiance is to the New York Rangers. It was to a New York Ranger hockey game that my parents first took me to an indoor professional sporting event.  I had been to see the New York Giants in the Polo Grounds earlier. But it was not too long after that when, for a holiday celebration of some sort, that my folks took us to Madison Square Garden to see the Rangers defeat the Black Hawks 3-2.  A few years later, again around holiday time, we went to see the Rangers defeat the Bruins 9-3 a contest that is etched into my mind. It is so etched because the goalie for the Bruins got hit in his maskless face by a puck, was cut, and required stitches. The goalie left for the sutures while the maintenance folk scraped the ice of his blood and we waited--in the days when there was only one goaltender on a team--for his stitched up return and the game to resume.

Another reason for my hockey allegiance is that my brother is a true fan of the Rangers. I have over the last thirty years or so joined him in his season ticket seats to watch games. As readers of the epilogue of the Madness of March know, it was in these seats where I watched the most exciting sporting event of all my spectating time, when the Rangers in a 7th game defeated the New Jersey Devils 2-1 in double overtime.  That victory allowed the Rangers to advance to the finals when they won their first Stanley Cup since 1918 and last since 1994.

All that as background, last night the Rangers had their backs to the wall in the series against the Washington Capitols.  The Caps led the series 3-1, and were ahead in the game 1-0 with less than two minutes to play.  I had left my gym between the second and third periods of the game when the score was still 0-0. I was driving toward home when the game had resumed so I pulled the aging Element into a local tavern.

The Red Sox have started lamely this season and the Bruins did not even make the playoffs, so when I entered this sports bar there was not much enthusiasm for anything. Place was dead, and on only a couple of screens were the Rangers playing and I think I was the only one paying attention. The Capitols took their lead on a breakaway and nobody in the place said boo.

When it looked as if the Rangers would lose I imagined my brother in his season tickets feeling despondent sitting there last night with his son, my nephew Matt.  Then with a minute plus to go the Rangers scored.  And I, a sedate college professor by day, made a sound that startled the drinking clusters discussing their romantic activities and embellishing the prurient ones.

The third period ended and I hopped back into my car driving toward home.  About ten minutes later I found another tavern that typically airs sporting events. In I went, and the place was loud with an Irish band playing all sorts of ditties including the Boxer to which a thirty something kid nearby sang along as if he was around when the 1970 song first came out.  Again, not many were engaged in the sporting events.  By this point the Red Sox had lost, a basketball game held no particular interest for the gathered, and I was right in front of one of the two screens that had the hockey game.

They dropped the puck for the start of the overtime and I was riveted.  Again, nothing is more exciting than a game that is so fast paced and could end a season in an instant.  Back and forth with every rush potentially ending the Ranger season. Hold your breath in, let your breath out.

With about ten minutes to go in overtime, the Rangers scored and I jumped up from my leaning position against a pole in the joint.  The Irish Singer thought I was giving him a shout out as the goal coincided with the end of one of his songs. The loopy couple leaning into each other got a jolt from my shout, but I think--given how they were entwined--they were likely able to get back into the mood.

I don't even like hockey that much, but I was thrilled. I am not a crazy person, I just enjoy sport. And despite the lethargic groups in Boston because of the current failures of its teams, I can assure you that the crowd in Madison Square Garden erupted last night for no other reasons than those that reflect the power and attraction of sport.

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