Thursday, April 12, 2007

Rangers @ Philadelphia 3/31/07

The Rangers are in the playoffs for the second year in a row, and I am looking forward to them doing better than last time (ended in a sweep in the first round). However, before all of that starts, I wanted to share my experience at a Rangers game a couple of weeks ago.

The anticipation ran high as I drove my car along the blackened highway pavement, making a quick turn off to get onto Broad Street. This was my first Rangers game I was going to attend, and I couldn't wait. Unfortunately, I was going to have to, as the traffic jam around the Philadelphia sports complex due to the hockey game and the indoor soccer game (Kixx) was massive. I've seen honey ooze out of a jar faster than we moved. The honey was in a coma, too. I loved her. As such, I was a few minutes late to the game...and had already missed three goals! Thankfully, it was 2-1 Rangers.

As I climbed my way up the stairs to the second to last row, surprised to see so many Rangers fans but also hearing the loud, drunken shouts of disgruntled Flyers fans, the stench of beer and tension filled my nostrils. The latter was from the close contest between two heated rivals, as well as the fact so many New York fans were in the Flyers' arena watching the Rangers win. The former was from the streams and pools of overpriced, watered down beer that covered the concrete floor.

It had been at least ten years since I had attended a professional hockey game, and this was my first NHL game. I had attended IHL games before, always with much better (and cheaper) seats, but the view from where I sat was actually not that bad, considering I was eye level with the banners that were hanging from the rafters. It might have been the aura of watching the team live. I sat and was immediately enthralled.

Following the puck at a game is remarkably easy, much more so than on television (I don't think following the puck on TV is particularly hard, but don't forget Fox once had a glowing puck effect on their broadcasts, and regardless, it's still amazingly easier to follow the puck in person). Jaromir Jagr and Michael Nylander were beasts on the ice, netting two goals and two assists, respectively. Henrik Lundqvist got the win but honestly did not play well, allowing four goals after giving up six goals in his previous game. I can't complain too much, since he has been stellar the past two months. Other goalie Martin Biron was not so hot, and I think the Flyers just signed him to a contract.

There's been much debate about fighting in hockey, but let me say that no such debate exists at games. There were many cries of "throw the gloves down" and "hit him," and many cheers when checks occurred and players fell. No one actually came to blows, much to the great chagrin of many fans, but there were plenty of hard hits and occasional verbal confrontations that had to be broken up by the refs.

I was surprised at the number of women at the game, not just with boyfriends/husbands but also with female friends. Considering that the NHL is a "niche sport" and the Flyers are the worst team in the league, attendance was near capacity. This meant that the near capacity crowd, when their bladders reached near capacity, had to use the restrooms. The Wachovia Center is relatively new, so they should have known to build more restrooms. The lines were ridiculous, creating a mob of people who needed to piss, and may have been pissed. While I urinated, I heard many people argue with each other and boast about which team/city was the best. I'm not a big fan of speaking to others while taking a leak.

The recaps of the first and second periods shown on the jumbotron were surprisingly lacking in Rangers goals, but the Flyers' people couldn't hide the fact that they occurred. The Rangers won, 6-4. Here are some pictures I took at the game (click thumbnail for larger), as well as an NHL video recap.