Let me make this clear: I hate bandwagon fans.
When New York football fans jumped on the Jets’ bandwagon during the 2009 season, rode it through January 2011, and then leaped across town to the Giants’ this past January, it enraged me. That’s why sports fans around the country hate New Yorkers. There are nine teams in the New York metropolitan area that participate in the four major pro sports, so when you have multiple opportunities to win a championship every season, you’re bound to have more success.
That’s not how it should be. You pick a team when you’re young. You give your heart and soul to that team, and maybe, someday, they will reward you for the time, energy and money you invest in them. And if you’re never able to cash that check, then too bad. You picked a shit team. Better luck next time.
Hockey is different, though. It boasts a small yet rabid, passionate and intensely loyal fan base. In the New York-New Jersey area there are three hockey teams, but in reality there is only one. You’re only a Devils fan if you enjoy being a total douche (or you’re David Puddy), and you’re an Islanders fan if…yeah, that’s a skeleton you should keep in your closet.
New York’s hockey team is the Rangers. They are unique to New York (I’m Ron Burgundy?). When people jump on the Rangers’ bandwagon they are hopping on it from a point of indifference, not from another team’s. What makes it more tolerable, as well, is the fact the Rangers aren’t the Yankees, nor are they even the Giants. They have the class and nobility of those teams (Original Six club, wear classic uniforms, play in a famous building), but they also have the tortured history of the Mets and Jets (one championship in the past 71 years). If you’ve jumped on the Rangers’ bandwagon during this playoff run, you aren’t doing so with the expectation of winning a title, but rather because, as we’ve said in the past, playoff hockey incarcerates your heart and mind for its duration. You’re a prisoner, not a front-runner.
And since hockey die-hards love when the casual sports fan becomes infatuated with their beautiful game, Rangers supporters will be happy to punch your ticket aboard the Blueshirts Bandwagon!
So whether tonight is the first hockey game you’ve ever watched or you just want to go to a bar and get drunk and talk sports, here is your Official Guide To Being a New York Rangers Bandwagon Fan.
Bandwagon Fan: OK, let’s start off simple. How many quarters are there in a game? How long is halftime?
The Garden Faithful: Wow. This is going to take longer than I expected.
OK. There are three, 20-minute PERIODS in a hockey game. There are 17-minute intermissions between those periods, so in effect, there are two halftimes. Unless the game goes to sudden death overtime (where the first team to score a goal wins), the games usually take a little more than 2.5 hours.
Bandwagon Fan: Jeez, alright. Who is the Rangers’ best player?
The Garden Faithful: That’s an easy one. It’s their goalie, Henrik Lundqvist. The 30-year old Swede is not only the Rangers’ best player, but arguably the NHL’s best player, as well. Lundqvist will likely win the Vezina Trophy (the award for the league’s best goalie) and is nominated for the Hart Trophy (the league’s MVP), to boot.
Lundqvist is a historically great talent, who with the aid of a Stanley Cup, will go down as the greatest goalie in the Rangers’ 86-year history. That is not hyperbole. Lundqvist is the first goalie in NHL history to begin his career with seven-straight, 30+ win seasons, and this year set career-highs in wins, goals against average (how many goals he allows per game), and save percentage—the three most important stats for a goalie.
If that all isn’t enough, Lundqvist is impossibly handsome. Men and women alike become short of breath when his impossibly blue eyes make contact with the television camera.
Following an episode of HBO’s 24/7 (the “reality show” that followed the team around in December), I wrote this about Lundqvist. I’m sure you’ll agree…
“When Henrik came on screen I felt the emotion little girls must have felt in 1964 when The Beatles came to America. I just wanted to start screaming and grasping for the TV, and subsequently, I almost passed out.”
And he plays the guitar like Hendrix (slight exaggeration). And he married his longtime girlfriend and he’s expecting his first child this summer. (He may or may not have planned the pregnancy around a long playoff run; we like to think he did.)
Bandwagon Fan: Who is the team’s captain? Tell me about him.
The Garden Faithful: Their captain is Ryan Callahan. He is a 27-year old native of Rochester, New York, and as the saying goes, “he leads by example.” While Cally, as he is called, did score a career-high 29 goals this season, he is more of a defensive forward, blocking 88 shots and amassing 271 hits, good for fifth in the NHL.
Callahan has come under some criticism in recent days, however. While his defensive effort is unquestioned, and his kamikaze-style penalty kill in the third period of Game 5 against the Capitals may have saved the Rangers season, his two points in the seven-game series are below what fans expect of him and the team requires of him. Is it possible his grinding, give it a 1,000%-playing style has left him physically drained after 90 games of hockey (he missed six due to injury)? Very possibly. But if the Rangers are going to go where they want to, they need Cally to score more.
Bandwagon Fan: Their head coach?
The Garden Faithful: If Napoleon and Bill Parcells had a baby, he’d be the Rangers head coach, John Tortorella. Standing at a reported 5-foot-6 on a good day, with a fungus-infected right thumbnail, Torts is one of the angriest men you will ever meet. You rarely, if ever, see him smile, and when he’s not cursing up a storm on the bench, well, he’s simply saying nothing, staring down the eyes of a referee who has wronged his team.
Most reporters would rip a head coach for stonewalling their press conferences, but Torts has developed a weird respect with the New York media, with many writers stating, “Yeah it makes our jobs more difficult (that he doesn’t answer any of our questions), but hey, it’s an absolute scene.”
Torts hasn’t ALWAYS been quiet. He’s been fined by the NHL on many occasions, most recently for this rant against the Pittsburgh Penguins. But before Torts’ wife and accountant told him to shut his mouth, he also had these legendary meltdowns.
He’s a character to say the least.
Bandwagon Fan: Do they have a mascot? I LOVE mascots! Does he throw t-shirts to the fans in between periods? I LOVE t-shirts!
The Garden Faithful: No, the Rangers thankfully do not have a mascot. But yes, much to my chagrin, they throw out t-shirts. The closest thing the Rangers have ever come to having a mascot was “The Chief,” a legendary Ranger fan who from roughly 1971 to 1995 wore a full Indian headdress complete with Rangers facepaint, and would “wander around Madison Square Garden shaking hands, whooping and doing a war dance.” Chief retired sometime in the mid-90′s, citing the Rangers’ Stanley Cup victory as the reason for his departure. The real reason he retired, however, has never been confirmed. Some fans say the Cleveland Indians offered him a full-time job, others say he developed split personalities and joined a Native American tribe, while most claim he ran for New York State Senate, lost, moved to Florida and died in January. None of those theories have been confirmed.
Now, we have “Dancing Larry.” Prior to the lockout (2004-05), Larry was known as “Homo Larry,” but thanks to people north of the Mason-Dixon Line coming to their senses, that derogatory nicknamed has faded away. Now, Larry is something of a rallying figure, as he dances in section 407 late in the third periods of games to the song, “Strike It Up” by Black Box. Even die-hard fans have fallen for Larry and his good luck charm. My father, a season-ticket holder since 1968, said after Larry danced prematurely (the 2nd period) during Game 7 versus Ottawa, “Larry in the second period? Man, they’re going to the well early tonight.”
Oh, and you hate the Dancing Grandma. She’s disgusting and annoying and you’re allowed to boo her off the big screen. It’s encouraged, in fact.
Bandwagon Fan: Who are WE playing?
The Garden Faithful: The New Jersey Devils.
Bandwagon Fan: Who is their most hated player?
The Garden Faithful: That’s a no-brainer. Their goalie, Martin Brodeur. The 40-year old Brodeur is considered by many to be the greatest goalie in NHL history and rightfully so. He has won three Stanley Cups and four Vezina Trophies, a resume almost no goaltender in league history can match. But despite his great success, he has struggled against the Blueshirts when it matters most.
Brodeur lost to the Rangers in the 1994 Easter Conference Finals and the 1997 Eastern Conference semi-finals (Brodeur’s best NHL season), and since Henrik took Broadway, The King (Lundqvist) has compiled a 23-7-5 record against, who Sean Avery once called, Fatso. Maaaaaarty, as he is “affectionately” called by Rangers fans, also has an interesting family history.
According to Urban Dictionary, a “Martin Brodeur” is, “When one decides to sleep with his sister-in-law, then divorces his wife so he can marry the sister-in-law and make his ex-wife his (new) sister-in-law.”
That’s right. BRODEUR SLEPT WITH HIS SISTER-AND-LAW AND THEN MARRIED HER, AND HE HAS CHILDREN WITH BOTH WOMEN. How’s that for an awkward Mother’s Day? Your mom is your aunt. Your aunt is your mom. Just call the psychiatrist now.
So yes, he deserves every insulting chant thrown his way during the series.
Bandwagon Fan: The Rangers are the highest-ranked team of the remaining four clubs, right? This should be easy, no?
The Garden Faithful: Yes and no. Yes, they are the highest “ranked” team, as they sport the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference, but unlike most 1-seeds, the Rangers are NOT a dominant club. They win by grinding and tiring the opponent out, scoring the timely goal, and then, once they have a lead, playing great defense and letting Henrik take them home. It’s an effective style that wins games, but it is by no means high-scoring or entertaining.
The Rangers beat the two lowest seeds in the East in two grueling seven-game series, both of which they could have easily lost. If they do not play a perfect game, they will not win. There is no margin for error, especially in the playoffs.
Bandwagon Fan: Let me guess: The Rangers got the 1-seed by spending the most money. Typical New York.
The Garden Faithful: No, you fool. There is a salary cap in the NHL, meaning the Rangers can’t simply buy a championship how the Yankees (and Manchester City) do. In fact, the NHL instituting a salary cap was good for the Rangers because it made them focus on scouting and drafting rather than signing old, overpriced free agents to monster contracts. Here is an unofficial list of the Rangers’ 10 most important players this postseason and how they got them.
1. Henrik Lundqvist: Draft; 2. Marc Staal: Draft; 3. Brad Richards: Free Agent; 4. Dan Girardi: Draft (undrafted free agent); 5. Marian Gaborik: Free Agent; 6. Ryan McDonagh: Trade; 7. Ryan Callahan: Draft; 8. Carl Hagelin: Draft; 9. Michael Del Zotto: Draft; 10. Chris Kreider: Draft.
That’s 7 draft, 2 free agents, 1 trade. Pretty impressive stuff. They’re a very young team.
Bandwagon Fan: When was the last time they won a Stanley Cup? Did anything really crazy happen that year?
The Garden Faithful: 1994. And yes, REALLY CRAZY shit happened. Like the most clutch performance in sports history and one of the greatest hockey games ever played. (Watch from minute 29:35 through 35:02. Yes, the Rangers needed to beat the Devils and Brodeur to advance to the finals that year, too.)
Bandwagon Fan: When things go badly, who is the guy the fans turn on? There’s always that guy. Who is he?
The Garden Faithful: That can be debated. The standard picks are usually Mike Rupp on offense (he’s a big, lumbering oaf that can barely skate and has NO skill), and occasionally Del Zotto on defense when he makes one of his egregious turnovers in the defensive end.
Overall it is a VERY well-liked team, though.
Bandwagon Fan: I always hear fans whistling at the games, and then they yell, “Let’s Run Trucks!” What the hell does that mean?
The Garden Faithful: They’re chanting “Potvin (pronounced “Pot-Van”) Sucks!” you idiot. Here’s your explanation.
Bandwagon Fan: If I’m ever in a social setting watching them play, what are some lines I can say to sound smart? And what shouldn’t I say?
The Garden Faithful: Good question. What you should say is…
If the Rangers are winning…”As long as Henrik plays this way we can’t lose!”
At any point in the game…”Gotta get the next goal or we’re screwed.”
If Brad Richards scores a goal: “He’s worth every penny of that contract!”
If the team isn’t scoring…”Gaborik has been invisible! Where is he??”
If they sit on the lead and it’s a one-goal game with 10 minutes left in the third period: “Where is the nearest toilet?”
If Del Zotto is still getting ice time after a bad mistake but Torts benches another guy who in comparison made a very small error: “There’s no accountability with Torts. He plays favorites!”
If Rupp is on the ice: “Why is there a giant glacier on the ice?”
If the Rangers are ahead 5-0 and dominating the game: …That’s not going to happen. Don’t worry.
What you shouldn’t say is…
On other players…”That Sidney Crosby really plays the game the right way. So much class and honor. He NEVER complains or dives. A real warrior.”
On Brodeur…”Say what you want, but Brodeur is better than Mike Richter and Henrik COMBINED!”
If the Rangers take an early lead…”This is going to be easy.”
On the referees…”I just think it’s rude to chant “Assss-hole!” after a bad call.”
If the Rangers are losing late in the third period…”Oh well. It’s just a game, right? Let’s go meet my friends for a drink! They’re at a club near The Garden. RAGER!”
Bandwagon Fan: Do the Rangers players have really hot wives and girlfriends (WAGS)?
The Garden Faithful: They’re professional athletes being paid millions of dollars and they live in New York City. Next question…
Bandwagon Fan: Fine, be a dick about it. Umm, do they have an official victory song? I need to memorize the lyrics!
The Garden Faithful: Yes, they do. There’s the Rangers’ traditional victory song (which sounds like it should be the music to a “Bugs Bunny Goes To Washington” cartoon where he waves to droves of adoring fans in front of the Washington Monument).
And then there’s the Rangers’ Hey We’re So Cool And Love Going To Raves and Hooking Up With Coeds Who Are Wearing Highlighters All Over Their Faces And Clothes And Think They’re Modern Day Hippies But In Reality They Are Just Rich White Girls With Nothing To Do victory song.
(No, but really. I now love this song and in turn this kind of music ONLY because I have a positive association with it. Calvin Harris is my idol and a first-ballot Reggie Cleveland All-Star. I listen to “Feel So Close” and the last four minutes and 49 seconds of Sigur Ros’ “Festival,” the song from the end of 24/7, before every playoff game (I see them winning the Cup to that song in my mind’s eye). I’m not superstitious.))
It usually stops at the :36 second mark and breaks into Avicii’s “Levels.” It’s not quite the ’99 Mets’ “L.A. Woman,” but it’s good.
The Garden Faithful: That’s all the time we have folks. Please pass along this document to all the bandwagon Rangers fans you know. If you’re only now starting to watch our boys play at least start watching with a good head on your shoulders.
Whether this ride ends in incomprehensible disappointment next Monday or with a parade down The Canyon of Heroes in mid-June, strap in tight and enjoy the ride. We have no idea where it’s going.
Prediction: Rangers in 7; it’d be dumb to predict anything else at this point.