By Chris Jones
The days are warm and the beer is cold. The birds are singing and kids are playing. Local ponds are filled with swimmers. Baseball fills the airwaves and the back pages. Not a hockey puck to be found.
God, I hate summer.
Even though the NHL is credited (or not, depending on your view) with having the longest season of all professional sports, it still seems like an eternity ago when the Blackhawks hoisted the cup and sent the Flyers crawling back into their hole.
Summer is the time when Sid the Kid gets shipped back to Canada so mom can wipe the snot from his nose. Summer is the time when Alexander Ovechkin fulfills his duty to God and Mother Russia by showing kids that it’s not so bad to be taken away from your family, shipped to Siberia and forced to play hockey for 20 hours out of each day. Summer is also the time when Dan Carcillo gets locked back in his cage for a few months.
This is the time of year when the rinks have melted, the sticks have been put away and the MRI machines at New York City hospitals are no longer experiencing a Blueshirt-induced backlog. This sucks.
We wait, hoping to get our hockey fix when Slats whips out the Dolan’s checkbook and blows a big wad of cash on our next savior, even if we know deep down in our overheated hearts that this guy is way past his prime and is just looking for one last, big, payday under the bright lights of Broadway. We wait, watching the top free agents head elsewhere while Wade Redden tries to figure out where the hell his skills went and the entire hockey world wonders, but does not care, where Donald Brashear went.
Yes, summer is truly the season of our sorrow.
Some may say that the greatest sadness comes in watching our team under-perform with over-paid players.
Some say it is the cold days when we watch the Rangers slide further and further from playoff contention.
Others say it is the day, with one twist of an ankle or awkward fall, that our season comes crashing down around us.
They are all wrong. The saddest day is the day that it all ends, whether that be with a parade through the Canyon of Heroes or with our beloved Blueshirts crawling away with their tails between their legs for yet another time. The last day of the New York Rangers hockey season is the beginning of summer…our season of sorrow.
Because, for all the bashing and yelling and moping and whining we do about our team, nothing beats seeing the boys coming charging out of the tunnel and onto the MSG ice.
Does it really matter in the grand scheme of things what name is on the back of the sweater, as long as we’re watching the word “Rangers” flying on the front?
I don’t know about you, but I don’t really mind if another team gives Illya Kovalchuk a 17 year contract, as long as I get to see Michael Del Zotto manhandle him around the net again.
Sure, summer beats freezing our behinds off, but the crack of a bat can never replace the sound of a slapshot. A lawn mower circling the lawn draws nowhere near the excitement of a Zamboni circling the ice. And, all the hoopla about the “brutal play” in World Cup soccer couldn’t hold a candle to the sound of two men crashing into plywood and plexiglass at 30 miles per hour.
So please, continue to rant and rave all season long, because that is what we, New York Rangers fans, do the best. Never give Sather or Torts the benefit of the doubt, and always demand just a little more from every player on the ice. But, as you do so, think back on these hot days and remember, every day in hockey season is better than those long summer days without the sport we love.
Let’s Go Rangers….for the love of God, let’s go.