Monday, January 01, 2007
I Despise the New York Rangers
Well, I should qualify that statement. I don't harbinger any particular bad feeling of any particular Ranger fan, player, or staff member. I don't wish anything bad to happen to any of them personally nor do I hate them. I just think their hockey team sucks and hope they lose as much as possible. I'm confident to say I'm not alone in this. In Martin Brodeur's biography, Beyond the Crease, he states that he doesn't like the Rangers and that General Manager Lou Lamoriello hates the Rangers. But I want to articulate in the best way that I can as to why these feelings exist.
First and foremost, it is a rivalry. The Devils are the relative newcomers to the area, with the Colorado Rockies moving to New Jersey in 1982. The team, as is my understanding, had to pay the Rangers a rather significant fee for "territory rights." The Rangers are the closest team to the Devils in terms of location and are one of the NHL's "Original Six" teams. So geographically, a rivalry is there. The two teams have been in the same division - the Patrick then, now the Atlantic, since then. Meaning those games against each other have been important in terms of getting playoff berths or winning the division. Such has led to the culmination of this rivalry.
I must make this clear. There is nothing like getting a win over your favorite team's rivals. That's one of the many benefits of sport: enjoying your team playing well and then getting more enjoyment of the fact that the team you support did it to a rival or some other team. If you want a perfect example of this, just look at the English Premier League - there are teams who have had rivalries for over a century. They call those games "derbys," where fans and the players (sometimes) get more passionate. Fulham's next door neighbors Chelsea played each other on Saturday and Fulham - an average team in the EPL - played "balls to the wall" soccer to get a tie on arguably one of the top soccer teams in the world. In a stadium filled with well over 50,000 Chelsea fans, the 3,200 Fulham fans who where at the game sang and cheered louder than all of them. Why get so pumped up for a regular season game? Because it's anything but regular, it's a rivalry game; and the games between the Devils and the Rangers are in the same mold.
OK, so it has been established that the two teams are rivals with each other and that should be the end of that, right? No. There's more to it. This goes back to 1994. Yes, the Eastern Conference Finals. The Rangers and the NHL were the hot thing in sports. But they had to go 7 games against the Devils to go to the Stanley Cup. The team filled with a good number ex-Edmonton Oilers from the 1980s that were the big talk in NYC and the media with respect with the NHL had to take on the Devils. The Devils, at the time, were on the rise but have yet to make any noise in the NHL save for the Cinderella season of 1988. The Rangers had players like Mark Messier, Adam Graves, Kevin Lowe, Brian Leetch, Mike Richter in net, and coached by Mike Keenan. In contrast, the Devils had Scott Stevens, John MacLean, a young Scott Niedermayer, Bernie Nicholls, a rookie in net by the name of Martin Brodeur, and new coach Jacques Lemaire. The Devils had some good players, but the Rangers were the sexier team, the team with more talent, and a whole lot of other things the pundits gushed over. The Devils valiantly fought the Rangers, but Messier made that guarantee, Stephane Matteau got that wraparound goal, and all the Rangers fans taunted Devils fans for months on end about it. For a Devils fan, it was heartbreaking. To get so close only to get so far. Among other things, this pushed the rivalry to a whole new level.
Then something wonderful happened. The NHL salvaged some kind of season after the lockout and the Devils won their first Stanley Cup in 1995 by sweeping - not just beating, but dominating - the ultra-talented and heavy favored Detroit Red Wings. It was no fluke, as the Devils went on to become one of the top teams in the NHL. OK, they blew it in 1996, but since then the Devils have had 9 straight seasons of 40 or more wins. What happened to the Rangers, though? They were still the number one team in the region, right? They had the history of winning one Stanley Cup past 1950. They had Jim Dolan as owner, a guy not afraid to splash some cash. Those ex-Oilers did not come to the Rangers for nothing, it worked once before, it can happen again. So the Rangers spent the next decade or so bringing in big talent via free agency and trades, signing guys to big contracts. Players who have been very successful or talented. These included names like Luc Robitalle, Jari Kurri, Wayne Gretzky, Pat LaFontaine, Theoren Fleury, a second return of Mark Messier, Pavel Bure, Eric Lindros, a second return of Alexei Kovalev, Darius Kasparitius, Bobby Holik for an outrageous $9 million per year, and Jaromir Jagr. Hey, these were name guys, guys who got the attention and headlines. Who cares about building a team or building within the system. They got attention to grab and they got it.
In this process the Rangers went from playoff champions to playoff contenders for two seasons and then down to missing the playoffs for 7 straight seasons. In contrast, the Devils did things the proper way. They got free agents that fit their team instead of trying to get names. They made trades for players when necessary. They drafted and developed their prospects very well and continue to do so. The Devils became a dominant team, went to three more Stanley Cup Finals and won two Stanley Cups.
Yet, the attention was mainly grabbed by the Rangers. The Devils had all this success and yet we still have Devils games get shoved off to Fox Sports NY 2 or stuck on some lame cable channel called "Metro" because for some lame reason I don't fully recall. This is synonymous with New Jersey, in my opinion. OK, I'm just a 23 year old guy so I don't know much, but hear me out. The major media sources in this area are in New York and Philadelphia. New Jersey is commonly an afterthought to those sources. General sentiment is that New Jersey is this little area of pollution, highways, mobsters, and a general stench between NY and Philadelphia with a boardwalk. Many do not know or care that New Jersey has been the source of so many things. You want an example? The light bulb was invented in New Jersey. THE LIGHT BULB. Do you know where we would be without it? I don't even want to think about it. But does that get thought of? No. Will that change? Probably not.
This is true in the sports world. The Giants have played in New Jersey for over 30 years, but they are still the New York Giants. The MetroStars now Red Bulls always have had New York in their name despite playing the vast majority of their home games and practices in New Jersey. It's taken for granted that New Jersey is just this big suburb When the Devils won the Stanley Cup in 2003, guess what was on the cover of the Hockey News' Yearbook? A Ranger and an Islander - two teams who didn't make the playoffs that year - with Martin Brodeur on the cover. When Rutgers beat Louisville, both the Philadelphia and NY radio stations tried to make the claim that Rutgers - playing out of central New Jersey - was their local college football team. This after who knows how many years of ignoring them (not that I blame them, Rutgers was putrid for a long time until recently).
I know NJ will always be second best in coverage out of NY and Philadelphia. I don't have some kind of inferiority complex, and I do not expect much of this to change. But the Devils are something New Jersey can call it's own. The team is successful and they did it, to paraphrase some famous singer from Hoboken, their way. Through the draft, by avoiding big-name players, and by staying loyal to guys like Ken Daneyko, Scott Stevens, Martin Brodeur, and John MacLean (even if he did play for Dallas and the Rangers in the twilight of his playing career). Hell, the Devils do this to other players like Jim Dowd, giving the fourth line some needed skill and players in their system like Rob Skrlac's memorable call up last season (2 shots, 1 goal, uncountable intimidation). There is a lot to be proud of in New Jersey and you'd be foolish to ignore the Devils as one of those sources of pride. They Devils have followed of model of defense first hockey since 1994. When Lemaire instituted the neutral zone trap that the 1970s Canadiens used to such success for the Devils, the rest of the NHL followed - but were not as successful as the Devils in instituting it. The Devils still mandate that their forwards play something resembling defense to this day. The Devils still rely heavily on the counter attack and disciplined hockey, constantly one of those least penalized teams in the NHL. Their way has yielded success. No attention, not a lot of love from the hockey-centric media - much less the rest of the media, but the Devils were successful.
In the meantime, the Rangers spent an incredible amount of money signing big name players and yielding small time results. Some teams spent money well, like the Detroit Red Wings. The Rangers would lead the league in payroll but continually miss the playoffs. This sort of spending ultimately was a cause the NHL to miss a season, and the Rangers cannot say they had no responsibility in this happening. Small market teams, despite their success, could not keep up with the big money teams like the Rangers or the Leafs; hence, a season was lost before the NHL finally got wise an instituted a salary cap. The Rangers finally realized that rebuilding would be a good idea prior to the lost season and got young talent as soon as they can to back up Jagr. The Rangers did well in the first season back, they even made the playoffs.
Then the Devils stomped all over them in four straight games after the Devils went on a crazy winning streak to win the Atlantic Division. Sure, the Devils then got run by the Carolina Hurricanes in their successful journey to the Stanley Cup; but that sweep felt just as good as the Devils' sweep over Detroit.
So I just rambled a lot for awhile, let's sum it all up. Why do I despise the Rangers? Mostly because it is a rivalry. But also because the Devils provide a source of local state pride. Because they represent one of the best ways as to how a sports organization should be run. Because the Rangers showed how to ruin a team and be part of killing a league. That's why the Rangers just plain suck. That's why that 6-1 beatdown of the Rangers was so glorious to watch. That's why I hope the Devils do it again tomorrow.
For a major NJ fan, you have an inferiority complex of the team. RANGERS fans, in good (and especially ) and bad season, are always devoted and loyal fans of the franchise. NJ is half full beginning of the season. Perhaps Lucky Louie hates the Rangers because his rival Glenny "Boy" Sather is sitting pretty with EVERY seat sold.
NJ fans will NEVER be New York Rangers fans. Winning or losing, my franchise ROCKS it.
LET'S GO RANGERS.....FIRST ROUND, YOU'RE OUT JERSEY!!!!!!!
absolutely gross in every way. But as for the Ranger's all you Devils fans must have rejoiced when the Habs came back on them down five zip to beat that smug look off Tom Renney's face in a shootout. Jagr missing, almost in tears, it was glorious. Go Habs. Go Devils. Kick some Ranger ass.
But man, I've had enough of these cocky Ranger fans who think that one decent season after a decade of futility somehow makes them the better team. And way to go Sather, overpaying for an over-aged and under performing defenseman. Why don't you waste the rest of your cap space by throwing as much money as possible at the ever useless Jagr. Maybe you can try to overpay Lindros again while you're at it.
The Rangers are constantly picking up other team's leftovers or stealing them away with lucrative contracts. The Devils grow from within, and spend time to grow their prospects. That is why Lou doesn't feel the need to wave a checkbook around in players faces come the off season, and simply refuses to dump millions into a player simply because fans know his name.