The Rangers are rich and entitled; the Islanders are lucky and shameless

New York Rangers vs. New York Islanders (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

In our Playoff Preview edition, we asked one blogger following the Rangers and one following the Islanders to have some fun at each other’s expense. To our delight, they didn’t play nice.

By Dominik Jansky of Lighthouse Hockey:
To say Rangers fans were born on third base thinking they hit a triple would be an insult to nepotism: their blue-blooded forefathers have hit one triple since 1940, and even that exhausting trip required a bunch of uncles from Edmonton to do the pinch running. Yet like an embarrassing, fumbling son whose rich father pretends he doesn’t exist, Rangers fans boldly stagger around town with hollow bluster, as if their club has contributed anything to hockey over the past 75 years beyond bloated payrolls, retirement packages for fading stars, and miraculous job security for Glen Sather.

The Rangers are New York’s media darlings – if being the seventh-most-popular team in one’s home is “darling”-worthy – purely by virtue of geographic convenience. That all changes when their rivals bring their own superior, impressive history to Brooklyn, and media don’t have to trudge out to Nassau to get quotes from New York’s best player, John Tavares.

For now, Isles fans can enjoy one last hurrah in a raucous Nassau Coliseum – birthplace of the only dynasty New York will ever see, and home of the majority of New York’s Stanley Cups since the Great Depression. Rangers fans must be content to tell themselves the new sky bridge at the sterile Madison Square Garden, the “World’s Most Self-Congratulatory Arena,” is somehow worth the $1,000 tickets, the gutting of the 300s section and the loss of their soul.

At least they’ll always have Matteau…if he can still afford to get in the building.

By Mike Murphy of Blueshirt Banter:
The Islanders are giving their fans a nice treat by making the club’s last season at the Coliseum an Irish wake instead of the cataclysmic, all-consuming funeral pyre that would’ve been far more appropriate. Next season, the steadfast crew behind the Gorton’s Fisherman will leave the NHL’s second smallest arena for the new second smallest arena, in Brooklyn…where exactly zero percent of the locals admit to being a part of Long Island.

When Isles fans aren’t standing like meerkats trying to see the action in a building that in no way was designed to host hockey games, they’ll continue to make the hatred of the Rangers a load-bearing part of their identity and express a shameless pride when they manage to be louder than visiting Blueshirts fans in their own arena.

The Islanders will appear in the playoffs for the third time since the 2004-05 lockout, which will mercifully give their fans something to do other than call for the heads of their coach, GM and owner. Luckily for them, the team managed to add a top ‘D’ pair on clearance sale before the season and trade for a goalie who didn’t refuse to report to the club!

Things sure are looking up for the Empire State’s other team (even Buffalo knows that Buffalo doesn’t count), which goes to show you that if you fail long and badly enough and somehow avoid being exiled to Kansas City, you might just survive to draft a Tavares and put yourself in a position to advance past the first round for the first time in 22 years. What an inspiration.

This is feature appears in the Playoff Preview 2015 edition of The Hockey News magazine. Get fun features like this one, and much more, by subscribing now.

Detroit company finds success with game-used stick phone cases

Original Stix

By Warren Frank

Detroit-based company Original Stix appears to have found an extremely interested market for its game-used composite sticks phone cases.

The idea to turn old sticks into hockey-themed phone cases came from CEO Terry Johnson. He’s always been inspired by creative repurposing, but it was an experience during his time at Michigan State that was particularly influential.

“One of my friends built a table out of old sticks,” Johnson said. “I always thought it was interesting to repurpose something designed for an entirely different reason, and it got me thinking about other products built with authentic materials.”

 

Original Stix case

After graduating, Johnson teamed up with two friends and fellow Michigan State alumni, Mario DiMercurio and Andrew Mestdagh, to found the company. The company’s first product, an iPhone 5 case, was launched in August, and its positive reception has led to the addition of Galaxy s5 cases, iPhone 6 cases and an apparel line. All Original Stix products are made in the U.S. – a point of pride for the business.

“The rubber cases are made using local injection molding facilities,” Johnson said. “The sticks are cut by hand, and then the inside is coated with a rubberized coating for added protection. When an order comes through, customers can request specific sticks so we match the sticks with the rubber frame and build to order.

“Everything is done right here in Detroit. The area has been going through some tough times in recent years, so creating jobs and bringing manufacturing back to the area is something that our fans have really gotten behind, regardless of what team they follow.”

And it’s not just fans interested in Original Stix products: the company recently completed a custom order for the New York Rangers, with cases featuring game-used sticks now sold at Madison Square Garden. Detroit Red Wings defenseman Danny DeKeyser, who went to high school with Johnson and DiMercurio, has been to the Original Stix headquarters a number of times.

While Original Stix is looking to add additional teams, customers can currently choose stick pieces from more than 50 squads from the NHL, AHL, NCAA and OHL. The sticks can be swapped out without having to buy a new case.

“We’ve had a lot of customers who have sticks autographed by NHL players,” Johnson said. “We love seeing stuff like that. It’s like a portable piece of memorabilia as opposed to an autographed photo that just hangs on the wall.”

Original Stix display

Rangers outlast Penguins 2-1 in another overtime game, eliminate Pittsburgh from first round in five games

Rangers players including Dan Girardi celebrate Carl Hagelin's game-and-series-winning goal in overtime of Game 5 Friday at Madison Square Garden. (Jared Silber/NHLI via Getty Images)

The New York Rangers had the NHL’s third-best offense this season and were heavily-favored to beat the Pitsburgh Penguins in their first-round playoff series. The Blueshirts couldn’t get that offense untracked against Pens goalie Marc-Andre Fleury and never scored more than two goals in any of their wins, but they showed they could play some solid ‘D’ of their own and beat Pittsburgh 2-1 in overtime Friday to eliminate the Penguins in five games. Read more

Penguins’ Nick Spaling pulls off tough feat: scoring on Rangers star Henrik Lundqvist without his stick or skate

Adam Proteau
Pittsburgh's Nick Spaling scores against the Rangers' Henrik Lundqvist in the second period of Game 5 Friday. (Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

It’s hard enough for NHLers to score on Rangers star goalie Henrik Lundqvist with their stick, or for that matter, by redirecting a puck with their skate in a non-distinct kicking motion. So in Game 5 of the Penguins’ first-round series against the Blueshirts Friday, Pens center Nick Spaling tried something new – being in a position where the puck deflected off his body – and it worked for Pittsburgh’s first goal of the night.

The Penguins were trailing the Rangers 1-0 late in the second period at Madison Square Garden when Spaling drove to the net as captain Sidney Crosby sent the puck out in front. Somehow, it bounced just past the goal line after ricocheting off his left forearm: Read more

Why this year’s NHL’s individual awards voting was the toughest ever

Filip Forsberg (Photo by John Russell/NHLI via Getty Images)

As a member of the Professional Hockey Writer’s Association, I have the honor of casting a ballot for five of the NHL’s annual individual player awards (the Hart, Norris, Calder, Byng and Selke Trophies) as well as the league’s first-and-second-team All-Stars and Rookie Team. It’s something I never take lightly, and as such I canvass opinions on who I should vote for from as many NHL people – coaches, GMs, scouts, and players – before I submit my ballot. There’s usually not much consensus in any of the voting categories, but this year there was one thing everyone could agree on: the field of legitimate candidates for each award was so vast this year, voters are guaranteed to anger fan bases no matter which person they decide to support. Read more

Penguins pushed to brink of elimination as offense continues to sputter

crosby and malkin

For the fourth straight game, the first-round series between the Pittsburgh Penguins and New York Rangers came down to a battle of the bounces. Unfortunately for the Penguins, when it matters most, the puck isn’t breaking their way.

In each of the first three games, the winner was decided by a single-goal and Wednesday night was no different. Pittsburgh took a 1-0 lead early in the first frame and had stifled the Rangers’ attack for most of the next 40 minutes, but a breakdown behind their goal led to a Derrick Brassard marker that brought the Rangers even late in the second period.

Throughout the entire third period, the teams traded chances, but in overtime, when it mattered most, it was Kevin Hayes who was able to knock home a loose puck to push the Rangers to a 3-1 series lead and put the Penguins’ backs against the wall. Now, heading back to Madison Square Garden, Pittsburgh is going to need their stars to shine if they want to stay alive. Read more

Rangers rookie Kevin Hayes’ first career playoff goal is OT winner

Kevin Hayes (Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)

This past off-season, Kevin Hayes was the hottest unsigned NCAA free agent. Drafted by the Blackhawks in 2010, Chicago couldn’t get the big center under contract before he was eligible for free agency and the New York Rangers swooped in and inked Hayes to an entry-level deal.

Now, almost eight months to the day after Hayes inked his deal, the rookie has netted his first career playoff goal — and it couldn’t have come at a more opportune time. In overtime of Game 4 of the opening round series between the Rangers and Pittsburgh Penguins, Hayes found a loose puck at the side of the goal and, with goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury flat on his back, Hayes shovelled the puck into the net for the overtime winner: Read more

Rangers aren’t perfect, but Pens are who we thought they are: not likely to win this series

Penguins defenseman Rob Scuderi pulls the puck out of the net after Chris Kreider's second period goal in Game 3 Monday. (Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)

In my pre-playoff predictions, I picked the President’s Trophy-winning New York Rangers to have the easiest first-round series of any NHL post-season team this year and beat the Pittsburgh Penguins in just five games. And although I have to give the Pens credit for not weakly waving a white flag through the first three games of the opening round, after their Game 3 2-1 loss to the Blueshirts, I don’t expect we’ll see them upset the league’s best regular-season squad. Part of it is simply because the injury-ravaged Penguins in their current condition just don’t have the horses to run with the skilled and versatile Rangers, but even at full strength – even with the sidelined Kris Letang, Christian Ehrhoff, Olli Maatta and Pascal Dupuis in the lineup – they don’t possess the depth and balance their opponents do. Read more