NEW YORK, NY – There isn’t much to dislike about the 2014 playoffs. Amazing hockey, thrilling comebacks and dramatic finishes have been the norm, not the exception.
The Stanley Cup final, an apparent dream matchup between teams in America’s two biggest markets, started brilliantly (unless you’re a Rangers fan) with two come-from-behind, overtime classics.
Game 3 was a bit of a letdown from an artistic perspective as Jonathan Quick put on his Big Boy pants and helped the Kings defy the advanced stats logic in a 3-0 triumph. It quieted the hometown fans who, truth be told, were never very loud to begin with.
The vibe inside Madison Square Garden was good, not great for a Stanley Cup final game. And it reinforced an observation we had throughout the day in Manhattan – New York doesn’t feel like it’s enveloped with Cup fever. Not like you might expect.
Outside the small radius around MSG, where the streets were filled with red and blue jerseys, you’d be hard-pressed to know the Blueshirts are vying for hockey supremacy.
A walk through Midtown, that covered approximately 50 blocks at around noon on game day, produced just one sighting of a fan wearing Ranger paraphernalia – a cap. There are no banners on lamp posts, no cars with team flags.
It’s a noticeable contrast to what we witnessed in other Original Six markets in recent years. In Boston, Chicago and Detroit, team colours flew and were worn proudly. There was a hockey pulse on the street.
At the game, the season ticket holders behind us noted the first really loud “Let’s Go Rangers” chant after pre-game didn’t come until the third period; that in 1994 you’d hear it all game. To which his seatmate replied, “in 1994, you couldn’t hear yourself think. The building shook.”
Perhaps this is simply to be expected in one of the world’s foremost entertainment and travel destinations. The city is heaving with tourists who are here coincidentally when the Cup final is on, not on purpose. Most vehicles are cabs, limos or delivery vans, not typical commuters.
Perhaps New Yorkers, with so many leisure time options, are simply spread thinly and/or expect more.
I haven’t been here when the Yankees have been in World Series or the Giants have been in Super Bowls. Maybe the atmosphere is similar.
Or maybe this remains the NHL’s reality. The sport has grown considerably under Gary Bettman’s administration, but on a huge stage like New York, it might forever be confined to “nice story” status. A shining star in a vast galaxy.
To quote a famous New Yorker, “not that there’s anything wrong with that.”