March 30, 2004

Not Just Any Hockey Game at MSG

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With the New York Rangers squarely out of playoff contention, GM Glen Sather decided it was time to start the rebuilding process. In the weeks before the trade deadline, he proceeded to trade away much of the team, including Alexei Kovalev, Petr Nedved, and Ranger-for-life Brian Leetch.

With most of the Blueshirts’ other stars injured or suspended, I decided that this would be a good time to attend my first Rangers game. Here is a look back at my night at Madison Square Garden on March 25, when the Rangers squared off against the Nashville Predators.

6:00 PM, 98 minutes before the opening faceoff: I arrive at the Garden with my friends Mike and Beki. After getting the tickets from the will-call window, I notice the following words at the top — “Limited View.” That’s just great. Several people are wearing Maple Leafs jerseys with Leetch on the back, which leads me to wonder, “Why wouldn’t you just buy a discounted Rangers version of Leetch’s No. 2 jersey?”

6:15 PM: Our $27 tickets land us in section 414. For those of you who have never been to MSG, watching the game from section 414 is one step below watching the game on the MSG network.

6:30 PM: We enter the arena early to watch the players warm up. “We’re going to get like five pucks each,” claims Mike. “More like zero,” I think to myself. With the ushers ignoring their ushering duties, we move into the $100 seats in the lower level.

6:45 PM: Everything at the concession stands (except beverages) has been marked down 50 percent. Clearly this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, and Mike and I venture to the food court. Indeed, the $5 jumbo bag of Cracker Jacks I purchase is now only $2.50. I pass on the $4.25 bottle of Poland Spring water (normally 75 cents everywhere else except at sporting events and airports).

7:00 PM: Still no players on the ice as I begin to tackle the enormously large Cracker Jack bag. I wonder how we are going to get any pucks, as we are sitting near center ice and there is netting at both ends of the rink. However, the more important issue of the moment is finding the peanuts in the Cracker Jacks, which are conspicuously missing.

7:15 PM: The players finally come out to warm up. Noticeably absent is captain Mark Messier, who is serving the second game of his two-game suspension, and Tom Poti, who must have been injured. Jaromir Jagr skates around rather lazily, talking to the other team instead of practicing. I realize that I don’t know half the players on the Rangers.

7:20 PM: After getting a grand total of zero pucks, we make our way up to our actual seats. And what great seats they are, I just love the nosebleed section! Far above the ice, we have absolutely no view of the goal as it is directly below us. Taking charge, Mike decides we should move, and we do.

7:38 PM: The Garden crowd boos Sather during the presentaion of the Extra-Effort award by a parapeligic police officer who was injured in the line of duty. The crowd then focusses its negative energy on Rangers goalie Mike Dunham and the National Anthem singer before the puck is finally dropped and the game begins. These people have no shame.

8:00 PM: There’s a very loud drunk guy standing behind us, giving us his play-by-play of the game. The large number of empty seats in the lower portion of the Garden, coupled with the inane ramblings around us, leads Mike to decide that we should move down to the better seats. Upon leaving, Super Fan 2K4 quips, “Looks like we scared them away.” Right — or maybe it’s because there are $130 seats that are currently unoccupied.

8:05 PM: Our new seats are 100 times better than the nosebleed section. We are now sitting near a guy wearing a Czech jersey, a guy wearing a Red Wings jersey, and a guy wearing a Predators jersey. I was under the impression that there were no Nashville Predators fans. I guess I was wrong.

13:19, First Period: The Predators score, the people around us are cheering.

16:53, First Period: The Rangers score, the goal siren goes off, and Mike and I are among the very few who are celebrating the goal. “This is the deadest I’ve ever seen the Garden,” Mike says.

18:02, First Period: The Preds score again, and some girl in front us of starts waving a Finnish flag poster. Wow.

8:20 PM: During the first intermission, I go search for the nearest concession stand. With the food back up to full price, I throw down $7 on chicken fingers and French fries (still no drink). That’s only a tad more pricey than the Ivy Room. While I was away from my seat, some lucky idiot — err — fan wins a Mercedes C Class.

9:16, Second Period: Jagr displays why he is the highest paid player in the league, by scoring his 30th goal of the season. If only he could be on the ice for the entire 60 minutes.

8:45 PM: I’ve come to two realizations during the second period. One, the Rangers are a one-line team. Two, this chicken finger-fries combo was not worth the $7.

9:00 PM: During the second intermission, Rangers legend Vic Hadfield is signing autographs in the team store which, conveniently, is right by our seats. Upon further investigation, it appears you have to buy something in order to get Hadfield’s signature. The Rangers must be taking a lesson on nickel-and-diming from Cornell. Zing!

4:57, Third Period: Andreas Johansson scores for the Predators (as Linda Cohn would say, “Former Ranger, now good.”). Nashville leads 3-2.

18:13, Third Period: Nashville scores again and the entire Garden crowd rises to its feet and leaves the arena.

I returned home to catch the highlights of the game on SportsCenter, which lasted approximately 45 seconds. Looking at the game story on Yahoo, I see a picture of the girl with the Finnish flag, and the caption reads that Nashville player and fellow Finn Kimmo Timonen had given her his stick. The lesson of the night, as Mike aptly put it, is “We should have pretended to be Finns to get free stuff.”

Jonathan Auerbach is a Sun staff writer. I Never Kid will appear every other Tuesday this semester. Jon can be contacted at

Archived article by Jonathan Auerbach