New York Rangers and MSG Deliver Terrific Fan Experience
Over the years, I have been fortunate enough to attend the “big four” major professional sporting events. As much fun as it is watching an MLB, NBA, and NFL game is in person, nothing compares to the live experience of the NHL. However, being in Madison Square Garden, the Mecca of professional sports to watch a New York Rangers game is the ultimate fan experience.
Sunday night, I had chance to return to The Garden to watch my beloved Rangers host their division rivals, the New Jersey Devils. It was the first time I had been back to MSG in nearly 15 years, and the arena did not resemble what I remembered. That is because a billion dollar renovation that took three years to complete and was finished in 2013. What made this experience so great was that I was able to share it with my wife and four year old son, and we all donned our blue Rangers hockey jerseys.
As we walked into the arena, fans like us wearing their Rangers jerseys were everywhere. MSG also had a buzz of electricity since the team was tied for first place in their division. The Rangers have added some impressive computerized special effects to the team’s entrance before the start of every period. The video board transforms into a frozen block of ice, which then breaks apart depicting their logo before the Rangers return from their locker room. We found our seats in the second level in one corner of the arena and to the left of the goal. Rangers’ fans are some of the most vocal in the NHL. There were plenty of “Let’s Go Rangers” chants and The Garden blasted a mix of classic rock music during play stoppages with a live organist. Another longtime New York Rangers tradition, the “Potvin Sucks” chant was alive and well. The backstory on how it became an MSG fixture during Rangers home games is a story in itself.
In 1979, the Rangers were one of the best teams in the league and the team featured a young, goal-scoring forward by the name of Ulf Nilsson. Late in the season in a game against the rival New York Islanders, Nilsson suffered a broken ankle after he was blindsided by a hit from Islanders defenseman Dennis Potvin. Rangers fans hated the Islanders and they immediately started chanting "Potvin Sucks" after the play. Now, more than 35 years later, the Potvin Sucks chant lives on at every Rangers home game. It starts off with a fan whistling loud enough to be heard throughout the arena. As soon as the whistling stops, all of the Rangers fans join in unison join and yell out "Potvin Sucks."
The game was a route and the Rangers shut out the Devils 5-0. Despite the lopsided score, the fans never stopped cheering the home team on to victory and most stayed until the final play of the game. It is tradition after hockey games to watch the three stars of the game skate out to center ice while the home crowd salutes them. All three stars were Rangers players and the fans went home happy. Some of those diehards were on our subway ride home, and we celebrated the win with them.