By Jimmy Cunningham, howiGit New York Writer, Manhattan, NY
My name is J-bone, and I am a hockey fan. Yes I know, the Bruins fans I taunted last year are probably laughing but it is true. I made a conscience decision to be a Rangers fan this year and it turns out it was a great decision.
Hockey had never been a major part of my life. I never played it. My family did not really have a favorite hockey team. Simply put, other sports were more important. I do remember watching some Rangers Stanley Cup games in ’94 but it really did not mean that much to me. The Rangers were a mess through most of my high school and college years, and going to school in Philly would not allow me to watch the games even if I wanted to. After school I began to be the type that watched the standings and picked up the team once playoffs started, but I never really invested myself into a full season of hockey. But after really watching the Rangers in last years playoffs and seeing the joy of the brand new Bruins fans last year I decided to really follow the Rangers this year, and I am so glad that I did.
I obviously picked a good year to start following the team up. With HBO 24/7 featuring the Rangers and Flyers this year I really got to know the team, not just by watching almost every game, but by seeing how the boys interacted in the locker room and on the ice. The show displayed that this was a fun group, whether it be by some seemingly over-served players at their Christmas party or the Broadway Hat tradition. It also showed that these guys really have each others back, most prominently displayed when Michael Del Zotto got sucker punched against the Coyotes, and while Del Zotto was getting stitched up he asked “Who jumped in for me” – it was not a question of “if someone” jumped in, he already knew someone did.
The Rangers are not only a fun team to watch, they are good. They are tough, they fight, they block shots, and they always play hard. These are qualities that trickle from the top of the team down, with the coach John Tortorella and one of the best captains in the game Ryan Callahan leading the way. They are not a high scoring team but they do have some fun players on offense to watch in Marian Gaborik, Brad Richards, and Carl Hagelin. They also have the best goalie in the game this year and someone I have developed an embarrassingly huge man crush on in Henrik Lundqvist.
The Rangers go into these playoffs as the number one seed in the east and play the Ottawa Senators in the 1st round. Being the number one seed does not mean they are the favorites however, as Vegas currently has the Penguins as the favorite to win the east. Many analysts are calling for a 1st round upset due to the Senators winning the series during the regular season, the Rangers occasional lack of scoring, and the Rangers losing 3 of the last 4. I do think the 1st series will be tough but I believe the Rangers are too tough to bow out in the first round. After that who knows how everything is going to play out. I do know I will be watching, and for the first time not trying to figure out who is actually on the team, but cheering hard for the team I have been following all year.