Not too long ago, Madison Square Garden was a hostile place to play for visiting NHL hockey teams. One hockey legend is that the NHL instituted a rule for arenas to play music after the whistles to drown out Rangers fans’ cheers, jeers, obscenities and anything else raining down from the crowd. In recent years, it’s sad to admit those days are gone. Those days need to come back again. The sooner, the better.
The Madison Square Garden crowd nowadays generally waits to be entertained rather than generate the atmosphere. If the Rangers do not score a goal within the first couple of minutes in any given game, the crowd generally goes quiet. It can be felt while attending the game and also on television broadcasts. A lot of the reasoning I hear for it is that ticket prices “price out the real fans” or that the newly built Chase Bridge absorbs a lot of the sound from circulating as it should. Whatever the case is, it should take a collective effort from every fan in the building to make their presence felt throughout the game. It’s easy to cheer for goals, but where is the emotional pick me up for the Rangers players when they are struggling to find their game? Where is the energy from the crowd to help them push through the rough patches in any given game? Where is the hostile environment to rattle a visiting team and make MSG a tough place to play? Ryan McDonagh spoke in an interview recently about the Rangers feeding off of our home crowd the way Montreal feeds off of theirs. I think it means more to the players than some fans want to recognize.
Before I go further into my point of view, I want to give a little background on myself. I am a New York Rangers fan of over 23 years. To date, I have seen the Rangers play games in 19 different sports venues, 18 of which were hockey arenas and 16 current arenas. Tampa, Washington, Minnesota, Montreal, Philadelphia, LA, San Jose, Chicago, Boston, Carolina, Islanders (both Long Island and Brooklyn), New Jersey, Columbus, Carolina, Anaheim, Detroit and of course MSG. Add on one of the outdoor Stadium Series games in Yankee Stadium. I have been to everything from regular season games to playoff games both in MSG and visiting arenas. I do not claim to be a hockey guru, but I have seen a lot of different arenas in my time. All of those experiences helped me gain a lot of different perspectives and viewpoints.
This year, I went to Minnesota for the Rangers-Wild game. I was amazed by how collectively the crowd would react to everything from big saves and big hits to faceoff wins and losses and PK clears of the puck. They had chants, cheers and were very vocal throughout the game and the home crowd stood up collectively multiple times of the game, which in MSG is a big no-no for some fans. This game was a 3-2 Rangers victory. Not exactly a high offensive game. It was an amazing experience that I would love for MSG to instill in their game experience.
On top of the example above, Tampa, Pittsburgh, Chicago, Boston, Montreal, Los Angeles, Anaheim and San Jose really get the fans roaring throughout the game, all to different degrees but they make their presence felt. Another example is in Nashville. Although I have never been to the arena in Nashville, during last year’s playoffs, I watched a lot of their games. Over the TV broadcast, you could feel the crowd noise and high level. Announcers would mention that the crowd cheered for the entire TV timeouts and there would be footage to support it. That is what I wish life was like at MSG and hope it will be one day. I want people to view our crowd in that light all over the country.
One more thought on Tampa. Ben Bishop is known to have trouble in loud arenas. He has come out and essentially said as much. In the 2015 ECFs, the Rangers team was able to put up 17 goals in Tampa (loud arena) in 3 games and 4 goals in MSG (quiet arena) in 4 games, 2 of which were shutouts.
That is some of many examples I can list. Of all the arenas I have been to, I rate MSG in the middle of the pack as far as crowd atmosphere goes. I have been to games at MSG where I was yelled at by other Rangers fans for chanting “LET’S GO RANGERS” too much, told to sit down when big plays happen and all types of instances that are odd for a hockey game setting. The 100 level is the No Fun zone and sadly, it has curbed mine and many other fans’ gaming experience as a hockey fan in that building.
The New York Rangers have had a better road record than home record 3 out of the last 4 years. Totals of 99-54-11 road record against 93-54-17 at home. In the playoffs, it’s 14-12 on the road against 12-15 at home over the same time. Doesn’t seem like much, but imagine how much better they would be with an actual home ice advantage.
In writing this, it isn’t for every Rangers fan. To generalize an entire fanbase is silly. Not every single fan falls into this category. Also, the players are ultimately accountable for everything that happens on the ice. They control everything that happens on the ice. I believe all of our fans can make an impact on the Rangers home production. It certainly wouldn’t make them any less effective on the ice. It would only help them.
What I wish for is for every Rangers fan’s presence to be felt. Everyone’s voice to be heard. Instead of asking for a refund on “poor” performances, get your money’s worth by leaving it all out there. Leave the building with a sore throat and/or tired from bouncing around going nuts. Make MSG a hostile environment for any visiting team to come play. Rattle the cage with noise levels that would rival any other arena in hockey. Bring in whatever noise makers that you are allowed to bring. if you have to. Make noise. whether it’s 3-0 or 0-3. Collectively, we can all bring the magic back to the Garden, but it takes all of us to get there.
Calling all Blueshirts… GET LOUD!!!!