These days, we often hear that fighting is down in hockey. Personally, I am very grateful that there are many fewer times that I hear the old joke, that “I went to fight last night, and a hockey game broke out.” Of course, as you know, if this description was ever close to true (it wasn’t), it is very far from the reality of today’s game. We have the league to thank for this, for, in changing how the game is played, scraps are way down, and we rarely find ourselves debating whether fighting is or is not the rare necessity.
One hockey certainty, however, is that the game is a rough and tough one, played at very high speed by brave men and women. But last night, there was a different kind of bravery on display at Madison Square Garden. It was Hockey Fights Cancer Night, and the Rangers, who were hosting the Arizona Coyotes, joined with the Garden of Dreams Foundation to make everyone in attendance focus on more than just the hockey game itself.
Sure, the Rangers were glad to take home the 3-2 win, but there was a lot more meaning at MSG last night than just the game on the ice. As part of the awareness proceedings, the Rangers first came out for warmups in lavender Rangers Hockey Fights Cancer jerseys and sticks (which are in the process of being auctioned off). Then the team had Stephanie Consiglio, a child cancer survivor, drop the first puck, and had Caroline Watters, a teen survivor, sing an outstanding rendition of the national anthem. During the game, the Rangers also highlighted GardenVision appearances of children currently fighting many different types of cancer.
Not to be left out, all the other fans in attendance were encouraged to participate. They were invited and encouraged to write in names of loved ones they either lost to or were currently battling cancer on placards, which read,“I fight for……..” The response of the fans was amazing, and when the GardenVision focused on whole sections, they raised their placards, showing thousands of names and messages. The effect was breathtaking (and at times, heartbreaking).
It was inspiring to be in attendance, watching the off-ice bravery last night. The game on the ice, however, was mediocre at best. The Coyotes seemed out of synch all night, and the Rangers, in the second game of a back-to-back, seemed slow to get started. It did not help that the lines and pairs were mix and match, as Chris Kreider was out with neck spasms, Pavel Buchnevich went on the IR to allow for the return of Oscar Lindberg, and Dan Girardi returned from a groin strain. The Rangers did seem to play a more up-tempo style in the third period, when they got the game winning goal on a strong shot from Girardi (with an assist from his third-pairing partner, Brady Skjei), but, overall, the game was not the best performance by either team.
However, the night has to be considered a success. New York got the two points it needed, and all of us got a reminder of a fight there is no debate about–the fight against cancer.
And, as for me–I fight for my good friend, Mary Kay, who is currently battling pancreatic cancer.