Before I had the privilege to cover the local teams including the New York Rangers, I was a part-time season ticket holder. Before the beautifully renovated Madison Square Garden my spot was up in section 409 standing along the rail with the die-hard fans. When the playoffs came, you could barely breath up there it was so hot. The small pathways to walk back and forth and brush against fellow Rangers fans is where you wanted to be.
Fast forward to today, the day of game four of the 2017 Stanley Cup Playoffs, here I am writing and preparing to cover tonight’s game as a member of the media. From my point of view a lot has changed around the Garden since I was standing up there with my fellow patrons.
Don’t get me wrong, on Sunday night the crowd was buzzing for sure but only during the National Anthem. It’s been talked about of how the Garden use to be a place of fear for opponents but now it has become non-existent. It was interesting to see in an article in today’s New York Post, Montreal Canadiens forward Max Pacioretty basically said he doesn’t think the crowd at MSG was as loud and into the game as it was back in the 2014 Eastern Conference finals, the year the Rangers went to the Cup finals.
Just the other night, sitting up in the press box, a colleague of mine and I were talking about how quickly the crowd was out of the game and it was a struggle to get them into it with the Rangers mediocre play. If this was a few years ago when ticket prices were affordable it may have been a different story. That is certainly the problem. Speaking to a few Blueshirts fans, a select few who are still able to make the small mortgage payment to have their playoff seats have voiced their frustrations. One fan by the name of Lou tearfully is giving up his season tickets after thirty-plus years due to rising cost per game.
Sporting events around the New York area is pricing out the average fan and their family to please the business-like crowd. All you see in the lower bowl of the Garden are the guys in suits glued to their phones and not really into the game itself. The real fans have been cheated a chance to root for their team in the most critical time of the season. When you have opposing players commenting on the fact the crowd isn’t into the game as they should be should give you the glaring answer of how badly the James Dolan management have outpriced the die-hard fan.
Another furious fan who goes by the name of Mark, voiced his opinion after the frustrating loss of game 3 by saying, “I just can’t believe the lack of shots, hits and overall effort. Although it falls mostly on the players to perform, part of the blame is on the so-called crowd but that is the fault of Dolan and Garden management who’ve now successfully priced out the loyal fans out of the playoffs. I mean $180 for the worst seats in the place for round one? Then they wonder why there’s no home ice advantage when you’ve sold out the beer and pretzel crowd for the wine and cheese crowd”.
The average fan who just wants to sit in the Garden rooting for the team they live and die with can no longer do it. That same fan even went on to say that Henrik Lundqvist deserves so much more than the effort we’ve seen from the team in front of him and feel the Rangers should give him a chance to win a cup somewhere else before he hangs the goalie pads up for good.
Nonetheless, the frustration is not only building among the players who must put up a better effort in game 4 tonight but the fans who have been pushed out are getting frustrated. The window for the Rangers could be closing and to be three wins from raising the Cup just three years ago, you have to feel for the suffering fan. Tonight, the crowd needs to be at its loudest and help push the Rangers to tie this series heading back to Montreal otherwise it will be a second straight first round exit for the Blueshirts.