This is the typical ride I’ve taken the last 5 years since I moved to New Jersey. It’s long but the train is much like the quiet before the storm, and I expect the energy in the building tonight to be as high as any home game this season. Additionally, I will be experiencing suite level treatment for the first time and the ticket is free, so there is no denying the expectations for tonight are high.
While riding the train, I often think about everything I love about being a hockey fan. Being a hockey fan for me (and probably most of you) is more than a rooting interest; it’s a commitment to a lifestyle. And if you are a Rangers fan, it’s a lifestyle born on traditions. Traditions that are celebrated by 18,200 people one night at a time.
Traditions by definition are rituals, beliefs or customary patterns of behavior passed down within a society from the past and maintained in present. Reading that statement, there is no word that more appropriately characterizes the lifestyle of a New York Rangers fan.
Some traditions are variable. For example, if the guy in your section is wearing a Penguins jersey with #87 on the back tonight, you better believe he is going to hear it all night. Whether it’s “Cindy Crosby” or “Sidney’s a girls name” (choose your own favorite) he better be prepared for 60 minutes of it. In comparison, if a guy is wearing a Devils jersey with #30 on the back when New Jersey comes into the Garden, he is going to hear “Mar-ty” over and over and over again.
Other traditions are engrained into the game itself. These traditions include the “Let’s Go Rangers” chant into the national anthem, anticipating the “Potvin Sucks” chant, and knowing the guy dancing in the 400s is “Dancing Larry”. All of these elements combine to create the most unique and exciting sporting event in New York.
As the train pulls into the station and I make my way up to the main entrance, I contact my cousin and she lets me know to meet her outside the Suite entrance. She and I enter the building, while her boyfriend stays outside awaiting the arrival of his friends. Walking to the suite elevators and up onto the 10th Floor feels more like an event than the hockey game. The floors are carpeted and the people are dressed like they are going into a Manhattan Dance Club. I feel even more and more awkward as we walk toward the Suite and realize that I am the only fan wearing any Rangers apparel.
The suite is just to the Rangers side of center ice facing the benches. I look down the row of suites to the left and can see the Geico Studio Suite. I’m tempted to go down and take a peak into the suite, but don’t want to be that guy. As the guests pour in and game time approaches, I realize it will be difficult to give the penguins fans the business when you are 4 Floors about the rest of the fans, but we'll have to make due with waiter service and private bathrooms.
Much like the Flyers game, fights break out immediately and as expected, the game intensity is much like the playoffs. Henrik punches a guy in the face with the glove hand in front of his net and its official; this is not another regular season game. I can’t remember the last time I saw Henrik that upset and even though the Pens score on the power play, you know the Rangers are into this game.
Between periods, the suite level is much more relaxing than the concourses in the arena. The waiter service, private bathrooms and televisions probably contribute to that environment. I keep one eye on the Capitals Blues game and one eye on the Garden Vision, waiting for the second period to start. Prior to the second period, my cousin mentions we haven’t heard a “Potvin Sucks” chant yet. I am unsure if it was lost in the excitement of the 1st period or we just can’t hear them regularly from the 10th Floor.
The second period starts and ends also immediately as the Rangers explode for four goals and take a commanding lead. Even though a late goal dampens the excitement slightly, this game feels like it’s the Rangers to win. But just as I start to think that, the Pens score to open the 3rd Period and the dreaded three-goal lead appears to be flashing its ugly head again. As each minute passes, the fans get more and more anxious, awaiting the next big turning point. The quiet during the TV timeouts makes it feel more like a playoff game.
Just as you think the tuning point has arrived and the Rangers get not one, but two, five-on-three man advantages, they fail to score and the fans begin to wonder if the Rangers can hang on for the win. In the final seconds Gaborik misses the empty net. I look up and see five seconds left, I exhale.
The Rangers win a tough game and earned it in my opinion. As we finish our drinks and discuss the game, I look down into the arena from the 10th Floor. Just 10 minutes after the game, the arena looks too empty. Like the game was never played. I check my watch and decide its time to get downstairs and catch the train home. Leaving the suite, it’s a mob scene at the elevators. But with three elevators, we make it downstairs without much fanfare and make way to the train for the ride home.
Overall, the Suite Level experience and game met my expectations. The Rangers brought it tonight and the Suite is perfect for an occasional visit, especially when the tickets are free.
But for me, I can’t wait for the next game in my partial plan. Thursday, December 8th versus Tampa Bay from Section 110. How I ended up in Section 110 this season is another story for another day, but over the course of this season, I will be documenting the season as seen from my point-of-view. There will be no analysis of the players or game; and no criticism of the coach or officials. It will simply be the experiences of a fan, the average partial plan holder.