You would think that it would be automatic: Chicago is playing against Philadelphia, Ranger fans root for Chicago. After all, the Flyers are a despicable divisional rival. But I'm finding that that isn't necessarily the case, for a bevy of reasons. Let's take a look at a few:
1- Philadelphia eliminated the Rangers on the last day of the regular season and saying that your team lost to the Stanley Cup champs is some kind of consolation prize.
2- East versus west, yo. Biggie 4eva man. Can't get all mushy for those left coast suckas. 2Pac got what was comin' to him, ya herd? Gotta stand by yer bros from da conference. Even if Chicago isn't particularly far west.
3- Chicago is the latest thing. After despising the mass of bandwagon fans in Pittsburgh and Washington, how can you jump to the Hawks now that their owner died and they got good? Most of the folks filling the "Madhouse on Madison" are making their first visits there right about now. If they can stick with the Cubs despite the magnitude of suckitude, why didn't they stick with the Hawks? You don't want to be like them, do you?
4- Duncan's Teeth don't match up to Lappy's bruised brain. Sure Duncan Keith lost seven teeth and still played 29 minutes but that is just what hockey players do ... they lose teeth. Mike Ricci, Bobby Clarke, etc. Ian Laperriere took a puck to the face that gave him a brain contusion, one that was going to end his season. But did the toughest player in the NHL let that happen? No. A month later he returned to the ice. And not only that, in the series-clinching win he was credited with two blocked shots.
5- The former Ranger factor. That Flyer warrior Laperriere? Played 28 games in a Blueshirt in 95-96 before being stupidly dealt away with Mattias Norstrom, Ray Ferraro, Nathan Lafayette and 4th round pick for Marty McSorley, Jari Kurri and Shane Churla. It was a foolish attempt to re-capture the 93-94 mercenary magic and it utterly failed. And, speaking of utter failures, Glen Sather and John Tortorella thought they needed to add some size to the fourth line last summer. So what did they do? Dealt a draft pick for project Brian Boyle. A project that clearly did not work out. To give Boyle a spot the dynamic duo let the penalty killing, faceoff winning fan favourite Blair Betts go. Unceremoniously at that. So, without a job on Broadway, Bettsy showed more heart than the entire ensuing Ranger roster and went to Flyer camp and earned himself a new gig.
Love Bettsy but then again, there are also many simple reasons to cheer for Sweet Home Chicago:
1- Original Six and the best sweater in the NHL that isn't a Blueshirt.
2- Rags to riches story, re-igniting the passion for pucks in a major city.
3- Toews, Kane, Byfuglien, Keith and Seabrook. And possible future Ranger Versteeg.
4- The Blues Brothers. C'mon, Hawks are on mission from gahd.
5- They aren't the Flyers.
As for me, I'm headed to the Finals as a member of the working media so I am not rooting for either team, just an exciting series of top flight hockey full of drama and passion.
*cough, cough, Chicago, cough, cough*
Which side will you be pulling for when the puck drops Saturday?