Wednesday, September 11, 2013

An Open Letter To Those At Camp 2013-14

Hello, and welcome to the New York Rangers,

There are some things you need to know before you get the 2013-2014 NHL season started as a member of the Broadway Blueshirts. I will attempt to lay them out for you to make your transition to New York easier. If you keep these in mind, your stay will be an enjoyable and, hopefully, productive one. Best of luck.

1- First and foremost, being a Ranger requires respect. Respect for your teammates. Respect for the jersey. Respect for the fans. Respect the Rangers. Everything else on this list falls under this dictum. Respect. It sounds simple, but it's not. It's a complete way of being that will require hard work but the payoff is virtually limitless - watch the tape of Eddie Giacomin's return with the Red Wings.

2 - Always, ALWAYS have your teammate's back, on the ice and off. Torts often refused retribution, instead preferring to turn his other obnoxious cheek. AV's Canuck squads didn't shy away from the rough stuff so be ready to use your size and protect your brothers - looking at you Boyle and Pyatt.

3 - Battle from whistle to whistle. No reprieve, no relenting, not for one second. Hockey is your job and we expect you to work while you are at the office. That is what is expected of you. Anything less - let up for just one moment of one shift - and the results will be disastrous. During that lapse a goal may be scored against the Rangers, or it may not. Either way, someone will notice - we Ranger fans pay attention and take this stuff quite seriously. The Blueshirts are the most scrutinized NHL team not in Canada, both by the media and by the fans. You do not want to let up in this town. At the same time, even if things aren't going your way - go without scoring for games at a time, whatever - if you are visibly working hard you will given a pass for quite a while ... just look at Boyle. You may look around at the "fans" down by the ice and see the nice clothes, the iPhones and the models, but don't be fooled: this is a blue collar fanbase that expects and appreciates hard work.

4 - Meet the fans, greet the fans. They are your best asset on the ice, better than any newfangled composite stick or heated skateblade. You may have played in the Garden in the past, you may have not. But you have never felt anything like it when you have 17,200 New Yorkers getting your back, helping you up, pushing you forward. Even the suits get into the action. But they get bored and the rest of us get ... merciless. This goes back to No. 3, if you don't show maximum effort, you will face the ire of the fans and trust me, you won't enjoy it. (I still hate you Poti!)

5 - Maximum effort is an understatement when the Islanders, Devils, Pens or Flyers are in town. Those are the times that you have to go above and beyond. There is no faster way to the hearts of the fans than through the franchise's biggest rivals. In this day and age of free agency (which may have brought you here), rivalries are harder to cling to for players - you may have friends and former teammates on the other side of the ice - but they are grossly important to the fans. Go out to dinner with your buds, go on vacation with them, whatever - from the second that puck drops, you had better be out for blood. Players come and go but that jersey that you pull on has been around for a long time and that means something. That Blueshirt comes with the baggage of hatred for wrongs past. It may sound petty, but it is a part of sporting life. And, if you use that hatred right - through the aforementioned hard work - then it is a very, very good thing.

6 - You know that quiet guy who is hanging around practice? The mild-mannered fellow with his name and number nine in the rafters. Listen to him. If he says something, it's for a reason. If he acts a certain way, it's for a reason. And that reason is always the betterment of the franchise and, frankly, the betterment of yourself as a person. Pay attention to Adam Graves. You will not find a better role model in your search for what it means to be a Ranger. There is a reason why he is beloved in this city, and what he did on the ice is only part of the explanation.

7 - Give not to temptation. New York never closes and there is fun to be had no matter what your vice may be. But if you give in to it, then you are breaking No. 1 on this list. There is a time and place for everything, and while you wear that jersey the time is not right for nefarious activities. Take a second to look up the sad case of Don Murdoch.

8 - While you are at it, spend some time reading up on the past. This season marks the 20th anniversary of 1993-94 - most of you guys were quite young so you could be forgiven for not quite grasping the magnitude of that championship. New York City WENT CRAZY. Make it lose its mind again. But do know, that '94 was one of four Cups collected here. Look it up. The more you read about the 87 year history of the franchise, the more you will understand just how important No. 1 on this list is. A lot of people have put their blood, sweat and tears into building the Rangers and the least you can do is know who they were.

9 - Don't be afraid to speak your mind because honesty is indeed the best policy. Silly, right? Not at all. When speaking to the media or to the press, one of the worse things you can do is speak in benign cliches - there is no such thing as 110%. You can only take things one game, or one day, at a time. And you don't always get the bounces. We know that; tell us how, tell us why. You can't be afraid to show your personality, because that is who you are and we want to know you. We want to root for you. We want to see you succeed.

10 - Don't believe the hype. There are a lot of people playing pundit, a lot of people shooting their (our) mouths off. Expectations have increased now that Tortorella's shackles have been taken off and those expectations will be difficult to meet. But that will come if you work hard, listen to the coaches and play your game to the best of your ability it is possible to reach the high bar that has been set.

This list may seem daunting, but you will be pulling on a Blueshirt and these are the things that come with the jersey.

Let's Go Rangers.

-Scotty Hockey

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Random Ranger Ruminations

With Traverse City starting tomorrow, I figured I'd throw up a quick post of some of the Ranger-related thoughts rattling around my head:

*On the prospect tournament, it will be quite intriguing to see how Lindberg and Fast handle the small ice. Fast handled it well the first time - scoring in his lone game with the Whale last spring - while Lindberg was simply outstanding in Sweden last season. Zip had a good look at the Ranger roster for the prospect tournament the other day. 

*Tickets in Traverse City are $10 a day. Just think about that ... damned shame Michigan is so far away. Sad that MSG is not broadcasting but not a surprise in the least, the Knicks have always been the favourite so the network spent their money going to Vegas instead.

*It is a shame the franchise is so fan-unfriendly. So many other teams are holding open camp dates and other events but the Blueshirts will be closed away in their Westchester country club facility. So the first chance we get to see them in NY is not until the home opener in months. Absence does not make the heart grow fonder, it makes New Yorkers more annoyed.

*However, if you are around and interested, Ryan McDonagh is doing a Steiner signing at Jack Doyle's on Saturday from 2-4 pm.

*Just how good can Danny Kristo be? And if he is as good as he has looked on the ice over the last season, will his off ice issues haunt him the way they did Don Murdoch 30-plus years ago? Kristo and the other kids have a real shot to make an impact with Hags and Cally out in the short term.

*But if they all disappoint, there are four seemingly capable vets to take the wing spots on the top two lines - Nash, Kreider, Zucc and Pouliot. Seeing as AV is a three-line coach, he could easily dress scrubs to get Stu Bickel minutes on the fourth line.

*This being the 20th anniversary of the famed 1994 Stanley Cup victory, what do you think the Rangers will do? Joey Kocur tweeted me a few months back that he expects to be back in NYC for a ceremony. However they decide to honor the lone Cup in the last 73 years, I just hope it happens on Saturday, November 30th. The Rangers' opponent that afternoon? Vancouver.

*It is interesting how many correlations there are between the defensemen AV handled in Vancouver and the ones on the Blueshirt blueline in terms of style. Willie Mitchell/Dan Girardi, Kevin Bieksa/Ryan McDonagh, Sami Salo/Marc Staal - ok, in their inability to stay healthy, not their games - Christian Ehrhoff/Del Zaster. It will be interesting to see if John Moore can turn into Alex Edler …

*If Dylan McIlrath doesn't make the big club - I hope he does but I highly doubt it - who the hell is going to provide the toughness for the team? Haley doesn't belong in the NHL, Asham was waived (I'll really miss him), Boyle can't fight and Pyatt loses his gloves just once a season. That leaves Derek Dorsett, who is a lightweight that has gotten housed by other tough guys. Love, love his heart, but many of his fights are just painful to watch (like this one).

*How painful will it be to watch Del Zaster? He should be even more exposed than he was in the past as his partner and the forwards on the ice with him won't be collapsing as quickly under AV's system.

*Why the hell is Boyle still on the roster? If Sather is to be believed, there was interestfrom other teams in the oversized waste of space - so why not trade him? Dominic Moore, if he has his head back in the game, is 10 times the player Boyle is. So why keep Boyle around?

*That is, unless Sather is keeping him around as an insurance policy should Step hold out and not play this fall or somehow end up elsewhere … I'm sure plenty of other teams would love to have him. It isn't terribly farfetched to see Minnesota putting out an offer sheet for the hometown kid. And they could then move some money out of town to fit him in: Heatley is in the last season of a massive deal and Pominville is in the last year of his contract - I bet a terrible franchise like the Islanders could use either/both of them. Let's just pray the kid capitulates and takes the bridge deal.

*Getting more and more nervous about how much the new bridges will obstruct the view inside MSG for folks like myself in the nosebleeds. Ranger staff have tried to reassure me that the view of the ice will be fine but others who have been inside have warned me to prepare for an opening night rant to my rep.

*That being said, she was quite accommodating for the Yankee Stadium games so a big thanks and a hat tip to her for that. Speaking of the Stadium Series matches, how soon until the Rangers unveil the sweaters they will wear? You have to figure they will be out in time for Christmas, right?

*MSG broadcasts could look quite different this fall. The staff on camera should be the same (dammit, Joe is due back), but the guys behind the scenes have changed. Longtime producer Joe Whelan left before last season (thus the poorly timed promotions during the spring) and this campaign will be without director Bobby Lewis. Lewis worked at MSG for 40 years and called the shots for Ranger games for 30 of them. And, I must say, he did a helluva job and definitely will be missed.

*Finally, on the retirement topic, yet again I'm wavering as to keeping this blog thing alive - at least in its usual form. While the schedule not being so compressed will help, last season was such a burnout that I currently have zero interest in doing nightly recaps. Of course, I felt the same the last few seasons and, when the puck hit ice, my blood started boiling and I had to rant somewhere. So we'll just have to see, stay tuned!