I was so excited when I saw that the New York Rangers were running an essay contest. I’m a writer and a passionate Rangers fan, so it was right up my alley. Only problem – the 1,000 word limit. I’m just a bit verbose – to say the least – and it wasn’t easy to slice off the extra fifty (give or take) words. So, I copied what I had written and emailed it to myself. I had plenty of time. Only, I guess I didn’t. With my first book coming out next week, I had a ton of promotions work and was away the week of the contest deadline with extremely limited Internet access. I tried to post from my phone on a monorail back from Disney. Didn’t work. Early the next morning – what I thought was the deadline day, according to the rules – I clicked on the link to submit my entry. The contest was closed and I was devastated. In the writing contests I’ve entered a deadline date has always meant that one can submit up until 11:59 PM that night. This contest must have closed at 12:01 am. I was so mad at myself that I didn’t submit in advance and literally felt sick when I realized that it was too late. And, my kids were very upset with me too.
So…never one to let an essay I worked hard on go to waste, I decided to post it on my blog. (Full disclosure – I stole some bits below from my previous Rangers essays, but I also wrote new stuff and since there’s no word limit, I left the extra stuff in, plus a bit more.) I also shared the photos I was going to submit….
How I Became a Rangers Fan
Just one thing stands out in my hazy memories of early childhood – my love of hockey and the New York Rangers. I have been a rabid Rangers fan since I was merely four years old. That love was no doubt sparked by my older brother dressing me up in hockey pads and shooting pucks at me. It was cemented by watching games with him on our boxy, rabbit-eared TV in the seventies. I remember being heartbroken when the Rangers were knocked out of the playoffs by the Islanders in 1983 after sweeping the Flyers in the first round. In seventh grade I cut out newspaper pictures from all of the games and wrote articles to accompany them, keeping all of the pages in a neat blue binder with a Rangers sticker on the front. While other girls read Tiger Beat, I read The Hockey News. When I went to the mall, I would head first to the newsstand to see if there were any hockey magazines I could snap up, praying that my favorite player, Don Maloney, would be featured.
I thought I had died and gone to heaven when the Rangers were featured in a Sasson ad. That ad hung on my wall, along with a poster of Ron Duguay, his curls flying behind him, until I went to college. A button featuring Don Maloney was fastened to the cord of the air conditioner next to my bed, only because I couldn’t find a poster of him. Don Maloney was my first crush. I figured a mere ten years between us meant nothing, even though I was only fourteen years old at the time. I got to meet him twice. The first time he handed me a puck over the glass at a Rangers’ practice at Rye Playland (I still have it) and the next time, he ran over my foot while I waited for his autograph. It’s not really as terrible as it sounds – his car kind of rolled over my foot. When someone alerted him and he apologized profusely, I simply said, “I love you!” Poor guy must have thought I was nuts. I don’t think I even felt the pain until I got in the car – the sheer thrill of Don Maloney actually speaking to me was a powerful anesthetic. My favorite gift from my college sweetheart was an authentic Don Maloney #12 jersey with a fighting strap. It didn’t matter that Don Maloney had long since left the Rangers and was finishing up a tenure with arch rival Islanders. I loved that jersey and still have it hanging in my closet.
The beauty of hockey captured my imagination even more as I entered my teenage years. I was mesmerized by gorgeous tic-tac-toe plays, slappers from the circle, a spin and a rocket from the high slot… By the time I reached high school, I possessed an encyclopedic knowledge of the Rangers. At my brother’s wedding when I was fourteen years old, I was a sort of party trick. His friends rattled off jersey numbers and I told them the players who wore them – “#2 – Tom Laidlaw; #3 – Barry Beck” and so on. No one could stump me.
Any guy I have ever been with needed to understand that hockey – and my fierce love of it and the Rangers – is as much a part of me as the blood flowing through my veins. They also needed to understand that they better not talk to me when the Rangers are on, because I likely won’t hear a word they say and I may even turn the TV up to drown them out. I’ve imparted a love of hockey to my three boys and when they get mad at me, I pull out the trump card. How many of your friends’ moms know what the difference between boarding and charging is? How many of them know the motions for a cross check penalty and a hold penalty? How many of them know all of the words to the Canadian National Anthem and can recognize John Amirante’s voice after a two second snippet of the Star Spangled Banner on the radio? I’m pretty sure the answer is, “None.”
I feel grateful that I have hockey to bond with my boys over. Even my teenagers hug me when our boys in blue score. And, I’ve even passed on my love of The Hockey News to my 10 year old. I bought him the rivalry issue and he’s read it cover to cover, more than once. My boys and I scream, cheer, give high fives and hug each other during the many games we watch together. We were jumping up and down and hugging in the middle of Universal CityWalk on our vacation every time I got a phone alert that the Rangers scored during their amazing comeback against the Islanders on February 16th. I only wish that I could share with them what my dad and I shared – at least a few games a season throughout my teens, always sitting in section 314. I cherish those memories more now that my dad is gone.
I’ve cultivated a love of hockey and the Rangers in my kids since they were old enough to – well, since they were born. I don’t really remember a time that I didn’t push my hockey agenda. I told my Boston born-and-bred husband that he could get our kids for all the other sports – baseball (Red Sox), basketball (Celtics) and football (Patriots), but I get them for hockey – the most glorious sport of all. Plus, I could never raise Bruins fans.
But, it’s about more than my love of hockey. The Rangers have made my life better in more ways than I could have imagined when I first became obsessed as a little girl decades ago. For one thing, I learned to skate. First I took up figure skating, but abandoned it for “power” skating when I was sixteen years old. It was faster, more exciting and being adept at it let me work as an men’s intramural hockey referee in college (still one of the coolest jobs I’ve ever had). I’m not even getting into the effect Rangers reporter, John Giannone, has had on my son, but you can read about it here: The Power of Kindness and here: The Power of Kindness Part 2.
Hockey, and in particular the Rangers, also taught me that in order to achieve greatness, you need to practice, work hard and sometimes endure more than your fair share of setbacks and defeat. I love that by watching the Rangers, my kids take away lessons in courage, heart, resiliency and never giving up. To me being a Rangers fan is so much more than just a game – it’s a way to live your life.
Clockwise: Photo of me and two of my boys with Rangers reporter, John Giannone; photo of me and two of my boys with Adam Graves; photo of me and Ron Duguay; photo of my three boys with Jeff Beukeboom.