On July 30th, a couple decades plus some ago, I was born in a hospital in Manhasset, NY. My family resided in Merrick at the time with my dad originally from Brooklyn and my mom from Bethpage. Including my siblings, we were all NY born and bred.
Unfortunately for me, my family was in the process of moving when I was born. Four weeks later we relocated to the small town of Newtown, Connecticut. Then to the midwest four years later.
Many moves later, here I am, a die-hard New York sports fan on my own and currently residing in the sunny city of St. Petersburg, Florida, right next to Tampa. I have been a transplanted fan my entire life, a Rangers/Giants/Mets/Knicks fan always repping my teams from a thousand miles away.
The life of a transplanted Rangers fan
Many people don’t know what it is like to be in my shoes. After all, the majority of transplanted New Yorkers nowadays did live there at one point in their life. I guess four weeks can count but it is not like I remember my time as a weeks-old infant on the Island.
Being a New Yorker by association and developing my fandom from afar has brought about a different emotional connection to my teams than most people, my favorite of those of course being the Rangers. Being a dedicated fan from afar really tests your ability to stay devoted. I’ve rarely had the luxury of developing those memories of home games that typically bring a fan so much closer to their teams.
I’ve seen one home Rangers game in my life, in 2015 when Mats Zuccarello scored his first career hat-trick against the Leafs. I’ve seen one Mets home game, a 14-2 loss to the Cubs in the early summer of 2017. Thanks, Zack Wheeler for that one. And I’ve seen one home Giants game, a 17-0 loss to the Titans in 30 degree weather with freezing rain back in the winter of 2018. OBJ didn’t play in that one either. All of those games required flights to attend them.
It can be discouraging, being as emotionally connected to these teams as other fans but not having the ability to experience it first hand in those home environments. But I would argue that having to keep my devotion all these years from many miles away in different regions of the country has made my connection to the Rangers and my other teams even stronger.
Great sports memories from afar
My greatest Rangers and NY sports memories came during my time living in Jacksonville, Florida. In fact, I pretty much grew up there, having lived there for 11 years of my life.
I saw the Giants win two Super Bowls there, best part was getting to rub it in to the Jags fans there who wouldn’t know what a Super Bowl feels like if it punched them in the face. But go Jags too, I guess? I also got to see the Mets dominate their way through the 2015 NLCS while living in Jacksonville, that was amazing.
But I will always so profoundly remember those Florida evenings watching Rangers playoff hockey with my old man in our family room. Whether it was our celebrations after St. Louis’ OT game five winner in the ECF or Stepan’s OT series-clincher against the Caps, or even the 25 minutes of heartbreaking silence in the wee hours of the morning following our loss in the SCF, my most memorable Rangers memories have come hundreds of miles away from where the team calls home.
Thee hardest part of being a transplanted Rangers fan, specifically growing up in Florida was the awareness aspect. Many children in Florida don’t even know what hockey is. I had a friend on my block who I often hung out with after school and during summers. One time I asked him if he wanted to play hockey on my driveway. I had a net and ironically my hockey stick was a hand-me-down from my brother that I had attached a blade to, it was originally a broken stick that Islander Derek King had thrown in the stands of the Coliseum that my brother had caught and taken home.
My friends response to the proposal of playing hockey was, “What’s hockey?”
I was dumbfounded. I honestly didn’t believe that there were people who didn’t know what hockey was. I was too young at that time to realize that hockey was not popular in the south like it is in the north.
I proceeded to teach him how to play and shoot, and we had a good time after that. I was obviously better, which frustrated him, but that was to be expected. But that was a real eye opener to me, that I was a bit of an outlier.
In Tampa, they know hockey. The sport has grown tremendously there since the Lightning hoisted the Cup in 2004. In South Florida, they kind of know hockey, all 17 Panther fans that exist I mean. But in Jacksonville, a city with one pro-sports team and no hockey team, it was a culture shock.
Jacksonville has since received a hockey team, the Jacksonville Icemen, a member of the ECHL. And they’ve taken well to having a hockey team which is nice to see.
Everyone has a different experience as it pertains to their fandoms and how they develop. But being a die-hard Rangers fan from afar and repping the team, even in areas where people couldn’t even understand what sport I was repping, has brought me so much closer to Rangerstown than I could have ever thought possible. Of course, one day I would love to return to my roots and be a true New Yorker, catching games every month. But that may have to wait a bit.
Let’s Go Rangers
So, here we are, exactly two weeks out from getting to see our Rangers back in the playoffs after a couple years of watching from the couch. What we must remember is that we fans are the harshest critics and the fiercest supporters of our team. So if you’re a Rangers fan in New York, or in Florida like myself, or maybe out west, or even over in Europe, it doesn’t matter.
Rangers playoff hockey is back baby, let’s come together and show people that we are the best fan base across the league. Lets Go Rangers! WE WANT THE CUP.