Editorial: What Happened to the Ranger Faithful?

My view from the Suites at MSG (5/5/14)

My view from the Suites at MSG (5/5/14)

There I was strolling into Madison Square Garden. Outside the place was rocking as I made my way through a sea of blue. The Rangers and MSG spared no expense to generate excitement. From “Hockey House” to the band playing live in front of it, the buzz was electric.

This was my first visit to the “Newly Transformed Madison Square Garden” for a hockey game. Last year, I had seen a majority of the changes but it was still unfinished. The CHASE BRIDGE was still under construction at the time. Walking into MSG, I will say this; the Garden is gorgeous and it’s State of the Art – Top Notch, all the way.

I was invited to attend the Blueshirt Nation suite and was blown away by it’s spaciousness and comfort. The food was also excellent, much better then many of the concessions stands below. This was going to be exciting.

Then the game began and it was an auspicious beginning. The Garden rocked as the Rangers were announced and John Amirante sang the Star Spangled Banner. It was time, “Let’s Go Rangers”.

At first the crowd was into it, but I started to realize something was off. Before the game started, the arena was like an ocean of blue, as each seat was adorned with a Rangers tee-shirt. Looking down, I realized more greys and blacks then any other color. Yes, the occasional familiar blue of the Rangers jersey was scattered about, but not what I expected for a playoff game.

As the Rangers continued to fail time and time again on the power play the crowd became more listless. Solitary voices rang out “Let’s Go Rangers”, followed by a disjointed chant that sputtered out quicker the Rangers man advantage. What happened to my Garden? What happened to the Ranger Faithful?

They were priced out, plain and simple. I held NYR season tickets for 10 years. My seats went from $36 a piece to $68 in just 3 years time before I gave them up. The playoffs were another story, as the total cost for 16 playoff games would match the 44 (41 + 3 exhibition) tickets that comprised the season.

I recall, when I was just 23, I put my name on the long waiting list for season tickets. I remember when I got the call to purchase them. The year was 2000 and I was now the proud owner of 2 seats, my price at the time in the old blue section was $23 each.

Finally in 2010, I had to give them up. A growing family and a bad economy meant I had to make a decision. I wavered back and forth for a month, the deal breaker was when my rep told me that due to the renovations, they couldn’t guarantee my center ice seats after the remodeling was done.

So now, I go about two to three times a season. I’ve noticed every year since 2011, the sound and feel of MSG growing quieter. Less and less of those wearing Ranger jerseys in favor of something more fashionable on the weekends or suits during the week.

More celebrities make cameos nowadays too. Even B and C listers make it on Garden Vision. Just less and less of those that bleed Rangers Blue. When those few Faithful get up and yell their displeasure or show their passion, they are met with bewildered and condescending eyes.

Is it any wonder why the Rangers home record hasn’t been what it used to be back in the 90’s? The Garden is not a hard place to play. A sound road game takes the crowd out easily. Thanks to corporations who buy out the majority of the lower bowl and the advent of wifi technology. The casual fan can simply turn on the NBA playoffs if they don’t find the game all that entertaining.

Yes, the Garden is beautiful. However, at what cost? Eventually, the Rangers will be playing in front of crowds even more lifeless then last night’s. Crowds that require a video montage of celebrities teaching them the rally cry; “Let’s Go Rangers!” A rally cry that is as blue collar as the fan base they priced out.

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Anthony Scultore has been covering the New York Rangers and the NHL since 2014. His work also appears at... More about Anthony Scultore

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