Insights from New York Rangers Open Practice
I have had the good fortune of being a New York Rangers season ticket holder since the 2006-07 season. In that time span, I have enjoyed many of the perks, benefits and amenities that go along with being a season subscriber of my beloved hockey team. What occurred this afternoon in the sleepy town of Tarrytown in Westchester County certainly ranks among my most memorable and fun experiences.
On January 30th, my ticket rep at Madison Square Garden emails me about attending an open practice at the team’s training facility on February 8th. I quickly grab for my Iphone and text my wife to confirm the date was open. Thankfully, she affirmed we were sans plans. Quicker than a lightning strike, I replied to my ticket rep that we could attend. Since space was limited, I did not want to miss out on our opportunity to be within a hockey puck’s reach of the players I usually marvel at from a far. My Ranger rep received my RSVP and said we were penciled in on the guest list and we were good to go.
We left our Long Island home this morning to make the 45 mile journey towards upstate New York. We arrive at the facility, park our car and head inside. We were greeted by team employees who ushered about 50 of us lucky son-of-a-guns into the practice rink. We all sit in a make shift viewing area across from the player benches in complete awe.
On the Ice
Already on the ice were, among others. Brett Howden who was in deep conversation with a member of the coaching staff. Slowly but surely, one Blueshirt after another poured out of the locker room and onto the ice to begin warm-ups. Once the team, en mass, took the ice, an understandably surly head coach David Quinn lambasted his under-performing squad for last night’s listless loss to the lowly Buffalo Sabres. The vociferous, relentless Quinn was quite the task-master on this particular day. Although, judging by the recounts of the daily beat writers who cover the team for a living, today’s outbursts were not an anomaly.
Throughout the practice, which lasted for over an hour, Quinn worked on basic passing and breakout drills. However, after a Ryan Strome pass went awry, Quinn blew his whistle and stopped the drill. Quinn tore into number 16 and used language my esteemed editors at Forever Blueshirts would rather I not repeat. Later on in the session, Strome approached a now-calmed down Ranger head coach to plead his case.
Having an up-close view of an NHL team and it’s practice session was quite fascinating and interesting. One floor up, behind one of the nets were the entire Ranger brain trust. None other than John Davidson, Jeff Gorton and Chris Drury were overlooking the hockey players in their charge. Also, the MSG broadcasting team were in attendance as Sam Rosen, Joe Micheletti and Dave Maloney were taking in the afternoon action.
Once Quinn left the ice to fulfill his media requirements, there was a definite ease among the players. The tension and seriousness quickly turned into jocularity as Mika Zibanejad and Chris Kreider entertained the adoring crowd with flashes of skill, speed and hi-jinks. Practice was winding down as most of the Blueshirts retired to the sanctuary of the locker room. The gleeful fans started to exit the rink and return to their cars for the long ride home. All in all, this was quite the experience, one I won’t soon forget!