July 22, 2020

Rangers return to the ice this summer has an unusual feel

Ryan Strome celebrates his goal with Tony DeAngelo and friends (Getty Images)

Summer hockey is here!

Boy, unless I was referencing to the World Championships, I’d never thought I would utter those words. What seemed like a daunting task during the early months of the outbreak has become reality. Hockey will be played in the middle of a pandemic.

COVID-19’s impact on the NHL and the world

You already know the story by now and why we’ve ended up in this situation in the first place. A global pandemic spread all throughout, affecting each and everyone of our lives, including the institutions we cherish, like the National Hockey League.

It’s been an incredibly difficult and trying time for all, whether it’s the loss of a loved one, employment affected, social tensions, lack of resources, etc, etc. In previous incidents that have hit our nation, we knew when those times would end. The added uncertainty regarding this virus adds more anxiety to an already anxious world.

Even through these tough times, the NHL and the NHLPA have found a way to finish off their season within the pandemic and additionally secure labor peace for the next few years. Something that seemed impossible just a few months ago was realized and the puck will drop soon!

Hockey’s emotional return

Zibanejad finishes the Isles in OT (Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

Hockey is an emotional sport and that emotion is channeled through to the fans. For me, personally, I use hockey, whether it’s in person or on television, to let loose and have my mind slip away from the realities of life for a few hours and I know that I’m not alone in that thought process.

We’ve all missed the game we love dearly and to finally see it come back through all this brings up a lot of emotion, at least for me. The Rangers allow myself and others to get lost in the wonders of a solid team, mixed with the allure of having The World’s Most Famous Arena as our home barn. Night after night, whenever the Rangers were on, it felt as if our friends were on the ice, hoping to make our days better with a win.

This Rangers team is special

This past season, the Rangers re-energized us all and gave us something positive to cheer about. The fruits of the rebuild were coming to fruition all at once! Igor Shesterkin arrived, Panarin and Trouba led the way, Zibanejad became a trail blazer and leader, Fox, Lindgren, DeAngelo and Kakko! I can go on and on for hours!

The pause halted all of that but now with the re-opening soon ahead, we can finally go back to rooting for the boys in Blue! I miss Panarin kicking his leg up like a Rockette. I miss Zibanejad flying down the ice with his long hair. I miss Shesterkin being a brick wall and I miss Fox, Trouba, DeAngelo and Lindgren making fools of everyone on the back end. Soon, we’ll be able to do all of this again. Although it’s not in person, I’m incredibly excited to see how this all turns out, even through this unlikely scenario we’ve been put in.

My emotional journey with Forever Blueshirts

Adding to the emotion I feel for the return of the NHL, myself, fellow contributors Russell Hartman and Kevin Crupi have decided to part ways with Forever Blueshirts to start our own sports venture, more on that later.

Time has a way of zooming past us and you really don’t expect it. It seems like light years ago that I saw a tweet advertising a want ad for writers on Forever Blueshirts. I was on the train coming back home from a Rangers-Canadiens game sometime in October of 2017. I responded promptly and submitted an excerpt of my writing. Little did I know then the impact that this website, my fellow writers and Mr. Boss Man himself would have on my life over the last three and a half years.

I went from writer to part time podcast contributor to being a creative force behind the podcast, adding to my writing duties. Time flies when you’re having fun I guess. To the awesome followers I have gained, the experience I added and the wonderful people I got to write alongside with, I appreciate all of you and I am eternally grateful for the chance to share my crazy ideas and my personality with all of you through this vehicle. I had always wanted to be a part of a team and 4B gave me that chance.

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From L/R (Zak Chiger, Russ Hartman, Steven Voogel, myself, James Van Casteren, Kevin Crupi(b)

A great experience

I never thought in a million years that I’d do something like this but in taking the leap of faith that day in 2017, it’s brought me tons of experience and opened me up to new people that I wouldn’t have met otherwise.

Talking to guests like Ron Duguay, Colin Stephenson, Vince Mercogliano and others was a treat. Working with Kevin and Russell, only for them to become some of the best friends a guy could have, is something I’ll truly cherish.

Meeting up with the 4B Crew outside of MSG during a pre-season game (see above) and finally getting to chat with the Boss Man himself in person (I didn’t have to do it on the day of his kid’s wedding) was a treat in itself.

Putting out news articles for breaking reports like David Quinn becoming next head coach or making weird and odd statements like wanting Erik Karlsson or Jeff Skinner or being a goof on the 4B Podcast was exciting and I will miss it dearly.

A Farewell To Forever Blueshirts

So, to all of the readers and followers who have read my articles, listened to the podcast and my fellow contributors along with Mr. Boss Man, I want to thank you all for everything. It’s been one heck of a ride. I’m glad to say that I was a part of the Forever Blueshirts family.

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Me with the Boss Man himself

Before I go, Kevin, myself and Russell have decided to start our own podcast along with additional content called Sky Scraper Sports! We’ll cover every NY sports team, including our beloved New York Rangers. Give us a follow @SkySportsNYpod and we hope you will follow us along this new journey!

So, signing off as a 4B contributor for the final time. I bid you a heartfelt adieu.

Love,

JL

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