The Story of a Long Suffering Rangers Fan

NY Times

What are your earliest New York Rangers memories? At what age do you recall first realizing that the Blueshirts were going to be your hockey team of choice? What enticed you and convinced you to become a proud member of Rangerstown? For your’s truly, the circumstances surrounding my decision to be a card carrying acolyte of the Ranger congregation are a bit nebulous and hard to explain.

You see, my first Rangers memories are of John Davidson’s super cool red, white and blue goalie mask and the very chic and stylistic, at least for that era, perm hairstyle of Ron Duguay. I can recall the legendary head coach and 1980 Olympic hero Herb Brooks patrolling the Rangers bench. I can recall forward Mike Rogers becoming just the third Ranger player ever to eclipse the 100 point plateau. I can even vaguely recall the stunning, blockbuster trade between the Rangers and Colorado Rockies that sent defenseman Barry Beck from the Mile High City to Broadway. Each of these remembrances took place during a very dark and dreary period in Rangers history. Each of these instances took place during the New York Islanders Stanley Cup Dynasty of the early 1980s.

I was living in the Long Island, New York town of Oceanside during the Decade of Decadence. My home was approximately eight miles from the Nassau Coliseum. New York City, specifically, Madison Square Garden, seemed a universe away for a very shy and sheltered young boy. My older brother was a die-hard Islander fan. The Islanders were ubiquitous and omnipresent in Nassau County, while the Rangers were persona non grata.

It made all the sense in the world for me to have chosen to bleed the orange and blue colors of Long Island’s hockey team during my formative years. After all, the Islanders were in the midst of being the last sports franchise in the major North American team sports to win four consecutive championships and their still-existing record of 19 straight playoff series wins is sure to stand the test of time. And, to this day, for reasons I still cannot fully comprehend and conceptualize, I chose to become a fan of the New York Rangers during the Islander championship run. See what I mean by nebulous? One day, I’d like to visit a hypnotist so he or she could put me under, dig deep into my subconscious, and figure out why I chose the perennial second-division team over the perpetual champions.

The Rangers’ history over the last 80 years has been filled with disappointment, heartbreak, heartache and tantalization. With the exception of one magical, inspiring and unforgettable season, the Garden Faithful has been put through a meat grinder the likes of which very few fan bases can understand. Not only don’t the Rangers capture that beautiful silver chalice to lift towards the heavens, their fan base has had to endure through first the Islanders dynasty, and then the New Jersey Devils mini-dynasty of the 1990s and early 2000s.

The fan bases that can empathize and sympathize are also right here in the greater New York area. The New York Mets and New York Jets have given their respective groups of loyal die-hards an equal amount of frustration, aggravation, and agita. These are fan bases that, gulp, I am also a part of. A consolatory pat-on-the-back is appreciated, but not required.

As a Mets fan, other than that majestic and ceremonious year of 1986, I have nothing but despair and envy. Despair for constantly coming up short and envy from watching the Yankees add to their Major League best total of now, 27 World Series championships.

As a Jets fan, I can see you Giants fans snickering already, I have never witnessed my beloved football team play in the Super Bowl as I wasn’t even a thought yet in my parent’s minds when Joe Namath led Gang Green to that shocking upset over the Baltimore Colts in January of 1969. Adding to my torment are the four Giants Super Bowl championships and the current and seemingly endless New England Patriots dynasty. Talk about a one-two punch. If it’s not my geographical rival, it’s my divisional rival.

A friend of mine, who also takes sports way too seriously, asked me to list my five most heartbreaking losses. As a Mets, Jets and Rangers fan, there was simply no way I could narrow it down to just five. The thought occurred to me that I should list my five most crushing losses for EACH of my infuriating but lovable franchises and that was the impetus for my book, “Long Suffering – The Trials and Tribulations of a Mets, Jets and Rangers fan.”

As a fellow Ranger fan, what would your list of heart breakers look like? I’d be very curious to find out. After all, we have so many examples to choose from and I am not just referring to playoff failures as I included regular season debacles and off-ice incidents in the Rangers section of my book.

New York Rangers fans have iron constitutions. They are unbreakable. They are resilient. They keep getting up regardless of how many times they get knocked down. No matter how much misery they are subjected to, the Garden Faithful, proudly, displays their colors and will never switch allegiances. They will certainly never waive the white flag, either. Even as lists are created opining about the insufferable history of the franchise, Madison Square Garden – The World’s Most Famous Arena – continues to be filled to the rafters with over 18,000 of the most loyal and dedicated fans in any city of any team in any sport.

The hope is that one day, all of the patience and perseverance will pay off with NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman handing the Stanley Cup to whomever the Rangers captain may be at center ice. Mets fans and Jets fans have the same mindset and aspirations. We all hope, one day, it will happen. Because, without hope, what are we?

Editor’s Note: You can purchase Jeff’s book on Amazon by clicking here.