Hockey In Action!
Monday evening was Hockey Night in Manhattan. While it wasn’t declared a national hockey holiday, it was certainly a momentous occasion as my brother and I entered the hallowed halls of “The World’s Most Famous Arena” to catch the first place New York Rangers taking on the Senators of Ottawa, from that distant land up north known to some as Canadia.
We met up 6:45pm just outside the home of the 1994 Stanley Cup champions and eagerly made our way through the lobby and turnstiles to the concession stand where we grabbed a hot dog and a beer before making it to our seats in section 209 where we would view the entirety of the contest.
Prior to arriving my brother and I had discussed getting there on time in order to hear the singing of the Canadian National Anthem, ” O Canada!” It’s not often you get to go to a major sporting event in the United States and hear the singing of another nation’s anthem, but I have a certain fondness for this particular song.
My brother and I used to have a hockey setup in our basement where we would had worked out our own sort of miniature competition. We would take turns donning goalie pads and each of us would get a minute or two to try and score on each other. Much of this was done during intermissions of Ranger games we were watching on TV. Prior to the start of the games we would watch John Amirante belt out the national anthem and sometimes the Canadian national anthem if a team from the Great White North happened to be playing.
It was from John Amirante I learned the Canadian National Anthem, so it was actually kind of a thrill as I saw him take to the red carpet yesterday with his mic in hand ready to unleash the beast. My brother and I quietly sang along feeling a little bit odd that no one else took it upon themselves to join in, but I genuinely like the song. I think’s as good as a national pride tune as any. The one thing that struck me funny about the performance was during the line, “god keep our land glorious and free” it sounded like he sang “God keep our land glorious and green” though I may have just misheard him. Though I briefly wondered if I had the lyrics wrong all these years.
When the distinguished Mr. Amirante launched into the Star Spangled Banner, I moved my right hand over my heart, and even though expressing patriotism at these moments has sort of become an antiquated notion, I kept it there the entire time and didn’t really start cheering for the song at the end. The main reason I remain so stoic during the Star Spangled Banner during sporting events goes back to an episode of Mr. Belvedere where Bob Uecker’s character launches into an on air tirade on his news show about how they should stop singing the anthem at sporting events because no one is showing the song the respect it deserves anymore. Somehow, that deeply affected me or at least filled me with enough sense of duty to keep my hand placed firmly over my heart for two minutes or so. Around the “rocket reds glare” portion John really busted out the extra bravado kicking up the energy level in his voice a notch or three, much to the delight of the crowd. When “the home of the brave” faded out and he walked off the ice, everyone in the stadium new it was time for these two teams to tango.
Unfortunately, the early going was rather slow. The first quarter was not really filled with highlights except for a few saves from the Rangers top-notch netminder Henrik Lundqvist. The most exciting action early on came after the first period when the Staten Island’s Little Rangers showed everyone how the game is played.
Those Little Rangers Sure Can Play
The second period was just sloppy. The Rangers looked like a team who didn’t want to win. I wouldn’t have put the little Rangers out to face Ottawa, but they couldn’t have done much worse. It’s not as if the Senators were at the top of their game either but they came out of the period with a 1-0 lead on a Daniel Alfredsson goal.
The fans seemed none too optimistic for the third period, but the hometown team began to show a greater sense of urgency and a much more deft puckhandling ability. They starting getting more shots on goal than their opponents and eventually it payed off as Fredrik Sjostrom lifted a shot past Ottawa Goalie Alex Auld 7:17 into the period. The rest of the third period was a hard fought nailbiter, but in the end it was either going to have to be settled in overtime or a shootout.
OT proved fruitless, so it was on to a best of three shootout. All the Rangers would need is their first attempt by Nikolai Zherdev, as his goal would prove to be the game winner.
The crowd erupted as the puck passed the Ottawa goal line for only the second time all evening, but Lundqvist was rock solid stopping all three shootout attempts, leading to his selection as star of the game.
Final Score: Rangers 2, Senators 1
Despite a bit of sloppy play, and slow goings, the evening ended up being a roaring success and a testament to the excitement of seeing a hockey game in person. The NHL…It’s good when your team is winning!