Rhythm And The Blues

This will be Gary Bettman’s third lockout. This will be his second lockout in eight years.

Okay, nothing is set in stone. The Collective-Bargaining Agreement [CBA] doesn’t end until Sept. 15. However, just about everyone with any sort of interest in the NHL knows it’s highly unlikely for games to start on Oct. 11 like they’re scheduled to.

It’s more than likely that NHL hockey will be back before the Winter Classic, but an extra three months is a long time to wait. It’s a shame players won’t be able to play for a few months, but the real trouble involves people who work in the arenas these players compete in. People who work there depend on that money for their home, their families’ well-being, school and to simply get by. Shutting down the league is going to place hundreds of  people between a rock and a hard place.

The lockout is cause for plenty of anger, grief and frustration among fans, so much so that Rangers columnist Andrew Gross recently wrote about it on Northjersey.com and called for NHL fans to put off the league for good.

For the record, I can’t help but agree with just about everything Gross said. Though it’s a small fan base, the NHL fan base is a passionate one. It’s a demographic of people who live and die by their teams. Like Gross said, the NHL counts on the blind loyalty of its fans; it’s a blind loyalty that allows us to overlook everything Bettman and his goons have put fans through since 1994.

And I wish I was strong enough to say I could turn away from the league like Gross thinks NHL fans should. But that’s the trouble with this whole thing. I’m not an NHL fan, I’m a New York Rangers fan.

I could never turn away from this team. It’s one of the only things I know.

What can I say? The New York Rangers, as pathetic as it may sound, have been an integral part of mine and my brother’s and my parent’s lives since the day I was born. Some of my earliest moments photographed on film feature my older brother Joe and I sporting New York Rangers garb. Madison Square Garden is the site of many dates my parents went on before they were married.

It’s the same place I first felt the feeling of my heart splintering slowly into fragments. It was in Section 336, Row K, seat 12. It was the night Mike Richter suffered his career-ending concussion. I was 10.

Don’t think for a second this is a special story. The NHL fan base is passionate enough as it is, but when you get to teams like the Rangers and the Montreal Canadians and any of the other Original Six teams (I’m an Original Six elitist. Sue me.), the love for a team is something you’re born with. There are millions of fans out there whose first memories were in an NHL arena.

People who will never forget the heartbreak watching their team lose a Winter Classic or a game seven at home. People who will wish they bottled the feeling of watching their team win in double overtime during a playoff game.

While there is strength in being able to walk away from a league that takes you for granted more times than should be legal, it’s questionable whether it’s even possible to walk away so easily from something that’s been so constant in a life. At 20 years old, there are four truths I know in this world, and I cling to these four truths as strongly as Samwise Gamgee holds onto Frodo Baggins in The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King.

The sun rises. The sun sets. The New Paltz Oracle comes out on Thursdays. I am a Ranger.


Cat Tacopina