Three Years Of Bleeding Blue

cat tacopinaWhen I first started writing this column, my dream was to be a beat writer for the New York Rangers.

Before Madison Square Garden was renovated, I sat in the section adjacent to where the press sat. I’d see interns and coach personnel (I used to see Benoit Allaire at every game) and writers I admire and aspire to match walking up and down the stairs between periods. There was a real romanticism that fueled this dream; a chance to see every single game the Rangers play for an entire season and getting to write about it afterwards. And that was what paid the bills. Any fan would dream of having an opportunity like that.

But dreams can fade after some time, especially when reality sets in; writing a beat is grueling, and probably the most difficult job in sports reporting. The daily hours to cover a sport like hockey are grueling, and the amount of traveling to cover those games is even worse. These past three years of writing a weekly column for the Rangers, however, have been perfect. A nice creative release where I could talk about my favorite team has been nothing short of an honor and privilege. Of course, there have been some clunkers; a combination of being a young writer and lockouts running the well of ideas dry.

But there are some I’m proud of. Without further ado, here are my top five columns over these past three years (in no particular order).

“I’ll Have A Blue Christmas” 

This was definitely the most manic and insane column I wrote during my tenure on The Oracle. This column was published at the end of 2012, amid the half-season lockout that somehow did not cost NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman his job. In this column, I outlined things I would have wanted to see come out of the Rangers camp, and some of them were a little intense.

Some of them were goals I thought were realistic (I had faith at the time that Michael Del Zotto could have nabbed 15 goals if he had a full season), while others were never going to happen and were more jokes to begin with. At least, I hope Marc Staal doesn’t kill someone.

“Another Letter To Glen Sather” 

Glen Sather gets a lot of flack from Ranger fans, and rightfully so. Prior to and in the early years of the salary cap, Sather spent too much money on aging players who ultimately would chieve nothing on Broadway. However, after the Rick Nash steal and the acquisition of players like Derick Brassard, Derek Dorsett and John Moore, he deserves credit. Ranger fans are extremely critical and cynical, and it’s important to acknowledge the good.

Right now all of those moves are looking pretty good. Brassard and Nash have been important point-earners for the Rangers, while Dorsett does add a much-needed grit to the Rangers’ roster. Good looks, Sather.

“Past Practice, Future Success” 

Just three weeks ago, I took a look back on the Rangers’ season and how they wind up where they were at the time; pretty close to nabbing a spot in the playoffs that would give them home-ice advantage. A New Jersey Devils loss is what ultimately lead to the Rangers getting a spot in the playoffs, but at that time the Rangers were playing at a level necessary for a team that had a shaky start yet was still eyeing a possible championship.

Head Coach Alain Vigneault has been getting a lot of smack from fans lately, but it’s important to remember that he’s a big reason why the Rangers ended up where they did at the end of the regular season. Vigneault has done what John Tortorella couldn’t; he has improved the power play and has gotten the best out of his top offensive players.

“An Open Letter To Glen S.”

Way back in 2012, there wasn’t a more discussed and debated rumor than where Rick Nash was going to go after being with the Columbus Blue Jackets for the entirety of his NHL career. Anyone would want an aggressive power forward like Rick Nash on his team, but the
Rangers were identified as one of several teams that was seriously looking to acquire the winger from Columbus.

Early on during those talks however, the asking price for Nash was too high. A past Sather would have paid it; this one didn’t, and was patient enough for the price to drop over the summer.

It’s certainly the most impressed I’ve ever been with Sather. The Rangers lost some key players in that trade in Brandon Dubinsky and Artem Anisimov, but, to this day, 11 times out of 10 I would make that trade.

“Puck The Patriarchy” 

This particular column is one of my favorite contributions I’ve made to The Oracle. It’s also quite possibly my favorite of them all.

At the start of 2013, Blueshirts Nation, a fan section of the New York Rangers’ official website, made a blog post called “The Girl’s Guide To Watching The Rangers.” It’s as sexist and condescending as the title makes it sound. Fans were in an uproar, and the post was taken down within hours of its original posting time.

I’m proud of this column because it stands testament to my values as a woman sports fan. This column made one thing very clear; regardless of what you are told, women are not equal to men, and the gap in equality is even larger in the world of sports.

The post was made by a woman, which says a lot more about how insidious the inequality between men and women in sports is. Women are conditioned to believe that they’re at a gendered disadvantage when it comes to sports. We’re taught to believe that men have an innate, preternatural knowledge of sports that they have at birth. This is far from the truth. The female identity in sports is growing, but we have a long way to go.

And that’s it. Five columns from the past three years that I felt worthy of mentioning one more time before I go.

It’s funny and sort of embarrassing to go back through all of these columns. If I gathered anything from writing this column for the past three years, it’s that I’ve never loved a group entity as much as I love the New York Rangers. To be honest, it’s unhealthy. I’ve physically felt my blood pressure rise during games and have convinced myself that I’m going out due to a premature cardiac episode. But even through all of the grief the rangers have taught me something important: Regardless of how difficult the situation, whether from your own doing or your own unfortunate placement in it, things will somehow work out. That kind of advice will last a lifetime.