(The Rangers are an odd combination of the despicable [Glen Sather, the specter of Mark Messier, Sean Avery] and the lovable [Henrik Lundqvist, Brian Leetch, Sean Avery]. However, in the process of putting these specials together, it has become obvious that everyone should take this approach: hate the team, not the blogger. Scotty Hockey is one of the best New York Rangers bloggers out there - and he's been doing it since at least 2007. Besides, how can you NOT like a guy that South Park-ified himself? Can't do it.)
It is a hard task to sway fans to a team that I can't stand. I am a diehard Ranger fan, but I dislike the majority of the team. Through continual mismanagement, the roster has a terrible top end of mediocre talent that is overpriced, underachieving and tremendously infuriating. That being said, there are some diamonds in the rough that make watching the Blueshirts tolerable.
The biggest gem of them all is Henrik Lundqvist. A fan just coming to the sport of hockey may see the overdressed guy at the end of the ice as a curiosity. The extra pads, the big stick, the painted helmet that completely covers his face - all help set the goaltender apart from the other players. And when you look at goaltenders around the league, King Hank is one of the best of the bunch. Cool under fire, Hank won an Olympic gold medal for Sweden (oooo shiny), regularly makes stunning saves and is one of People's sexiest athletes.
Also on that superficial tabloid list is Sean Avery. Even most nonhockey fans know who he is. Wildly entertaining, Avery is worth the (exorbitant) price of admission alone. Any given shift he is up to good or no good - hustling to make scoring chances or driving opponents crazy. He is the guy who said the now two most infamous words in hockey history - "sloppy seconds" and the guy who waved his stick around in front of the fat guy, forcing the league (which has been around for over a hundred years) to come up with an entirely new rule. He brings in his share of fine looking fans himself and why not join them? There is worse company to be in than that of the Olsen twins, Elisha Cuthbert (the aforementioned sloppy seconds) and the model of the month.
Beneath the glamour, there are hard working folks for the fans of blue collar workers. Freddie Sjostrom and Blair Betts are tireless in their penalty killing, bravely throwing their bodies in front of shot after shot - and that hard rubber puck hurts when it hits you at 90 mph. Ryan Callahan won this year's extra effort award for his continual hustle and the kid can score too. Defensemen like the lumberjack-looking Paul Mara, baby-faced Dan Girardi and Marc Staal (of THE Staal family) perpetually battle on the blueline with little publicity.
Ignore the substance-lacking flash of Nik Zherdev, ignore the disgrace to defense that is Wade Redden, ignore the smirk of former Devil Scott Gomez. Look at the wonder that is the World's Most Famous Arena. Madison Square Garden is a mecca of sport and the atmosphere is something to behold. If you want to experience the speed and energy of hockey first hand in a nice quiet environment, spend your yearly salary to sit close to the ice. If you want to experience the awesomeness that is the passion of the dedicated, then move upstairs and get a true hockey education.
The Blueshirt bandwagon is one that is easy to jump on - the one year in the last 69 that the Rangers won the Stanley Cup coincided with the peak of popularity for the entire sport. While it would be nice to have less fans so we could truly protest the bad moves by the bosses, that isn't about to happen in the city in the center of the universe so come along for the ride and let's go Rangers!