One of my Christmas gifts this year was a ticket to see the Washington Capitals play the New York Rangers at the infamous Madison Square Garden. I didn’t realize on that rainy Christmas morning that the ticket would gain me admission to witness the record-shattering winning streak, Alex Ovechkin’s 500th career point and Bruce Boudreau’s 200th game as the Capitals bench boss. Wow. To say I was anxious to attend the game, would be an understatement. I had never followed a team into a rival arena, and there I was amongst all the of the Rangers faithful. The Rangers were having a rough time recently and the Washington Capitals were unstoppable for 2 weeks. All the elements were in place for MSG to get rocked last night.
I had been in Manhattan the week prior to the game trying to find an apartment to move into. This gave me a chance to figure out the NYC public transit (FYI, DC’s is far superior and a whole lot less confusing). So after taking the green 4 to the gray S, to the red 2, I arrived at Madison Square Garden, total trip time: 45 minutes to travel a little over 4 miles (Oy!). I figured I could follow the masses of blue and red to the main entrance of MSG. Wrong! The Rangers fans don’t support their team the way Caps fans Rock the Red. I made it through the bag check and up to where my ticket was going to be scanned and was halted. It was 15 minutes before 6pm, and no one was allowed inside the arena yet. So there I stood in my red coat concealing my Capitals gear, surrounded by people much bigger than me decked out in blue. It took me 10 minutes to work up the courage to show my Capitals pride, that and it was hot as hell and I couldn’t take it anymore.
I survived those first few minutes of being a Capitals faithful in unchartered territory (Ed note: The second RMNB Fan in consecutive games. AWESOME.); feeling like a deer during hunting season, awaiting someone to end my peace and quiet. Except for a few dirty looks no one bothered me. My own little bubble expanded with each Capitals fan I encountered. There weren’t a ton of us, but just enough to show our support for the guys during the game. I detoured to a concession stand to get my traditional bottle of water. To find out that at MSG, they take your bottle top. What the heck? Are fans that immature at MSG that they can’t be trusted with a little white piece of plastic? Really? I grumbled and took my bottle and headed off to my seat, almost directly behind the net that Theo protected twice.
Madison Square Garden is very old inside and the Rangers organization will definitely benefit from the reconstruction. The arena lacks the streamline affect of the Verizon Center, and the atmosphere that Ted Leonsis promotes during a game. Honestly, the place was rather empty until right before the puck dropped and didn’t completely fill until 10 minutes into the first. I know, it’s sometimes like that at the Verizon Center but at MSG, people were willing to wander around while the puck was in play and leisurely take their seats. Which drove me nuts, my seats were 4 rows up from the walk way that would take you around the whole arena, which made it really difficult to see the puck if it was along the boards behind the net. I loved the fact that people would yell at others to sit down in their own special New Yorker way, without even batting an eyelash. I would love to do that at Verizon Center sometimes but I digress.
I wandered down to the glass during warm-ups. To get really close the glass, you had to be on the sides, people are not allowed to crowd around behind the net. Some noteworthy moments from warm-ups: the Capitals being booed when they came onto the ice followed by Rangers fans watching intently and begging for pucks to be dropped over the glass, Eric Fehr making one 13 year old Caps fan’s night when he tossed him a puck while exiting the ice, and Semin giving the crowd the stare down while awaiting his turn for a shot. I was amongst that group and the only Caps fan right there, so I hope he was happy to see a supporter. Warm-ups came and went and I hurried back to my seat to find myself surrounded by a handful of Capitals fans. The Rangers fans that were directly around me were nice and actually chit-chatted with me during the intermissions. Guess I lucked out being that close to the ice, I have a feeling the “blue seats” would have been brutal.
I’m not going to re-account every detail of the game, you saw it on CSN. You read about it here on RMNB, but there were moments I was over-joyed followed by the sheer annoyance of being surrounded by opposing fans. Nothing stung more than getting that first goal of the game and standing up, cheering loud and proud; to being silenced not even 30 seconds later by the raging crowd as the Rangers reclaimed the lead. I wanted to curl up under a rock and hide, man was it going to be a long game. This roller-coaster of emotions continued throughout the 2nd period, capping off with Ovechkin scoring that beautiful goal with 8 seconds left in the period. That 500th point happened right in front of me and it felt amazing to stick it to the Rangers fans after all of their cheering and chanting of “Ovechkin sucks”.
After that huge momentum swing to end the 2nd period, I had to go celebrate with some familiar Capitals faces. I went on a search to find the North Side Press Box, because it housed Caps Employees Nate Ewell and Brett Leonhardt for the evening. Okay it was no easy task to find exactly where they were sitting in the box, and along my journey through the upper levels of MSG, I was getting booed and harassed by angry Rangers’ fans. Hey! Don’t take it out of me, it’s not my fault Ovechkin just rocked your [house]. I finally found them but only had 5 minutes to spare before the final period began. We got to catch up for a bit, and I was asked by Nate where my jersey was. I support the whole team not one player so no jersey for me, I just rock my Capitals hoodie. As Nate and Brett had a good chuckle about how the fans were getting annoyed with us cheering on our team, I left the press box with hope that the Caps would turn this game around and pull out a win. Recently, the 3rd period had been good to us, and I hoped the trend would continue.
The Capitals faithful dispersed throughout MSG were in full force in the 3rd period. We were down 1 goal to tie it, 2 for the win. I found myself longing for a little “Unleash the Fury” or the Horn Guy to start a “Let’s Go Caps” chant but that all had to take place in my head. Speaking of “Unleash the Fury”, the Rangers have a poor man’s version that barely got the crowd going and some weird bald guy that danced to a song. Yeah, I’ll definitely take our Verizon Center fixtures any day of the week. I went completely nuts when Tom Poti tied the game and then Nicklas Backstrom scored what is now dubbed the game-winning goal. Now I just had to keep my fingers crossed that we could hold out those last few minutes. It was nerve-wrecking and I kept dreading the moment the masses would jump up and scream and cheer with the tying goal. You know what, it never came. It never happened, I stood up and screamed my head off and gave the biggest cheer that my single voice could give from my section when the Washington Capitals completed the 12th straight win. It was highly amusing to see the annoyed Rangers fans, especially the one’s around me who were trying to ignore me. Life was good.
I slowly made my way out of Madison Square Garden with my head held a little bit higher and I felt extremely lucky that I witnessed all of that in one evening. It was a great Christmas present and I would definitely travel to another arena to support the Washington Capitals.
Here are my tweets from the game:
Back at the apt, exhausted, freezing, with the biggest grin on my face! #CAPS won!! 12 straight baby. MSG was an experience, I tell ya
@nateewell I’ll take our @TheCapstronaut over that bald rags fan dancing any day…
Booyah!! #CAPS score on PP
Heading to the press box to visit some #CAPS pr guys!!
Some kid has the rangers logo shaved on the back of his head. I’m having an 80’s flashback…
This hurts to watch. This cheering is pissing me off. Ugh dammit! #CAPS
Third time is the charm! First the glass, second the rags, third the net! #CAPS fans stand and cheered here at MSG
The King was not happy with that goal. He just got pissed off at himself. Yayayayayay #CAPS
Really #CAPS?? Score one and let one in. And I got the dirtiest looks from people when I cheered our goal
It’s okay #CAPS. This place is going nuts now, ugh dammit
Ugh a penguins fan just walked in front of me. Ewwww #CAPS
Bunch of young guys rolled in with #CAPS gear and a dad in tow. Don’t feel so out numbered now… Well I lie. I do!
Come on!!! Let me to my seat you jerkfaces. Grrrr #CAPS for the win in crowd appeal!