You may have noticed Chris Gordon handled recap duties on Sunday night. That’s because I went up to New York City to watch the Rangers game with my friend John, who got me into hockey in the first place, and his new wife Kristi. We had a ball watching the Caps get utterly smoked for the fifth straight game at Madison Square Garden and I’m here to tell you about it.
It’s an epic tale of fans and frenemies, of con men and kids, of Jack Daniels and Coke. Time travel with me.
8:00 am. I wake up in my friend’s apartment in Midtown New York.
8:02 am. Nevermind.
10:00 am. Okay, now I really wake up in my friend’s apartment in Midtown New York. This is the view:
11:00 am. We explore Manhattan, which I am told is the center of human civilization. If we rate human civilization based on number of H&M stores, which have metastasized onto the island and are multiplying daily, then I concur. H&M steadily urges me to wear neutral tones and tighter jeans.
11:05 am. To complete the tourism thing, we stop by the final remnant of our dying market economy, Best Buy. We also visit John’s office, a hedge fund located way up in a skyscraper. I don’t know what they do there, but the elevator went fast and they have a Starbucks coffee machine, so that’s cool. As we leave, the security guard tells us that “we” should trade “Oveckin” to the Rangers. Oveckin.
11:10 am. I’m rambling on about Martin Erat. How I think he’s a good fit on the team, a good pivot for Chimera and Ward, unfairly mistreated by Adam Oates. Kristi thinks he’s a bum. One of us will be proven right by the end of the night.
11:15 am. There is always something happening in Times Square. Just three weeks ago, thousands of celebrants rang in the new year while wearing diapers. Now they’re setting up a big stage for the Super Bowl. A line for Broadway tickets snakes around the block and a bunch of people dressed up as superheroes and muppets scoff legal action by posing for photos. I see only two Rangers jerseys in the crowd, but I’ve already counted three Caps jerseys (Green, Ovechkin, Ovechkin) and one Washington Nationals hat. DC is well represented.
11:20 am. The skating rink at Rockefeller has bad ice. It’s the Jobing.com arena of the New York metro area. Groin injuries run rampant, I am sure.
11:30 am. Johnny and Kristi wonder aloud what’s going on with Alex Ovechkin’s shootout slump. Ovi has scored on just two of fifteen attempts this year, and we’re certain it’s all about tactics. We decide he should try the slapshot like Grabo and Semin do. I guess we’re agnostic about the Caps needing to finish more games in regulation, though that’s probably the bigger problem.
12:30 pm. We attend a New York ritual known locally as “brunch.” Brunch, a portmanteau for “Broooo, let’s get luuuuuunch“, is an event where food that could be prepared for free and eaten while in pajamas is instead charged money for while people get a healthy buzz on before noon. We are at The Smith Midtown, where there are lots of people wearing neutral-tone clothes from H&M. They are all far more interesting and attractive than I am comfortable with. I order tomato soup, eggs, bacon, and three fingers of orange juice. It costs 70 dollars.
12:45 pm. Caps jersey number four! It’s a Knuble! My people!
The Knuble guy walks by us on his way to the bathroom. I say, “Go Caps!” He pretends not to hear me. I have apparently violated brunch decorum. I must look like a bridge and tunnel slob up in here.
2:00 pm. We walk past the UN building on our way back to the apartment. I meet a bulldog. The city is full of dogs. Small ones. Small ones with visible health problems. Bullies with hip dysplasia, pugs with breathing problems, spaniels with grody eyes. It’s heartbreaking and criminal to keep breeding animals like this, but they’re totes adorbs.
3:00 pm. We catch the end of Hawks/Bruins, which is what a close hockey game between two good teams looks like. I’ll remind myself of that repeatedly later on. We also watch the start of Saturday night’s Flames-Canucks game and John Tortorella’s ensuing freakout. You can take the coach out of New York.
3:15 pm. Omaha!
4:30 pm. It’s halftime of the Broncos game, so I head to a nearby deli to pick up a Cherry Coke and Cheetos because I make bad decisions. I encounter a handful of Caps fans in the elevator. Their hats gave them away, so I try again to be cordial. “Go Caps!” “Did that guy just say ‘Go Caps’ to us?” one asks incredulously. Yes. Yes, he did. And now it’s on the world’s foremost hockey + astrophysics blog. What a big day.
The sun sets on midtown. pic.twitter.com/diBM0Ny5YQ
— Peter Hassett (@peterhassett) January 19, 2014
5:45 pm. We gear up. Kristi and John have a closet of Caps gear to choose from. I don the Matt Bradley jersey that Ian and Suzanne got for me a few years ago. “I’d fight for you too!”
6:15 pm. Right as the Broncos win, we are on our way to the Triple Crown, a bar just a couple blocks from Madison Square Garden. There we meet up with RMNB illustrator Rachel Cohen and her family, as well as two other members of the Caps Road Crew, Kevin and Barbara of Fairfax, Virginia. Kevin and Barbara are congenial beer snobs who rib me for drinking Bud Light. I am ashamed, but I explain my beer choice is my way of keeping my bar tab low in a city where a pint costs seven bucks. The plan has not been successful so far. I’m still paying a lot for bad watery beer, plus I’m repeatedly running to the bathroom, where I’m forced to pay a bathroom attendant for the privilege of being near his Axe Body Spray and mints. Or something. It’s urine-based extortion. Anyway, I don’t mention that Shock Top is owned by InBev.
6:45 pm. Rachel and the crew move on, so we chat up three Irish Rangers fans who just ordered tasty-looking potato skins. They profess to me their love for John Tortorella and the whole dust-up with Calgary the night before. I ask what they think of new NYR coach Alain Vigneault, who I think hangs the stars, but they’ve got no strong opinion. Vigneault doesn’t seem like a very New York-style guy to me. As we head to MSG, the Irish guys fans tell us to have a good time, but not too good. There’s a little bit of menace in the back half of that statement.
7:00 pm. The security staff at MSG tell us the line for Caps fans is back that way. He’s pointing away from the arena. Hilarious. We got a regular Dane Cook over here. Pat downs and wandings happen, and then we enter the lobby of Madison Square Garden. It is beautiful. I’d never seen the arena pre-renovation, but I hear it was a dump. This place looks great.
7:05 pm. Uh, wow. We have been hooked up with great tickets by way of Johnny’s business associate. We enter a suite behind the goal the Caps will shoot on in the first and third periods. This is what the hallway outside the suite looks like:
And here’s my view of the ice.
7:10 pm. We meet our suitemates, who include a husband and wife from Kiev and their son, Victor. Victor plays center on a mite team. He loves Alex Ovechkin. He tells me he wanted to wear his Ovi jersey tonight, but he had to go with the home team. Victor is the best.
7:15 pm. This is hard to see, but I want to point out a pair of terrific jersey fouls. The man, with a nameplate Mustard, is wearing number 10. The lady, Ketchup, is wearing number 20. The nameplates and the misappropriation of Matt Bradley’s and Troy Brouwer’s numbers will be tried as separate offenses.
7:20 pm. Pic of Messier and the Cup in the suite’s private bathroom.
7:25 pm. It occurs to me that I’d make a great rich person. I just think the lifestyle would agree with me. I’m really good at not doing a lot. I can do indolence better than most people, and I don’t even have to try.
7:30 pm. There’s this cool bridge of seats floating at MSG. It is sponsored by Chase. The Rangers logo on the big screen is also sponsored by Chase. The zamboni is sponsored by Chase. Everything is sponsored by Chase. Chase loves you. Chase wants you to be happy. Chase is watching you.
7:32 pm. The Rangers’ warmup song is something by U2. I’m not sure if that’s better or worse than the nu-metal “music to lift weights to” stuff that usually pipes through Verizon Center. For some reason, I’m really amped up about debt forgiveness and first generation iPods before the game starts. The Caps are booed as they hit the ice.
7:35 pm. I pour a Jack Daniels and Coke. Open bar, baby.
7:38 pm. Fantastic rendition of the national anthem by a lady named Becky. I quietly do the “Red!” line and catch some looks from our neighbors. I also do the “O!” line, but so did 5,000 other people in the arena, so I wasn’t much of a sore thumb there. Are these all Orioles fans or does the “O!” mean something different up here?
7:40 pm. Well, that was quick. Dmitry Orlov got undressed and the puck is in the Caps’ net. I laugh it off because I know the Capitals are capable of coming back and scoring in spurts. It’s not over. (Oh, to be young again.)
7:52 pm. Along with some SNL comedians, Michael J Fox is in the house. I love Mikey. I read his books and follow his career– especially his Parkinson’s foundation, which is one of the boldest and best run medical charities in the world. But tonight he is a Rags fan and he is therefore awful. Everyone is awful, except for Victor, who cheers everytime Ovi, whom he just calls “Eight”, hits the ice.
8:02 pm. MSG is chanting “Ovi sucks!” Johnny and I exchange knowing nods. This is just going to rile him up.
8:13 pm. So this is happening. Grubauer out, Holtby in. Adam Oates rode that hot hand straight into the ground. I’m reminded of a line of reasoning I’ve been reading since early December, best articulated by J.P. the other day.
I know people don’t get sitting Holtby so much, but it’s easy to make the argument that Grubauer gives them the best chance to win right now — JapersRink (@JapersRink) January 17, 2014
The only thing incorrect about that is the tense. “Gives” should have been in the imperfect: “has given.” Nothing about Grubi’s hot streak in the last month foretold with any compulsion that he’d continue to do so. A bad night– or a string of bad nights– was always waiting in the future, as it does for every goalie. Here it is on Sunday night in Manhattan. The Caps are down three goals after twenty minutes.
8:26 pm. Look what you made me do, Washington Capitals.
LOOK WHAT YOU MADE ME DO.
8:38 pm. Alex Ovechkin scores his first powerplay goal in over a month. The crowd, to my surprise, loves it. Victor loves it too. Something about Ovi seems to transcend team rivalries. For the non-booing portion of MSG, maybe their applause is just the team-agnostic appreciation for an athlete performing at the highest level. That’s cool.
8:41 pm. A heartbreaking bounce makes this another bad night for Dmitry Orlov, his second stinker in as many games. The Caps comeback is extinguished. Luckily there’s a bar right behind me, so I pour another. I tell myself that this night will be okay as long as it doesn’t end in shots of Fireball.
8:47 pm. I’m having a great conversation with a guy named Curtis who has joined us in the suite. Curtis is a gray-haired man in his sixties who tells me he works for the team. He’s snacking on chicken wings and agreeing enthusiastically with my rant about PDO versus possession. Curtis is great.
8:55 pm. Marty Erat continues his campaign to make me look like an asshat for touting him all season long. I refresh ExtraSkater on my phone and notice Erat is leading Caps forwards in shot-attempt differential. Orlov is first overall. Nothing makes sense on this stupid team.
9:25 pm. Curtis is escorted out by arena staff. Yeah, nobody knew him. He scammed his way in to eat free wings. He probably didn’t even care about PDO in the first place.
9:37 pm Our grumpiness is inversely proportional to the Capitals’ shot count during the power play. I’m not sure what the mathematical relationship is between shot attempts and my BAC, but it’s probably best expressed using the log scale.
9:45 pm. My notes at this time are unintelligible.
9:50 pm. The TV in the suite tells us that the Seahawks are going to the Super Bowl. Everyone in the suite seems happy about this. Then I realize we haven’t been watching the hockey game for a couple minutes. Time to downgrade to Bud Light. I know, I know, but it’s either that or Stella Artois.
9:58 pm. Victor’s parents seem to have broken the TV in the suite and no one knows how to fix it. Enter Victor, who I think is eight years old. He’s like a tiny little Istari and the TV comes back to life. We are all being replaced by younger, adorabler, more tech-savvy versions of ourselves.
Omg. So fun. pic.twitter.com/lvNlsmFv8o
— Peter Hassett (@peterhassett) January 20, 2014
I’m doing that face a lot tonight.
10:01 pm. Sad Caps fans are sad. And on their phones a lot. But at least they’re not leaning.
The team has been thoroughly embarrassed in front of a national TV audience, 18,000 fans, and a con man named Curtis. MSG empties out pretty quickly. Rags fans don’t give us a hard time on the way out. Or it’s possible they did and I just didn’t notice. That could have happened too.
10:25 pm. We go to the Flying Puck, a Rangers bar up the street. I’m expecting the Mos Eisley Cantina if everyone in that cantina hated the Bruins, but it’s actually pretty mellow. We meet up with Jackie and her friends. We discuss tonight’s debacle in comparison to the Winter Classic in Pittsburgh.The verdict is unanimous: that was better than this.
10:33 pm. Fireball shots. Complete the defeat.
?:?? pm. I realize that we are no longer at the bar. This place looks like the apartment I woke up in. I wonder if we have eaten pizza. We probably did. This is New York City. Hey, that couch looks comfy. Yeah, I could sleep.
Go Caps. Go somewhere.
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