Since the lockout, the New York Rangers have been used to not getting any media coverage, save for a few weeks when they make the playoffs, when perhaps they get a corner of the back page of either the New York Post or Daily News. Even then, you will not hear any puck talk on any of the major radio stations in the area. It is almost as if the sport of hockey does not exist, especially during the regular season. There could be a multitude of reasons for this, like maybe the team having a mediocre season with no players standing out in any exceptional way. Okay, maybe then it would be understandable, but the snowball effect of ignorance one year after another has built up so much that it clouds the media’s coverage even when the team is first in the Eastern Conference, with a nine-point lead, and two points out of being in first place in the entire league. Instead, even though baseball season has been over for months, and the glory of the Super Bowl is now teetering out, we now have to see the New York Knicks and Jeremy Lin on the back page every single day, while the Rangers keep on flying to obscurity in the back of the sports section.
If you were to ask anyone in New York that was not a basketball fan how the Knicks were doing, they would probably say, “Very well”. The fact is, the Knicks are still under .500 and Jeremy Lin, not to take anything away from what he has done, was a nobody just weeks ago, and could end up reverting back to that at any time. What if you asked someone how the Rangers were doing? Most likely the response would be, “I don’t know.” Maybe after a while, Lin will turn into a superstar, something the Knicks could use, but in the meantime, why not focus on Henrik Lundqvist, the Rangers superstar goaltender; a perennial all-star who is three wins away from breaking his own record for the third time, as he will become the only goaltender in NHL history to start his career with what will be seven straight 30-win seasons? Why not focus on Marian Gaborik, the Rangers flashy winger who has electrified fans all season with his speed and scoring ability? I could sit here and ask “Why not?” until I am blue in the face, and I probably will not find a legitimate answer. I would make the suggestion that the two are ignored because they are European, and Lin is American, but where would team captain Ryan Callahan, from Rochester, New York, fit in after that assessment?
The fact is, the phrase, “Nobody cares about hockey” has been repeated so many times, that it has turned from a childish catchphrase from Boomer & Carton’s radio show to media fact. Nobody cares about hockey. Tell that insulting statement to the 18,200 fans who pack Madison Square Garden every single game to watch the best team in the Eastern Conference. Tell that to the hardworking players who block shots, take hits, break bones, and lacerate their skin only to come back out onto the ice moments later—it’s despicable. The main culprit of this comes from the aforementioned radio show, ironically on the Rangers very own television network, as the show is simulcast on MSG. Every time Boomer Esiason, a Rangers season ticket holder and fan for decades, tries to talk hockey, he is shouted down and denigrated by his sidekick Craig Carton and behind-the-glass man Al Dukes, who keeps pushing the button on a redundant recording of, “Nobody cares about hockey.” If Boomer can get two sentences in about the Rangers, he is lucky, and conversation generally sways away from the topic rather quickly, leaving die-hard hockey fans furious and left asking why. If they do not want to talk hockey, that is one thing, but to insult the first-place Rangers on their own network? It is unacceptable. Would someone who is anti-baseball be allowed to come onto the YES Network to insult the Yankees and their sport?
After years of abuse, this little “war” has finally reached its boiling point. You know how I know? Last week, a blogger from a laughably bad sports website with zero credibility, the name of which I will not even type out on this blog, was called out live on the air on Boomer & Carton, by the latter of the two hosts. His full name and outlet were given. While I did not hear the broadcast, I assume more insults followed. Is this what it had to take to get hockey discussed on air, if even for a few fleeting seconds? Apparently the host was insulted that he was called an “idiot” and various other names because of the way he acts when talking about hockey. While I do feel Carton is a very smart man and knows what he is talking about, just listen to one of his little remarks when Boomer starts talking and you will find that he sounds like nothing except the insult he was bestowed with.
Other websites all over the internet are now asking poll questions regarding your loyalty to the Knicks and Rangers. “Lundsanity or Linsanity?” they are asking. Well, unlike what my colleague wrote earlier today, and I will disagree with him, the issue here is not about perspective or Henrik Lundqvist vs. Jeremy Lin—it is about what is fair and what is unfair. No one is asking the media to shun the New York Knicks or forget basketball, but is it so much to ask that the Rangers get thrown a bone every once in a while?Is it so much to want credit placed where credit is due? I am sure that if a player on the Blueshirts were to get into some kind of legal trouble, it would blow up in the news and make headlines to sell papers, so why does the phrase “No one knows who you are until you do something wrong” have to hold true? Why can’t the Rangers get the back page? Why can’t writers and analysts acknowledge the existence of a fourth sport in New York? It is not jealousy of the Knicks that drives me to this post, but the quest for every team and sport to have an equal treatment. While it may have been nearly 18 years ago, when the Rangers won the Stanley Cup in 1994, they were on top of the media world when they did so. They have never been close since, except for late 90’s during the Gretzky/Messier years and the early 2000’s when the franchise was a laughingstock.
So, it seems that only extreme good or extreme bad will allow the media to cover hockey, and in this case, first place this late in the season is not good enough. I truly hope the Rangers will go far into the playoffs, and dare I say, win the Stanley Cup, only so I can see these papers and radio shows jump on the bandwagon and pretend they were with the sport all along. What fools they would make themselves look like, with daily coverage, but then again, maybe they won’t. Maybe what Jeremy Lin eats for breakfast in June would get priority over the Rangers in the finals. After all, who really knows? “Nobody cares about hockey.”