There were many chants that rained down from the Rangers, Flyers, Devils and overall general hockey fans at Atlantic City’s Boardwalk Hall on Saturday night. The loudest of them all was the one that all fans, no matter what color they were wearing, could agree on – “We Want Hockey!”
And hockey was what they got as the two teams – Team NY captained by Brad Richards and Team NJ/Philly captained by Scott Hartnell – played 60 minutes of all-star type hockey.
There was no checking, no fighting, no defense…but it was hockey and for the fans, that made it perfect.
As Hartnell said after the game:
“I’d be lying if I said I didn’t get choked up a little bit with 11,000 people chanting that they want hockey back.”
The exact number of fans was 10,792 – a complete sellout for the building making it the largest crowd since the building reopened after renovations in 2001. Last time the building was sold out for a hockey-related event? 1933.
This proved that no matter what fans say, they need their hockey. But you can’t put those fans in a room together and expect them to agree on everything. The Rangers and Flyers fans booed the Devils’ Martin Brodeur (lovingly of course) and Penguins’ James Neal (mostly Flyers fans and not sure this one was so lovingly).
My favorite chant of the night? The one with a minute to go as the Rangers fans got a “You can’t beat us” chant to lightly echo around the arena. Sure it wasn’t actually Rangers-Flyers but it was close enough and this Rangers fan enjoyed both the victory and the chant.
As for the game itself, it started with Hartnell and Richards taking to the ice to thank everyone who helped put the game on. Hartnell spoke first and did the bulk of the talking by thanking all the sponsors and fans. Then Richards took over and thanked the players:
“I want to thank the players for coming from Canada, Sweden, where ever you guys came from…”
The last part of that quote I remember word for word. The beginning is paraphrased but you get the gist. My guess is he wanted to point out that his goalie came in from Sweden specifically for the game. (He arrived on Thursday and left on Sunday. Talk about dedication. Makes the performance he put on even more amazing.)
Speaking of his goalie, those Rangers fans in attendance got a real treat as Henrik Lundqvist was in mid-season or maybe even playoff form. I know Henrik is competitive and didn’t for a second think he would just let goals in. That said, some of the saves he made were just unreal. I wish there was video because he had a number of highlight reel stops. Hartnell said it best after the game:
“The dang Rangers. They’ve got our number, that’s for sure. You’d think he would have a little rust after not playing five or six months. But it seems like he’s in playoff shape. We were joking that now the Rangers will want to play real bad because he’s on fire.”
I know Rangers fans want the lockout to be over after witnessing that. If I had to take a guess, Hartnell as well as Steven Stamkos will be having nightmares about Lundqvist over the next week or so.
Team NJ/Philly actually tried a number of ways to get to Lundqvist – from Hartnell coming behind him and attempting to hold him as play went on to the players kicking his stick to center ice after he lost it. Fortunately both times play went the other way so no damage was done. That said, the way Henrik was on Saturday night, he probably still would’ve made the saves.
Aside from Lundqvist, I noticed two things pretty quickly.
First, the refs were there to drop the puck and motion for goals but nothing else. There was one offsides called but that was because Hartnell was at the face-off dot when he got the puck. Otherwise, they pretty much just enjoyed the game with the fans.
Secondly, goals and assists were given out completely on guesswork…especially as the game went on. For example, most articles will tell you that James Neal scored four goals on the night. He didn’t. He only scored three. The third goal that was credited to him was scored by the other #18 on Team NY – Marc Staal. I honestly expected them to fix that but they never did.
I’m also not sure if the seventh goal for Team NY was scored by Matt Martin or Brian Boyle, who played defense for the night. It was credited to Boyle with no assists. They both whacked at the puck a couple of times before it went in so they both should’ve received points.
And goal eight for Team NY? Steve Eminger (#44) definitely took the original shot before the rebound was banked in. The goal was recorded as Ville Leino (#23) from Mike Komisarek (#8) and Bobby Ryan (#9). At least the last time they messed up a goal it was because the numbers were close!
But on this night, it didn’t matter. There was no stat sheet nor any points up for grabs. This was a night for the fans of the game – players and media included. As Dan Girardi, who made a beautiful rink ice pass to Neal for Team NY’s ninth goal, said:
“The fans are very passionate. They want some hockey. Hopefully we gave them a little show tonight, and they can hold onto that.”
I don’t think it was only the fans holding onto that. Sure the players are united in their cause and understand more than the fans and maybe even the media as to why this lockout is going on. That doesn’t mean they don’t want to play. So even though Team NY won 10-6, in my mind everyone in the building was a winner.