Sunday, July 31, 2005

Five Favorite (Live) Games of All-Time

It is the day before free agency starts and also my birthday, so I thought it would be a nice time to post about the five greatest games I've attended.

5. USA v. Canada - Bell Centre - Montreal, CA - August 31, 2004: Last year I drove up from New York City to Montreal to see two World Cup games. The World Cup is such an exciting event because it is the best players in the world and it is solely devoted to our favorite sport. The game was a low scoring affair, but it was so fast. I sat on the end where Canada shot twice, resulting in lots of action because Esche was getting pounded (but looking brilliant), and finished the game with 30 saves. I wore my blue USA jersey (which I absolutely love) to the game which meant plenty of ribbing from the Canadian faithful, but that made the game even more fun. I also got to stand and watch Pierre McGuire and Bob McKenzie do the pre-game show outside, which was pretty cool.

4. Wild v. Rangers - Madison Square Garden - New York, NY - February 4, 2004: Why is #4 a meaningless regular season game between the Wild and the Rangers? On February 4, Mike Richter became the third Ranger to have his number retired. The game was boring except for a sweet goal by Gaborik but the festivities were something to remember. Richter is such a classy guy and the Rangers brought back old favorites such as Adam Graves for the event. When they showed highlights of Richter and his penalty shot save against Bure in the finals, the crowd went nuts. I still have the giveaways from that night, including a mini-Richter banner.

3. Penguins v. Rangers - Madison Square Garden - New York, NY - April 18, 1999: Gretzky's last game ever played. I don't remember much about this one, even though the two games below this were five years earlier. I do remember there being a buzz in the Garden, as everyone knew they were seeing history. As Gretzky notched his last assist ever as the greatest player to ever live, it was exciting yet sad. My biggest regret as a baseball fan is that I did not get to see Sandy Koufax pitch and it's sad that when I have kids, I am going to need to describe them what Gretzky was like and how he dominated the sport. They will never get to see him live and that was the saddest part about that game. It was a fitting end when Jagr, another amazing hockey player (and my favorite at the time) scored to end the game. Every player (on both teams) shook Gretzky's hand after Jagr's goal. You just don't see that in other sports. No one wanted to leave the arena. Gretzky just kept skating around waving, but no one could stop cheering and go home. No one wanted to make that game a memory.

2. Devils v. Rangers - Madison Square Garden - New York, NY - May 27, 1994: Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals was heart breaking and then crazy. The Rangers took the lead on a first period goal by none other than Conn Smythe winner Brian Leetch. And that was it. That was the scoring. The crowd was going crazy. We all thought we were heading to the finals. And then with 7.7 seconds left, the Devils tied it. I had never heard someplace so loud get so quiet in my life. Everyone was stunned. It was a 1-0 game until 7.7 seconds left and then the Devils had to score. We hated the Devils. I remember Richter being so mad (because the puck was sort of under his pad and the Devils jammed it in from under the pad, and Richter wanted a whistle) that he skated right up to the ref and pinned him against the boards, arguing in his face. He looked like Lou Pinella he was so going nuts. Twenty minutes of overtime passed. I had never been to a double OT game before. What is incredible is that game was actually the third double OT game of the series. Not just third OT, third double OT in a seven game series. When Matteau came behind the net to slip the puck by the miniscule amount of room between Brodeur's pad and the post, the Garden went crazy. 54 years of no Stanley Cup and the Rangers were back in the Finals. I'm getting chills just writing this post. Oh, and you have to check out this small audio clip of Howie Rose announcing the last ten seconds of the game, it's the most famous radio call in Ranger history.

1. Canucks v. Rangers - Madison Square Garden - New York, NY - June 14, 1994: I was at the game when the Rangers won the Stanley Cup, so it has to go here at #1. There was an excitement in the Garden during that playoff run and that game. Something I have not seen replicated since then: When John Amarante was doing the national anthem (like he did every game), you could not hear a word. From the very beginning to the very end, fans were yelling at the top of their lungs so you could not hear a word. When I see the game on Rangers Classics, even on TV you cannot hear a word of the national anthem. It was that loud. "We Want the Cup!" was a popular chant that year. And when they finally won, people started screaming "Nineteen-Forty!" because that is what Islanders fans used to always taunt us with. It was incredible. Leetch won the Conn Smythe, which he deserved. It was, the most memorable game I have ever been too. I remember walking with my father outside after (he was with me at Game #2 on this list as well) and fans were in the streets going crazy, but in a good way. The nice part about that celebration is the NYPD reported the next day that not one single crime happened that night related to the Rangers. (The same could not be said about Vancouver.) What a night.

Anyway, I hope you had as much fun reading my top 5 as I did writing it. I'd like to dedicate this post to my father who is not with us anymore. Thank you for being a good dad and having season tickets to the Rangers and taking me to every single home playoff game in 1994 (and two road ones as well). I love the time we spent together enjoying this great sport.

Also, if any bloggers want to do a list of their own, post it on your site and I'll put a link to it. And readers, please post in the comments your favorite games of all-time that you have attended.