Skating in a Winter Wonderland
With all the memorable, historic moments in Yankees history, the hallowed grounds in the Bronx had never been transformed into a hockey rink.
Be the home to the World Series forty times? Been there. Host the MLB All-Star Game 4 times? Check. Have the field turn into venues for football games, concerts, and boxing matches? All have been done before.
But this past Sunday marked the first time ever that the great sport of hockey could be witnessed at Yankee Stadium as the New York Rangers and New Jersey Devils added another chapter into their intense rivalry.
More than twice the size of a standard hockey arena, the two teams played in front of a passionate and rowdy crowd of over 50,000 fans that were willing to brave the 24 degree weather. Even though the fan bases seemed to be evenly split, it was the supporters of the Rangers that went home happy as the Blue Shirts rallied from being down 3-1 to celebrate a 7-3 victory.
As with any sporting event that is held outdoors, the conditions were not ideal for the players. The game was actually delayed for over an hour due to too much of an intense glare on the ice from the sun. Also, in almost picture perfect fashion, a steady snow fell at the Stadium for most of second period. Devils goalie Martin Brodeur went on to say after the game that it was the worst ice he had ever played on.
Which could certainly be seen as true, as a lot of New York’s goals seemed to be the result of lucky, odd bounces that the outside conditions could have attributed to. However, at the end of the day, both teams had to play and deal with the same conditions.
Maybe it was because New York goalie Henrik Lundqvist was decked out in pinstripe pads and had images of Bronx Bombers legends Babe Ruth, Joe DiMaggio, and Lou Gehrig on his mask that the Yankee Gods smiled on him this game and rewarded him with a 7-3 victory. Or possibly we saw a team that just flat out played better than their competitors, a trend that has helped the Blue Shirts win 6 of their last 9 games and now sit second in the Metropolitan Division standings.
One thing is certain, the Rangers needed to win this game. Despite the Devils being the “home” team (which is one of the most ironic things in sports – that the New York Rangers playing at Yankee Stadium could be the away team is beyond me) the Blue Shirts were definitely the more advertised team, as this game focused on all of the well-known New York spots and, let’s face it, the Yankees and Rangers represent the same city. But besides the pressure to play well in a unique New York venue, the Rangers needed to beat the Devils simply to not fall to 0-4 against them on the season and to become tied with them in the division standings. They were pushed to the edge and they came out firing.
And on the Devils side, the loss stung for the fans and players more than the bitter cold ever could. Yet, it did not dampen their whole experience, as the players said playing at the Stadium and participating in the festivities of this event will be something they will never forget. Unfortunately, the only thing they will want to forget is the 60 minutes of actual game time.
Nolan Silbernagel covers the Yankees and Devils for WFUV Sports.