Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Reprint of September 11th Article

SEPTEMBER 11TH 2001 WAS SUPPOSED TO BE OPENING DAY OF CAMP FOR THE NY RANGERS AT MADISON SQUARE GARDEN. CAMP DID NOT OPEN THAT DAY. I HAVE REPUBLISHED THIS ARTICLE EVERY YEAR SINCE, SO NO ONE WILL EVER FORGET WHAT TOOK PLACE. I DO NOT CELEBRATE THE DEATH OF ANOTHER HUMAN. I DO WISH TO THANK THOSE WHO COMPLETED THEIR MISSION TO DISABLE GERONIMO. HARD CORE BOYS, HARD CORE.             BIRD ----}-



SEPTEMBER 11TH, 2001


I'm re posting this as a tribute to the men and women who lost their lives, lost loved ones or worked in the rescue effort as a result of the terrorist attacks that occurred in NY, Washington and Pennsylvania on Sept. 11th. As we approach the first anniversary of this horrible day it's important to remember what happened, why it happened and perhaps think about those who are currently serving both here in the US and overseas to punish those who did this and perhaps help prevent it or anything like it from ever happening again. Thanks go out to George who was kind enough to allow us to post his story. I can't even imagine what he must be thinking as the 11th of September approaches.

The following is just one of thousands of stories being told about September 11th in NYC. This one is written by someone I know. Read his story and think of those who will never get the chance to tell theirs. - Bird

What I've written here is a sequence of events of my experiences on September 11, 2001, the day the World Trade Center was attacked. I've written it for myself so I wouldn't forget any of the details or sequence of events. Details tend to get jumbled up in one's head or forgotten over time. So, forgive me if it seems a little over-detailed.

I got to work, on the 74th floor of WTC1, at 8:00 am. At about 8:30 or so, I went to the cafeteria to get my usual coffee, milk and danish. To get to the caf, which was on the 43rd floor, I had to go to the 44th floor and take an escalator down one floor. Returning from the caf with my food, I entered an elevator in the bank of elevators that serviced floors 67-74.

A little note on how the elevators worked in the building. From the ground floor, if you had to go to an office on any floor up to the 40th floor, you went to a bank of elevators and took an elevator to your floor. If you had to go to a floor from the 75th floor on up, you took one elevator to the 78th floor lobby and then you went to a bank of elevators and took an elevator to your floor. If you had to go to a floor from the 41st through the 74th floor like me, you took one elevator to the 44th floor lobby and then you went to a bank of elevators and took an elevator to your floor.

So, I got into an elevator that serviced floors 67-74. Five other guys got in after me, the last fellow being a window washer. He was carrying his bucket of soapy water with his squeegee and his wooden extension pole. The elevator started moving. Suddenly it stopped and banged violently from side to side. The lights were still on. We pushed the emergency call button to call for help. As far as we were concerned, the only thing that happened was that the elevator had stopped. No one answered right away so we pushed the alarm button. We pried the doors open only to find a wall in front of us with "50" chalked on it. Apparently, we were stuck at the 50th floor. We closed the doors and then someone answered our calls for help and I believe said something about an explosion in the building.

Then I smelled smoke. This changed things. We had to get out. I got out my handkerchief and covered my nose and mouth. Then I remembered that it was better to wet it so I dipped it in my milk. I suggested to the others to do the same. We pried open the doors again and laid down the window-washer's pole to keep the door open. It was the perfect size. Now we started kicking the hell out of the wall in front of us. It was no use. It was sheetrock, a.k.a. plasterboard or drywall, in 2 feet wide sections with a steel frame around it. It hardly moved. We would have to dig through it.

Nobody had a knife or any tools. The only thing I had was my keys. The window-washer, John, pulled out his squeegee and another fellow, also named John, starts digging into the wall with it. This second John turned out to be Deputy Director of Operations for the World Trade Center. The squeegee had a sturdy metal piece, which held the rubber part in place. All this time the smoke is getting worse.

John the director and I both had cell phones but neither one of us could get a signal. As they worked on chipping through the wall, I climbed up on a handrail on the elevator wall and the back of another fellow to try to find a way through the top of the car. It consisted of metal panels. There was no obvious way to get them open. They didn't slide or push in or have any latches so I started to pound it with the heel of my hand. It didn't give. I had to get down anyway. The smoke was getting to me.

Eventually, someone got through the wall. We now had a hole about the diameter of a finger and fresh air was coming through. The elevator shaft wall turned out to be 3 inches thick. It consisted of 3 ply of one inch sheetrock held together by the steel frame I mentioned. We continued to chip away and kick at the wall. Then I noticed John the window-washer was holding a piece of the squeegee that had come off. It was the part where the pole screwed in. It was triangular with 2 pointy corners and the corner where the pole screwed in. I grabbed it and started hacking to one side of the hole and another guy worked on the other side. Then I got the idea to try and score the wall so that when we kicked at it, there would be weak points. As we took turns kicking the wall, my foot finally went through and we had a nice sized hole now. We took turns kicking at the edges of the hole making it bigger. Eventually, we had a hole about 2-3 feet high by 1 foot wide. But there was another wall on the other side.

We saw aluminum framing and more sheetrock. But this sheetrock was much thinner and we kicked through it easily. It turned out to be a bathroom on the 50th floor. We kicked through the thin sheetrock and wall tiles and made a hole big enough for a man to fit through. One guy went through and ran to find some help. Then I went through. Someone in the elevator started kicking at the aluminum stud, made the hole a little bigger and the rest came through. We were in there for about 40-45 minutes total.

The guy who was through the opening first came back with someone and we went to a staircase that took us to the 44th floor lobby. This was where we first learned that the towers were both hit by airplanes. We were led to another staircase, but before heading down, I made a cell phone call to my wife. She answered the phone crying and I told her I was not hurt and had been trapped in an elevator but had escaped and was on my way down from the 44th floor. It wasn't a good connection and I couldn't make out everything she was saying. I told her I would call her when I got outside.

The trip down the staircase was, at first, uneventful. It was stop-and-go. There were firemen everywhere. Many doors on the way down had either cops or firemen going in and out making sure the floors were empty. The occasional fire fighter passed us going up with axes and sledgehammers. They were huffing and puffing in their heavy outfits. I guessed they were going up to the impact site. It was like this until I got to the 13th floor where things changed drastically.

The ground below us shook and there was a long, deep thundering sound. Then dust started coming up the stairway. It got to where you couldn't see 3 feet in front of you. Someone said it was probably an elevator that fell down but that wasn't what happened. I covered my mouth and nose again with my handkerchief and we all made our way down the stairs led the whole way by the firemen. A few floors later, a fireman opened a door and said things were clear and to follow him. Since I was near the end of the line, only 3 or 4 of us followed him through. It was now pitch black and dusty and we were walking ankle deep in water. The only light came from the firemen's small flashlights. We came to another door but there were people standing there and things weren't moving. I pointed out to the firemen that at least the other staircase was moving and we were led back to where we came in. We continued down and came to a door, which also led into a dark, dusty and wet passageway. We exited the passageway and emerged onto the mezzanine, which overhang the first floor lobby of the building. This mezzanine was where the Engineering Department had our Christmas party last year. It was strewn with dust and debris. The firemen told everyone to stay close to the wall and we were led outside through a broken window.

What was once the beautiful plaza between the 2 towers was now like a scene out of a B movie. There was dust, paper and twisted pieces of metal everywhere. We walked along the building through the rubble and a policeman informed us that the Pentagon had also been attacked. I couldn't believe what I was hearing. The Pentagon? When we were clear of the building I looked up and saw the gash in the tower where the first plane impacted. It was shocking. We were led down a set of stairs to the street and told to just keep walking away from the area. As I walked away, I heard someone say that World Trade Center 2 had collapsed. I totally dismissed this. It just wasn't logical. I looked up at where it should be and saw smoke and dust. That didn't mean it wasn't there, right? Then I came to realize the thundering and dust that occurred when I was at the 13th floor must have been WTC2 coming down. I just couldn't believe it. I tried and tried to get in touch with my wife but the whole town was also trying to get calls out. I couldn't get a line.

When the World Trade Center was bombed in 1993, it took some people over 3 hours to make their way down the stairs. WTC2 collapsed a little over an hour after the whole thing started. I kept thinking that there must be thousands dead. Two blocks from the site, I ran into a friend of mine, Tom, who worked on the 82nd floor. Tom is a big man; about 6'3" and 330 lbs. in his early 50s. He was breathing hard. We stopped for a minute or two and chatted. We continued on and ran into a guy he worked with on 82. I thought to myself that this was a good sign. If people from 82 got out alright, there was a good chance for my coworkers and the rest on the upper floors. This fellow we ran into, Tad, told us that he was sitting at his desk, a window seat, when the first plane was approaching the building. It seemed to be coming right at him. He could see the pilot's face! It veered up and struck the building. I had been out of the building for only 15 minutes. We were about 5 or 6 blocks from the WTC when I heard some explosions and turned to look up at where they had come from. What I saw was surreal.

The antenna and the rest of the roof atop the building I had just left, leaned to one side and fell in on itself. The rest of the floors below collapsed under the weight and an enormous cloud of dust and debris was expanding outward from the Trade Center. Everyone turned and hauled ass. I turned around urging big Tom on but he wasn't able to keep up. When I turned again, I didn't see him. Today (9-13) I talked to him and he told me he had ducked around a corner and into a doorway. I spent 10 minutes or so in the area looking and waiting for him to come walking down the street but I couldn't find him. I felt horrible. I was sure he was OK but felt sad thinking about how he must feel to have been left behind.

I kept walking and found out that I was heading north. Then I ran into John the window-washer! We embraced and talked some and walked together. Finally I got through on my cell phone and spoke to my wife and my sister Lynn. After calming them down, I tried to reach John's wife at work for him. Eventually, we got a ringing phone, but no one answered. John went off on his own and I walked until I reached the Holland Tunnel. It was closed and there were a lot of people standing around talking and listening to the radio in some guy’s car. After ten minutes of that, I went west until I hit West St. and continued north. I stopped at a pizzeria and bought a Snapple then continued north.

Then I got a good idea. I got through to home again and got my friend Tom's home number from my sister. I called his wife and told her I saw him and that he was alright. Then I ran into a guy, Frank, who worked on my floor in the Mechanical Engineering Department. He told me he saw lots of people from our floor so things were looking good. After 10 or 15 minutes chatting with him, I continued north. Something Frank said stuck in my head. He said that he was avoiding the major train stations. Terrorists knowing these to be a likely place where people would flee might make them a target.

I figured I could get to the ferries in midtown and get the hell off of that island. I got to Chelsea Piers which is around 30th St. and there were people in the street with bullhorns telling anyone interested that ferries to New Jersey were leaving from Pier 61. I went in and was walking to the end of the line when I saw a another guy, Dennis, who worked on my floor in the Electrical Engineering Department. We shook hands and had a few words before I took my place at the end of the line. The line was about 600 feet long. It looked like a long wait. I called home and gave a status report. After 20 minutes or so, a ferry came and took a load of people and the line moved up some. I figured it would take 5 or 6 more ferries until I got on one. About 15 minutes after the first ferry, the Spirit of New York, and dinner cruise ship that runs out of that pier, parked itself at the dock and all of the rest of us who were waiting were loaded aboard and taken to Weehawken, New Jersey. We were told that buses would take us from there to Giants Stadium which was going to be used a staging area.

When I got to Giants Stadium, about 2:00 pm, I walked around the parking lot looking for someone I knew. This is the same parking lot, #13, that I had many a beer and barbeque in before heading in to a soccer or football game. I didn't find a familiar face. My wife and sister were on their way to get me but then they closed Rt. 3, the major highway to the stadium. I spent about 3 hours there and my wife was stop-and-go on the highway. I went over to a state trooper and asked him if he could find out exactly where on Rt. 3 the road was closed. He tried but couldn't get an exact answer. He took one look at my dusty pants and dust caked shoes and asked me what I'd been through. After I told him, he all but dragged me over to a reporter who was interviewing people about their experiences. I gave my story to channel 12, a local PBS station. I haven't seen it but lots of people have told me that they have.

I decided to take one of the buses to Newark's Penn Station. I called my wife and told her to get off of the road when she could and to try to get to Newark. Once on the bus, I overheard the driver's radio say that Rt. 21 into Newark was all clear so I called my wife to pass that on. The road was all clear but then traffic came to a stop. There was an accident about a half-mile ahead. My sister called to say that they were about a mile and a half behind us and also stuck. We sat there for about 30 minutes or so. The bus driver wouldn't let me out on the highway but once the traffic started moving, I talked him in to pulling over at the next exit to let me out. Ten minutes later, they came along and picked me up and there was an emotional reunion.

I got home (after 7:00 pm), kissed everyone, showered, phoned loved ones and had a bite to eat. I responded to as many of the messages on my answering machine as I could get through to. From about the time I was at Giants Stadium until I ate, I had had some pressure in my upper chest. I figured it was from the smoke and dust that I must have inhaled during the course of the day, but it had gone away after I'd eaten. Everyone nagged me until I agreed to go to the hospital to have myself looked over. My lungs and heart sounded fine but they wanted to do an EKG. Well, they saw a wiggle on the EKG they didn't like so they wanted to run some blood tests. It was now after 11:00 pm. They said I would be there for another 7 hours minimum. The blood tests had to be run 6 hours apart. In the end, it was going on 9:00 am when I got out of there. I had gotten a total of maybe 3 hours sleep all night and my poor wife didn't sleep a wink.

Later in the day, I spoke to a former boss of mine, Fred, in an office in New Jersey where I had worked for 9 years until this past December when I was transferred to the WTC. I was one of two guys unaccounted for that worked on the Civil Engineering Department. In the end, everyone was accounted for and unharmed.

The news reports of the day are very disturbing. The phone calls from the planes to their loved ones, the passenger lists showing children names, people leaping to their deaths avoiding the fires... Then there are the people dancing in the streets celebrating somewhere in the Middle East. Even in my town of birth, Paterson, New Jersey, where there is a section of Arab population, there were reports of people dancing in the streets celebrating. Police were there to stop a certain riot situation. What kind of people celebrate the deaths of the innocent?

The 2 things I think of most are the sight of the second tower tipping over and falling in on itself and of all of the firemen directing the evacuation and climbing the stairs in full gear to help those trapped high in the tower. There was never a doubt on which way to go and there wasn't much panic. This is because of the presence of the firemen, those brave souls who run into burning buildings. Every time I think of them, I cry.

Only a fool wakes a sleeping giant. These murderers have now given the civilized world just cause to go in and wipe out terrorists anywhere, anytime we see fit. We know where they train and we know who supports them. This is the beginning of their end....


©2001 - George S. Phoenix, III Garfield, New Jersey, USA

Sunday, August 17, 2014

STILL DARING TO BE DIFFERENT

Annnnnnnnd ACTION!
Hello New York and everywhere else, I'm Bird and you're back here at Hockeybird.com. Usually this is a place you'd come to read about the New York Rangers or the NHL at large. For anyone new, August is a time where the NHL is quiet and articles of a different ilk would find their way onto the site.

Of course Hockeybird is no longer what it was. That's OK. There are so many great websites to follow hockey these days and I'm quite pleased that we helped spawn many of them. Taking a back seat after 16 years is just fine by me. Today I'm going to follow in the August tradition and tell the story (non hockey related) of my recent trip back to NY to film my scenes for the upcoming motion picture, Dare To Be Different. It's the story of a small NY radio station and how they (we) changed the world. I'm speaking of course about 92.7 WLIR. You know, 175 Fulton Ave in beautiful downtown Hempstead NY.

Longtime readers of this site remember I'd occasionally post about my time in radio. For those of you who are brand new, this was the place to read about Hockey since 1997. Either way I am in fact DJ Bird from WLIR, 92.7 the station that dared to be different. During the 1980s we broke bands here in the USA that might not otherwise have been played. To our surprise, many of these bands became household names later on. It's true that U2 would have become the major force they are had we not existed but hey, one has to start somewhere and WLIR was the place that helped begin many a music career. That in turn helped create new art, fashion, culture and the like. Many of todays TV commercials feature bands first heard on WLIR. Our impact is still being felt today perhaps even more than we know.

Several years ago I was contacted by a nice young lady from Hollywood about participating in a documentary film about WLIR and it's impact on Long Island, NYC and everywhere else for that matter. It thought it was about time that someone took on this project. Denis McNamara and I had discussed a movie about WLIR for years. Well, Ellen Goldfarb and her team have been working feverishly to produce such a film. I was thrilled. This is a chance for me to thank all those wonderful people I worked with and for. I could thank all the bands who helped me as much if not more than I may have helped them. And of course, I can thank all of those who listened and supported WLIR in addition to the great clubs I appeared at. Of course I would participate. But how? Filming in Florida was not in the cards.

Getting to NY or LA is an issue for me. My personal life has not gone in such a way that taking time off or spending money to travel is a possibility. Thanks to the filmmakers we were able to help arrange a trip this past weekend to NY. The crew had shoots scheduled for over a week with many different people who had a part in the WLIR story. This was just one of many shoots over the last few years. Trust me, I was very excited to board a plane and head north this past friday. I knew it would become another cherished memory connected to my time in the Long Island/New York music scene.

Bird and Dean at Subculture
Dean Roberts is a guy I've know since I was ten or so. I even couldn't begin to tell you about what we did together. He was kind enough to come and pick me up at LGA and we drove to a place in Bethpage normally known as Whoville but becomes Subculture on Friday nights. The night is run by DJ Tim Cody and the music is a kind of celebration of what was once the dominant scene in the tri-state area circa 1980-1990. The flight in was very cool. Approaching NY just after 9pm I was able to see the Statue of Liberty all lit up, the Freedom Tower and then the Empire State Building. It's a sight everyone should see once in their lives. The beauty of Lady Liberty always makes me think of what my Mom must have thought as she gazed on her in 1938 as her family came to the the US to escape the Fascists in Italy. Once in the car, the roads on which most you NYers curse each other were to me, beautiful. The ride to Subculture was filled with nostalgia for me as memories of many different events came flooding back. Yes I live in Florida and have so since 2004 but it was here in NY that I grew up, lived and participated in the WLIR scene for 40 years. It was in NY that my other passion, Ice Hockey was realized, playing and winning championships with the Falcons and practicing with the NY Islanders.

Stepping inside the club was an instant flashback. These days I live for golf, 7am tee times and televised tourneys. I no longer go out at all let alone frequent night clubs. It's quite a treat for me to see the lights, hear the songs I used to play and to see people on a dance floor enjoying them. While it's true I played clubs well after my time at WLIR came to an end it had been years since I last played at Luxe, my very last NY show the night before Thanksgiving, 2003. What a great feeling to see the last and only place on Long Island doing what we did all those years ago. And the people? WOW! Some expected and a few very unexpected guests attended from my past. Even my brother Dave showed up.

I grew up on Bent in levittown
The Nassau Coliseum where we saw many WLIR shows  
Ironically, my youngest brother James was also in town for the first time in ages but not for the movie,for his high school reunion. Texting pictures back and forth allowed us to share the memories even though our paths never crossed during the trip. James and I both left NY for Florida years ago and I see him much more frequently than Dave. It's clear we both were enjoying the "Wayback Machine". I think even Dave had a good time that night though it's always hard to tell.

I had a 10:30 cast call to make in the morning so I couldn't stay late and close the place. I did get to eat in a diner on Hempstead Turnpike I hadn't been in in over 15 years. The next morning was going to be my only chance to get a few seconds of "ME" in the story of WLIR, at least in this film. My mind was racing with memories of filling in for Denis McNamara or Malibu Sue, making commercials with Jeff Carlson, going to shows with Donna Donna and interactions with bands like the Ramones, The Cult, APB, UB40, Joan Jett and the Blackhearts or listeners of our station and all those nights at places like Paris New York, Spit, Malibu, The Ritz, The Limelight, on and on. I didn't get much sleep.

The night before I ask Dean if we could pick up Denis on the way to the shoot out east in Sayville. He really wasn't keen on it as he didn't really know who Denis was. Dean left for the Army in 1980 and wasn't here for my WLIR days. However, his lady friend Veronica said, "Who? Denis McNamara? Oh, we are SOOOO picking him up!". That settled that. Rolling up to Denis' house was a trip. I hadn't been there since at least 1987 and hadn't seen Emily, Denis' wife in at least that long. It had been over ten years that Denis and I had seen each other despite the occasional phone conversations. I admit, this was getting emotional for me. I do miss NY from time to time those days will forever be special to me.

Saturday morning's shoot was at a record store in Sayville, Long Island. It's a place where they sell vinyl, that's right.....you heard me. VINYL RECORDS! Soul Sounds Records is run by Suzanne and she was very kind to allow the producers a fantastic location to shoot. After all, part of my WLIR story is that Denis wandered into Paris NY one night and because I scoured all the record stores for interesting stuff, he added me to the music selection process at the station I grew up listening to as a kid. Walking in wearing almost a golf outfit, I'm not sure the crew knew what to expect. Once changed into my DJ Bird outfit (that sounds so silly and yet, that's what happened) a buzz started. To me it seemed that everyone there was suddenly amped up a notch or two. By the way, I highly recommend visiting Soul Sound and you can tell Suzanne I sent you! There was a listener there also filming and he told the story of a night he called the station and the DJ gave him Elvis Costello tix. That'll be a cool part of the movie for sure.

I won't reveal what topics we covered as I want that to be seen and heard first once the movie is completed and released. That's only fair. I can say that the crew was highly professional and a very comfortable atmosphere was created for the filming. I know that for me having Denis there made a huge difference. Our friendship after all these years reminded me of all the really cool stuff we had the chance to create together. I'm not sure how long the shoot was but it felt like sixty seconds as performances usually dull one's sense of time especially when said performer is having fun. I had fun. But it was over in a blink of an eye. We piled back into the car and for the next hour or so Denis and I traded stories. This should have been filmed. We covered many amazing topics and answered some decades long questions. It was amazing. We ending up in Northport and had a meal in one of the famous sites right in town. The conversations continued for what seemed hours but at some point Denis had to get home and we (Dean, Veronica and I) were exhausted.
Denis McNamara and DJ Bird discuss WLIR in Northport

That night instead of going out we had a delicious meal at home cooked now by the now infamous Veronica and we relaxed, discussing the day's events while Dean was turning me on to some new tunes. The weather was great so sitting outside, relaxing and hearing great tunes in NY was a treat in itself. I had a 7:00am plane to catch to head back home. Luke Skywalker made an appearance that will go unexplained.

During the years and months leading up to this trip it was never certain to happen. In the end it was my two daughters and Denis who each said, "You have to be in this movie" that convinced me that somehow someway it had to happen. I am so glad of that. I'm told there will be a screening of the movie at the Rock and Roll hall of Fame and if I can get a few seconds in it, well then I can die in peace like that guy who held up the sign in Madison Square Garden on June 14th 1994 when the NY Rangers won the Stanley Cup. Yes, that kind of joy. It's very humbling to think about my participation in the WLIR story but I am also quite proud of it as well. I'm so thankful that all the parts will be documented for all time in this project. The producers, crew and those behind the scenes are doing a great thing and I hope they are richly rewarded for their hard work and dedication to something that is not just close to my heart but a part of who I am......it was after all my life.

Yes, we knew that something special was happening. I knew I was lucky to be part of it. It never occurred to me to document it. To me it was "Friday" or just another airshift and my job. I certainly can't claim to understand the grand scope of all that would become as a result of WLIR. I do know how blessed I am to have played a small part. I want to thank Ellen and the entire DTBD movie crew for telling our story and including me. I also wish to to thank all of you who listened, went to the clubs and shows and bought all those records.

Thank you

----}- DJ Bird

Sunday, June 15, 2014

PRIDE

Dad & Espo with the Stanley Cup
First and foremost, a very happy Father's Day to my Dad and all Dads' out there. I'm sure we all owe our Dads' something and I'm no exception. In addition to all the things my Dad has done for me he introduced me to the great game of Ice Hockey. I won every game he attended. I got my passion for all out effort to win from him.

OK, hello New York and everywhere else, I'm Bird and you're in the Birdcage at hockeybird.com. Just days ago the los Angeles Kings defeated the New York Rangers in game five of the Stanley Cup finals in double overtime. It was the second double overtime of the series and the third overtime, all in L.A. Unfortunately the Rangers lost all three. The Pundits and talking heads I taunted on twitter proved to be right, Kings in 5. You were right and I was wrong. Feel better now? But you have to admit, a bounce here or there and not only would we be looking forward to a game six, the Rangers could have been leading the series. None of you saw that coming.

Congratulations to the L.A. Kings for one hell of an historic Stanley Cup championship. To come back in round one down 0-3 was incredible. They won game seven on the road to capture the second round. Follow that with a game seven win in Chicago to knock off the defending champs and you have a history making trek of epic proportions in a quest for the Cup. While at times the Kings made mistakes they earned their "bounces" with tremendous effort. They fought for every puck, competed in each battle and at times outplayed the Rangers. They worked hard for it, deserved it and won it it outright. The Kings are the Stanley Cup Champions.

It is with great pride that I look at this 2013-14 New York Ranger season.

There will be time to discuss Richards, Dan G's tough final performance and the other topics some fans have already been violently tweeting and posting. Right now I'm going to concentrate and appreciate the positives about this season. Face it, after the opening road trip and the struggles early on, did any of you think we'd be playing in June? Be honest. I know I was preaching patience as the new coach and system had to be fully absorbed by the players and that takes time but it sure didn't look like a Cup run team.

I for one didn't support the firing of John Tortorella. The coaching change added too many variables for me to feel a warm and fuzzy about a championship. It was going to take time and I wasn't convinced it would happen quickly enough. Heck, I wasn't sure they'd make the playoffs during the early part of the season.

So, why am I feeling pride about our New York Rangers?

1. Cam Talbot - I didn't know much about this kid and "good" Marty Biron had been pretty steady as a back up. Turns out I felt as if there was little to NO drop off when the kid was between the pipes. Quite the opposite, Talbot seemed to give the team and it's fans a lift. That's not something a back up keeper normally does. With the compressed schedule and the King representing Sweden in every one of their Olympic games Cam would become a very important reason the Rangers won home ice in round one.

2. Ryan McDonagh - We knew he was good but it was this season that ryan emerged as a legit Norris kinda D-man. His confidence level combined with the coaches system change allowed for some offence and more often than not, in a big spot. Mac D is becoming a leader and a go to player on this team. Despite the shoulder injury, Ryan was a warrior and will get even better.

3. Henrik Lundqvist - He's is worth every penny of the contract he signed in the opening weeks of the season. Those who complained then about the dollar amount or the length as arm chair GMs are silent now. Despite some early trouble employing a tweak to his style, the King set all kinds of New York Ranger records for a goaltender surpassing Mike Richter and Eddie Giacomin in various stats. I noticed that Hanke now will come out and challenge a shooter at times previously spent deep in his crease. A wonderful addition to an already awesome toolbox Lundqvist brings to each game. If only he could improve his stick handling, the only area of weakness left.......he could still be getting better!

I've mentioned many times that this is Hanks' team, I don't care who wears the C or A. He is the leader and inspiration of the Rangers. It's his post game comments that speak for the team and he is quite the intelligent interviewee. To get this close to the only thing in life that eludes him should only make him more dedicated and determined next season. The King is not done with his quest for the Grail.

4. The Trade - It's not a comfortable discussion when describing the effect the trade of New York Rangers captain Ryan Callahan had on the team. Cally didn't become the captain and the fan favorite at the Worlds Most Famous Arena by accident. His hard work ethic was indeed infectious. He lead by example. His smaller physical stature was overcome by his giant heart......and the fans connected. During the first half of the season I struggled to identify the team identity. Who were they? What kind of team are they? Cally was as close to an identity as the Rangers had (besides save by Lundqvist). At the time of the trade I was of the opinion that the Bolts had clearly won with the picks being the poorest part of the deal. I stated that St. Louis "was not the Butch Goring of 2014".

I was wrong.

When Marty walked into the locker room, the effect it had on each and every player was something that is hard to articulate without a prior point of reference. I'm sure it was a "you had to be there" kinda moment. But it's effect was clear as day. In that moment, Marty became a New York Ranger and the New York Rangers became a team. I wrote sometime during the second half of the season that the team needed a "chip on their shoulder" and when Rick nash visited his old mates, had a few goals and a fight, I thought that might do it. It didn't. Even Dom Moores' courage wasn't enough to galvanize this team. Marty walking into that locker room did just that.

The Game Six win on Mother's Day vs the Pittsburgh Penguins was as an emotional event in the game of hockey as I have witnessed. The video that went viral where Marty talks about being a Ranger says it all. His loss and subsequent support from his teammates transformed the Rangers into a band of brothers, focused on the mission and fighting for each other. Had the Rangers won the Cup you could have put an exclamation point on this trade. While this was a good a hockey related feeling I've had in quite some time, the picks still bother me a bit.

5. Beating Pennsylvania - Division realignment doesn't bother me much and the playoff format seemed to work great this season, league wide. Hockey fans were treated to one of the best playoff season in years as fan as excitement goes. I loathe the name Metro-Division but I'll get over it I guess. Rivalries with the Islanders and Devils remain very healthy and the Outdoor Classic's were a hit (except that the NHL and Rovio stole the name Hockeybird from me). Unlike many fans of the Rangers, it's the Flyers whom I despise the most. Read this post from before the season even ended. I correctly predicted exactly how the season would end and the result of the first round. Well, I got one thing wrong. the Rangers lost game six. The first round win over the Flyers would have been satisfying had that been the end of our run right there. There is no team on the planet that I take greater pleasure seeing lose. It's only better when the Rangers do it.

The Ice Chickens on the other hand are a different story. Some of you may know that I lived in Pittsburgh and worked at WXXP 100.7 back in the mid 80s. I loved it there and still have friends in that great city. My original dislike for the Pens stemmed from jealousy and frustration. The Lemieux years I guess. The Graves suspension. But since Sid the Kid came and the ice chickens became the team they are now my disdain has fomented and multiplied. Most of the hockey world had already penciled in the Penguins in the eastern Conference finals before the series even began. It would be quite sweet to knock the Mighty Penguins off. Falling behind 1-3 was deflating to say the least. I'm sure like most of you when we heard the news about Marty's Mom, not only was the series lost but it was no longer important. Winning game seven completed a dramatic comeback for the ages. The series itself could be the focus of a book or movie. Emotionally drained yet oddly satisfied the Rangers and the fans were going to the Conference finals. Beating both teams from Pennsylvania in game sevens made this a great season for me. Had nothing else good occured, it was a great year!

6. The Stanley Cup - Canada's only playoff team was already in the finals after knocking off the big bad Bruins in seven. After all, they had the gold medal winning goalie and they're the Montreal Canadiens fer christs sake. It's their birthright. OK, in fairness.......had Price not been injured it's very possible the Habs win but in no way did the kid they played lose the series for them. The injury changed the series but in the end the Rangers won in six. For the first time in 20 years, the Rangers were headed to the finals!

Look, it hurts. To get this close and not win is a bit painful. The Rangers should have won game one. It was the one game they held an advantage as the kings had just won an emotional game seven vs the Blackhawks.....the defending Cup Champs. Sure, Quick stopped the puck but there were chances, goals to be had. After game two the Rangers had not lost in regulation but had nothing to show for it. A bounce one way or another and the series could be different. That's hockey.

Game three leaves a bad taste in my mouth as the refs blew a call that changed the game and the series. While not fair it is over and done with. Game four allowed for the team to give it's fans (and themselves) something to be proud of. They won a Stanley Cup playoff game at Madison Square Garden. They prevented that Cup being awarded on home ice. they extended the series and brought hope when there was none. The Rangers showed pride. Yes, the Kings scored in double overtime in game five to win the Cup but you and I both know that game could just as easily been won by the Rangers.

Back in High School my team began each practice and game warm up with PRIDE jumping jacks. A reminder that if you try your best, no matter the result you hold your head up with pride.

The New York Rangers and their fans should and can hold their heads up with pride. It was a great season. It was a great playoff run. It was great hockey.

Thanks guys, I had a blast sharing the season with you here and on Twitter.

----}- Bird

Sunday, May 11, 2014

MARTY'S MOTHER'S DAY

20 Bent Lane in Levittown where Mom raised us
Hello NY and everywhere else, I'm Bird and it's Mother's Day 2014. By now you all know that Marty St. Louis lost his Mom a few days ago and that the NY Rangers rallied in Pittsburgh to force a game six which is tonight.

Those of you who have lost your Mom like I have understand what Marty is feeling. I don't have words to explain what it's like. What I can do is explain what my Mom meant to me.

Mom saw me win at lacrosse, football and wrestling while I was in high school. She listened to me on WLIR 92.7 in NY. She like your Moms was everything to a Levittown kid like myself. But in 1993 the cancer came back and took her from us. I was devastated. It's fair to say I didn't deal with it very well. It took a priest to sit me down and make me realize that I had 19 bonus years with her, something others didn't get. When I decided to return to the ice after the '94 Cup, I did so without Mom's presence. So I decided to include her in my pre-game ritual. I spoke to her on the way to the rink. Once dressed and through warm ups I'd again think of her. Then, just before puck drop I got on one knee in my crease and tapped the post with my glove. Then I'd tap my heart. "Just me and you Mom, just me and you". I said that each and every time I played including four championships.

I am sure Marty will be thinking of his Mom tonight as he takes the ice.

I'd like to think that the rest of the NY Rangers played for Marty and his Mom in Pittsburgh and I expect they will do the same tonight at the worlds most famous arena. The emotional trip Marty is on can be made just a little bit easier if the Rangers can force a game seven. I for one hope and pray that they do just that.

Win or lose I am proud of our Rangers for the game they played on Friday night. It would be fitting if on Mother's Day they could pull off one more win. Do it for Marty......do it for your own Moms. Do it for all Moms.

Happy Mother's Day to all the Moms out there and the rest of you, give your Mom a hug. You never know when you'll not be able to.

----}- Bird

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

NY RANGER PLAYOFF CHANCES i am not a jinx

Hello NY and everywhere else, I'm Bird and you're at Hockeybird.com here for the last SIXTEEN years for no reason at all. I'm going to jump the gun and preview a possible playoff preview between your beloved NY Rangers and the league wide hated, Philadelphia Flyers. There it is, I said it. No taking it back.

Let's get this out of the way now. I AM in fact JINXing the New York Rangers with this post. I know that, you know that. I am doing it on purpose. It is in fact an anti-JINX JINX. By even typing these very words I am taunting the hockey gods with each keystroke. It's April 1st as I type this but it is no joke, I am talking about the Rangers vs the Flyers in the 2014 Stanley Cup Playoff first round. Go ahead, curse at me now. It's ok, I'll understand that it's something you need to do. Go ahead, I'm waiting..........................Send your nastygrams to @hockeyangrybird or email to bird @ hockeybird.com.

I know what I'm doing, I'm a professional. Please, do not try this at home.

OK,

I'm assuming a 2-3 match-up with NYR having secured home ice. (Oh boy have I done it now!) The Flyers have enjoyed quite a turnaround since a rough beginning to the 2014 season. They ousted "Pete from Uniondale" Laviolette and promoted Craig Berube who was the consummate Flyer. He was hard nosed, big, aggressive, edgy, intimidating and could play. That is Flyer hockey. He has turned the team around into an impressive (3-2) metro Division finish. His captain is the first focus.

Claude Giroux:

I really thought the Flyers went nuts when both Richards and Carter were essentially dumped by the Flyers. I still scratch my head as those guys HAVE won a cup. I distinctly remember writing here on Hockeybird that the Flyers would be a team to deal with as Richards and Carter were gonna be scary. I truly enjoyed the Dubinsky - Richards battles. Once gone it was no longer just goaltending that would limit the Bullies. Then of course this kid with a chip on his shoulder pops up and once again we have to deal with those of Broadstreet. As a fan of hockey, pure and simple, Claude Giroux is everything one could ask for in a hockey player. If he wasn't a Flyer I'd have one hell of a man crush on this guy. To make matters worse, if you look at him these days he reminds you of a certain number SIXTEEN who once danced around the Spectrum. Praise aside, Claude has yet to lead his team all the way and until he does I for one will not publicly praise him. Crap, I just did.

If Claude catches fire his passion will spread and the Flyers will be dangerous. He makes players around him better. His success is infectious within that Flyer locker room. Stop him and you beat the Flyers. If not......good luck. In my opinion, the way to stop him is to make him play run and gun. The Flyers can't match the speed and Claude is only one guy. Look, I know he's barely 5-10 and 175 lbs but when he started popping his 25 goals and 78 points the fly Guys started winning. Simple as that. That's my two cents on that.

Scott Hartnell:

C'mon.....the guy LOOKS like a Flyer even with his new short hair. I'm could be wrong but I think he's better the longer his hair is. Honestly you have to keep this guy quiet and that means walking away from his yapping. You can't let this guy get into your head........ignore him. Well, his mouth any way. His 20 goals and nearly 50 points speak for themselves. Another passion guy who needs to be kept quiet.

Vinny Lecavalier:

I watched this guy drop his gloves with Jerome Iginla in the 2004 Cup finals and I watched him carry the Cup around that rink in Tampa, 2004. He's still got game. His 18 goals does NOT tell the story in my opinion. Factor in a new team, injuries and not being played 1st line minutes and that's a lot to digest. His 18 goals so far tells me that he will score in the playoffs. He wins faceoffs and is a big body who knows the game. Be wary of this guy. 4th line my ass.

Flyers Defense:

Hahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha

No really.

OK, they have some size. They have some vets. They have Kimmo. Hey, he's got 37 points.

As far as I'm concerned the Flyer defense is only off the hook if their goalie sucks. I'm not impressed nor intimidated. (In fairness, I'm not playing either) A decent fore check beats these guys in 60 minutes.

Flyers Goaltending:

Um,

Ah......

Well, one can..........ah, um.........

Steve Mason.

He won the rookie of the year in like......eight years ago. He doesn't suck. The 25 year old has 31 wins as of now. That's not freaking bad eh? But his GAA is 25th in the league and I'm not remembering his last big playoff accomplishment, can you? In other words, he's ripe for the Flyers Goalies Sucks syndrome. If I didn't dislike the Flyers it would be considered cruel to watch. Trust me on this.....the Flyers will NOT win the Cup this year and at some point, it will be the keepers fault.

A look at our boys......

Henke:

There is a difference in his game this year. I noticed it when he was losing but it was a positive change. And, it's continued and improved as this season has progressed. Hank comes out to challenge shooters more than ever before. And, farther out too. I love it. It's the one area I can complain about and with all the records and statistics, it's hard to find fault. But I've always suggested that Hank went down too early and too often. He waits a bit longer now. He stays up on a few more shots than before. I think we might be seeing his best yet. I'm confident that Lundqvist can stymie Claude and his boys.

Defense:

Can Ryan McDonough get any better? The guy has actually inserted himself into the Norris discussion. His 47 points are only eclipsed by his heads up plays in the D zone.To hear a national broadcast team give Montreal the business for the Scott Gomez trade yet again is just icing on the cake. I sure hope he and his agent took notes from the Cally debacle as I must see 27 in Ranger blue for years to come. His partner Girardi is no slouch himself. It's Mark Staal that I'm most grateful for. He's a 1-2 guy who currently plays 3 type minutes. Not bad eh? Diaz the trade deadline acquisition has impressed many with his shot, ability to play on the power play and the depth he adds. Hands down I like the NYR D in a seven game series vs the Bullies.

MSL & The Beast:

Here is the only question I have about this series. Will these guys play a big role on the score sheet? Despite the numbers there are few who skate with the same desire as Marty St. Louis. 26 gives his all as he always has. I'm not the only one who expects a bunch of goals from this guy once he gets back his mojo. The streaky Rick Nash has yet to leave his mark on a playoff series in a career that's not getting any younger. Now would be a good time for a hot streak Mr. Beast. If he does get hot, look out Flyer goalie.....

Number Twenty One:

Derek has to play like a number one center in the NHL. He is fer chrissakes.  Stephan doesn't have first line center numbers this year and that's not good considering he held out for cash. That said, Derek can erase that ugliness with a solid playoff performance. Watch his face off numbers and his match up. If he can shut down Giroux and be involved in the Rangers offense it's a five game series.

ZuccaPrucha and the Mighty Mights:

OK, the Flyers are bigger and meaner than the Rangers. I get it. AV has improved the power play and it behooves the Flyers to stay out of the box. That means it behooves the Rangers to turn the other cheek and skate away from the normal playoff intimidation tactics invented in Philadelphia or so it seems. Secondary scoring for the Rangers is a must if they are to advance as I'm suggesting they will. Not only must the Rangers make the Flyers pay on the power play but they'll need to add a few timely 3rd and 4th line goals. If not it'll be a long and painful series.

In a nutshell what I'm saying here is two fold. A, I know full well I am tempting the wrath of the hockey gods by posting this. I am a professional of 16 years, I'm trained. Do not try this at home.

And Three, the Rangers will defeat the Flyers in six games (yes they win it on the road) in the first round of this years playoffs. Please send hate mail here hate @ hockeybird.com


So, that's a really long winded, bloviated (my word) way of suggesting that your New York Rangers can and should beat the Flyers in the first round of the playoffs this year.

----}- Bird