I was around four years old and living in Levittown, Long Island NY when I fell in love with the great game of hockey. There were six teams in the NHL and like my Dad I became a NY Rangers fan. Who knew back then what the league and my fandom would grow into? Both expanded beyond expectations. The Sixties were a strange time to grow up with only Saturday night games on WWOR but by the early '70s the NHL expansion had added teams in places like Philly and elsewhere. The NY Islanders entered the league and Cablevision invaded our televisions. We now had a sports channel that played all the Islander games and the NY Mets games. In 1975, my Dad decided that he could no longer support the "Fat Cat" Rangers (his words) and with a playoff win for the Isles he decided that he would become an Islander fan. I thought he was nuts and a traitor. The five trips to the finals in consecutive seasons with four straight Cups rewarded his decision. As a club DJ I spent many nights playing to an audience that included Islander players. I was even on the air on WLIR the night Pat LaFontaine scored that famous overtime goals vs the Caps at 2am. I was reprimanded for breaking in to announce that.
I have to make sure and point out that the NHL and the way it conducts its business is also a reason for my departure from NY. The '94 lockout didn't hurt me so much because we had just won the Cup. I was annoyed by the delay but dismissed the business part in my giddiness. The following labor disputes had a huge impact on me. The last lockout of 2004 came on the heels of some real hope and passion for the NHL. I had just retired as a player, moved to Florida and witnessed the Tampa Bay Lightning win the Stanley Cup in front of my eyes. I had attended several games during their playoff run. It was a dream of mine to attend a Cup final and for it to have been a game seven and to see that hunk of metal is something I'll never forget. At the same time, Glen Sather held a fire sale and things for my NY Rangers were about to change in a good way. A return to the playoffs and a real team build from within. The lockout stopped the fun. The NHL had no regard for us the fans and they made that clear. Not only did I feel that way as a fan, I also had the perspective as a player. The greed and stupidity of league officials made me resent the NHL and I stopped paying them my hard earned cash. No more tickets and no more Center Ice. The Hockeyrodent felt so disenfranchised by the NHL's most recent lockout that he no longer writes his regular commentary (which was stuff you could't get anywhere else) it was a tradition which began when Mattias Norstrom was still a Ranger. His forum remains open and he contributes there as a nod to the community of hockey loving friends he's accumulated over the course of his nineteen years of Interweb presence.
Of course I came back when they returned. Heck, Hockeybird was breaking news on the lockout back then. The player in me pinned for the game despite the disrespect from the league. I had to stay just to watch this Ranger rebuild and it was the only thing I could watch that reminded me of playing, something I really missed.
From Eddie Giacomin to Henrik Lundqvist and all of 'em in between, I supported each and every player and did so with an unmatched passion. True, if you are and old Hockeybird reader you know I can criticize the team with the best of them. But at some point I began to realize that some measured their fandom on how loud and how crude their criticism was. The louder and cruder it was, the bigger (and better) you were as a fan. I'm sorry, that doesn't work for me. So it's fair to say that I started to see a divide and unfortunately it appeared I was on the outside looking in. My move to Florida in '04 was the beginning of the end even though I didn't realize it at the time. Hockeybird remained strong until about 2007. My personal issues prevented me from managing the website and financially I could no longer maintain a server to handle the thousands of readers. I felt a responsibility to the readers and it killed me to close the boards and give up the server in NY. Thankfully someone stepped up to relieve me.
When Pete Rocha opened Rangerland this gave the readers two places to go with the other being the Hockeyrodent site. My place was essentially closed although I keep the domain with the hope that someday I can turn it into a place I can write about things not available all over the place. I have thought about writing on politics and that's still possible. I'm not sure I will take this place and make it a Panther site or a Bolts site but those remain options as well. It's not like I write about the Rangers anymore anyway. The last few articles have been about music, one of my other passions.
Look, it's been a great run and I really appreciate what we did here and I enjoyed being a Ranger fan all these years. It's time to move on. This does not mean I'm burning my Ranger jerseys and memorabilia. I'll always look fondly at the Tomas Klouceks', Dan Blackburns' and Petr Pruchas' whom I supported. The '94 team will always bring a smile to my face. But that was decades ago. It's true, the fire sale that sent Brian Leetch away was a good thing. It returned the team to the playoffs and set up the recent runs for the holy grail. My memories of going to Long Beach to see Nick Fotiu and Ron Dugay are never going to be erased. I just can't justify spending my passion on a team that doesn't give a rats ass about me anymore. They don't need me and in turn, I don't need them.
I can't be specific as to exactly where we go from here. Both politics and a Panther or Bolts page remain possibilities. The only thing I'm sure about is that I am officially retired as a New York Ranger fan. This was a long time coming and NOT a rash decision. This is NOT about the ass kicking the Penguins just laid on the boys in blue. It's just time. This is something I have been thinking about for several years now.
They almost did it though. The homegrown guys the guys they drafted and brought through the system damn near got it done. Staal, Girardi, Stephan, McDonagh, Dubinsky, Anisimov, Prucha, Sauer, Korpikoski on and on. I was convinced that this would end with a Stanley Cup. Now I'm convinced unless traded (and I don't foresee that) Lundqvist will be the best keeper never to win a cup.
So, after nearly fifty years supporting the NY Rangers I am done. I will now choose between the two Florida franchises and it's the Panthers who really need the help. The Bolts won a Cup in '04 (I was there to see it) and that's helped them build a real fan base. The Cats had the Beezer take them to the '96 finals but really have accomplished nothing since. Their home games are fouled with opposing teams fans and if the Panthers are to survive they MUST build a fan base. That's a worthy challenge I just might want to take on.
I want to thank all the Hockeybird readers who supported me and the fantastic writers we had here. Ranger fans are passionate and I was honored to be among some of the most die hard hockey fans in the world. You guys will continue without me and not miss a beat. Good luck in the future. I'll always remember both the good and the bad, the ups and downs but the passion and devotion you have shown this place and your team IS AMAZING. I am not bitter and have no hatred for you or the team. You will always be a part of who I am and I'm forever grateful for that.
It's just time to move on.........