My son Jackson, who is 2 years old, often yells “All Aboard” when playing with his Mickey Mouse train.
Well, to the sports fans in New York, “All Aboard” the hockey train.
It has been a cold hard winter and there has not been much to get excited about in the New York sports scene. People often wonder why New York is not a “hockey town.” Well, it is in a way, and in a way it is not.
There is a core group of hockey fans in the tri-state area that love the sport. Does it translate to the majority of sports fans? It does not, normally. But that is okay. It is what it is.
This spring will be different. It always is when there are teams with legitimate championship aspirations. People get on board and get behind the teams, which is great. I don’t knock the bandwagon jumpers as the sport needs all the heat it can get.
I grew up a Rangers fan. I went to games with my Dad growing up and had the pleasure of being in the building when they won the Stanley Cup in 1994. It is a night that I will remember as long as I have a heartbeat.
When Commissioner Gary Bettman told Mark Messier, to "come get the Stanley Cup,” the goosebumps are still present today as I type it as they were 21 years ago. That is the connection that we have to sports and our teams. We have two teams in the area in the Islanders and Rangers that have realistic Stanley Cup dreams in a wide-open NHL. How great is the Islanders story?!
It is there last season in the Nassau Coliseum, before they move to Brooklyn. They have 88 points and sit in 1st place in the Metropolitan Division They are led by one of the great young players in the NHL in John Tavares.
As for the Rangers, they have had a glorious season. They sit right behind the Islanders in the Metro Division. The Rangers are all-in after acquiring Keith Yandle from the Arizona Coyotes the day before the NHL trade deadline. In the deal, they traded their top prospect in Anthony Duclair, defenseman John Moore and picks. After this deal, the message from their GM Glen Sather is simple. The future is now.
Yandle is an elite puck-moving offensive defenseman that had 37 assists with Arizona and should pay dividends on the power play. The big question for the Rangers now surrounds the return of their star goalie, Henrik Lundqvist. He is coming off of a freakish vascular injury after taking a puck to the neck. If Hank does not return, the Rangers' hopes of lifting the Stanley Cup above their heads come June are unrealistic.
For the Islanders, they look for the return of forward Kyle Okposo from a detached retina. He joined his teammates in Florida over the weekend, which is a great sign. He has been out of the lineup since Jan. 20. In the 46 games he played this season, Okposo tallied 44 points.
So, we have two teams in the Islanders and Rangers that are not just good, but championship caliber good. They will get healthier before the first playoff beard is grown. The winter is winding down and spring days are ahead of us. The Stanley Cup Playoffs are the light at the end of the tunnel.
My message to all the sports fans and the bandwagon jumpers is simple. As my son would Jackson says, “All Aboard.”