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Rangers Fans: Polite, Asleep

Adam Rosen, gently heckling the Caps' bench.

Shortly before Game 6 began, I was walking through the 300 level of Madison Square Garden, where I saw a Rangers fan. Asleep. Head lolling back and forth. The whole bit.

More than an hour later, I walked up through a different section, and saw a different fan. Eyes closed. Off in some different, less Russian place. I don't know if he was technically in REM land, but he looked every bit as sleepy as the actual Rangers.

So yeah, it wasn't exactly the raucous cauldron of vein-popping hatred I had predicted after seeing those front-row Caps fans enter into a screaming match with Rangers boss John Tortorella Friday at Verizon Center. If you wandered down to the equivalent area of Madison Square Garden on Sunday--front few rows, behind the visiting bench--the mood was...well...

"Depressing," offered Danny Nazaruk.

"But at least we don't live in a city filled with politicians, right?" his friend, John Demase, said hopefully.

(Note: I'm really just writing this to get angry arguments in the comments and to quote Cyndi Lauper and some fellow front-row types; it is not meant as an actual comprehensive report on fan conditions at Madison Square Garden. Caps fans have e-mailed me both positive and negative reports in that regard.)

The Rangers' letter to NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman claimed that D.C. fans had been tossing out homophobic insults at the Rangers bench. And as previously mentioned, stand-in coach Jim Schoenfeld explained that Tortorella was merely standing up for his players against a verbal assault from the stands.

"I know the thing that triggered it, and it wasn't any sling they threw at him, and there were many," he said. "It's what they said about one of his players....And there's a certain line that people cross. And that's what happened with John. You can say what you want to Torts. I know the man. Call him whatever you want. He'll tell you what to do with your horse, but he's ok with that. But DON'T get down on the people he cares about. He'll fight for them. He will fight for them, and that's what he did."

All that said, how did those fans in the front rows of Madison Square Garden act toward the Caps?

"Like every other New Yorker: with respect," Derek Wilbert said. "We're not trash, like D.C. fans, and you can quote that."

"A lot of people yelling, but no cursing," Jack Jaredstruss added. "Legitimate hockey fans, calling it like it is."

"We don't curse," said a third fan, Arthur Gordon. "If we curse, we get thrown out."

Indeed, the fans down low said the MSG security folks won't tolerate any bad language. And there was at least one guard more than usual behind the Caps bench. The rest of the arena has an easier time; as the big-screen was blaring its pre-game anti-obscenity warning, those Rangers fans were showering Caps fans with "[Bleep]-hole" chants.

To be serious, there are real reasons it would have been harder to have any sort of fan incident at Game 6. Sunday afternoon games bring a more family atmosphere. The rowdiest Rangers fans sit much higher in the building, keeping the action away from the glass. There's a large buffer zone between fans and the bench, preventing any sort of close encounter. Guards stand right at the glass.

And part of the issue may have been the massive number of celebrities occupying those prime seats. The team distributed a print-out listing Spike Lee, Whoopi Goldberg (booed), Chloe Sevigny, Matthew Modine, Will Arnett and Cyndi Lauper among the VIPs. Lauper was sitting directly behind the Capitals' penalty box (and the ensuing buffer), but she said she wasn't getting into it with the sin-binners.

"We're New Yorkers, we believe in showing it on the ice," Lauper told me. "I don't heckle. I may boo once in a while. Now, I heckle the refs for not calling a horrible foul, which sends a horrible message to the children....By not throwing [Brashear] out of the game, you send a message to the little ones that dirty play is ok. It's not ok. If I want to see wrestling, I'll go see the WWE."

Across the ice and behind the bench, Gordon and his friend Adam Rosen were doing their part to make the arena inhospitable. They heckled Sergei Fedorov about Anna Kournikova. They heckled Brashear about being a goon. They heckled Alex Ovechkin about spraying his Gatorade onto the ice, which they interpreted as disrespect.

"He thinks he's all that and a bag of chips," Gordon told me. "He ain't even a bag of chips. I told him to go to Brighton Beach, we'd take care of him. He'll know what I mean."

"He said it smells here," Rosen added. "Listen, you don't come into the world's most famous arena and bash it. You don't say that about Madison Square Garden. I don't care if you score 80 goals, you're not bigger than Madison Square Garden."

Rosen was plenty chatty with the Caps, and he earned an admirer in the Knicks' Chris Duhon, who was sitting right behind Caps Coach Bruce Boudreau, along with teammate Danilo Gallinari. But they weren't about to stand up like that sweatpanted D.C. fan, trading insults with the opposition.

"No, no, I know how it feels," Duhon said. "I just kind of sit back and watch."

I didn't see any Free Torts signs, nor were there any noticeable cheers in honor of the missing coach. In fact, there were hardly any cheers of any kind: lots of boos, at least one "Fire Sather" chant, ever-broadening swaths of empty seats from a fan base that repeatedly e-mailed invective at me after I suggested that they, like other fan bases, can act like front-runners.

Seriously, if there's a better verb for "booing your team and leaving the game early when your team is behind on the scoreboard," just let me know, and I'll use that word next time. Or tell me the best word to describe a crowd that reacts to "Welcome to the Jungle" with all the fiery roars you usually hear during the famous "O patria mia" aria when the Met stages Aida. It was quiet, in other words.

But I did hear at least one fan reference the rumor that a D.C. fan had tossed a beverage on Tortorella. I mentioned that rumor to Lauper.

"Maybe New Yorkers got more class," she suggested with a laugh.

By Dan Steinberg  |  April 26, 2009; 8:24 PM ET
Categories:  Caps  
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Next: Ovechkin, Schoenfeld and Clutch


Cyndi Lauper can [Gretzky] the caps [Lemieux]

These same 'classy' New Yorkers threw popcorn on a caps fan in a wheelchair. These New Yorkers threw things on the ice when their team was getting shutout. What a joke.

Posted by: Ovechwin | April 26, 2009 11:11 PM | Report abuse

whatever drugs those New Yorkers are doing, I want some. Wow, they live in a totally different reality!

Posted by: RedBirdie | April 26, 2009 11:47 PM | Report abuse

I was at the Game (I was the one that thought you were Thomas Boswell) and I do NOT remember anybody in that stadium as Polite. I was wearing sandles and 3 different occasions Rangers fans went out of there way and deliberately stepped on my feet. Don't wear sandles to MSG, even if its 90 outside. ALSO, I have never been called homosexual more in my entire life for celebrating, I was with my brother and they had a field day. LOVE the CAPS coverage these past 3 months, keep it up!

Posted by: BillyDe | April 27, 2009 12:19 AM | Report abuse

I've seen something similar to what ovechwin said three months ago here from eight rangers fan, with a crippled guy and his girl.


Posted by: MNMNT | April 27, 2009 12:20 AM | Report abuse

I luv NYC & NY-ers.
But based on some of the posts here last week when they were up 3-1, that wasn't class they were hurling @ us DC-ians.

Posted by: Rocc00 | April 27, 2009 12:21 AM | Report abuse


OMG this is the biggest pile of bs. game 3 i went to i didnt really get heckled until i left but game but i was with a big dude, which wasnt true for game 5. oh i got heckled. to say that New Yorkers in general don't swear is laughable, to say that MSG fans don't swear or heckle is ABSOLUTELY RIDICULOUS. one guy was yelling so loud and inch from my face i had to literally tell him that i would actually hit him in the face if he didnt stop. i dont mind the heckling, its part of the sport so who cares but believe me i hear some nasty stuff. my friend (who is also female) was in grand central wearing a caps hat and these guys knocked into her on purpose. i'm not saying all rangers fans are bad, just like all caps fans arent good, but this whole innocent game they are trying to play is transparent and laughable.

Posted by: mrszilla | April 27, 2009 12:30 AM | Report abuse

Sure, not ALL Rangers fans are classless, but given the way I was treated at game 4, I'm sorry to report that many are.

Posted by: smaksimo | April 27, 2009 12:42 AM | Report abuse

"Maybe New Yorkers got more class," she suggested with a laugh.
She doesn't even believe that!

I went to a Caps/Rags game the other month and watched a NYR fan yell "go the f*** home" to a pregnant lady in a Caps t-shirt. Now that is class!

Posted by: NatyBG | April 27, 2009 7:38 AM | Report abuse

I was at the United-Red bulls game, and the NY fans there are just as bad, except there are only a few thousand total in attendance. They don't stand a chance against the Barra Brava, Screaming Eagles,and La Norte groups.

Posted by: zosodave | April 27, 2009 7:43 AM | Report abuse

Them New Yorkers... What would the poor world do without them...

Posted by: StanislavNS | April 27, 2009 7:58 AM | Report abuse

Cyndi Lauper is an idiot. So you think Brashear is sending a bad message to kids, but Sean Avery is A-OK? DUMB***.
I guess they decided to try to make New Yorkers look good by saying there's no cursing. I think New York is the trashiest city. I always told my mom that NYC is the one place I would never want to live. She worked at some amusement park in NJ and said that grown adults, who she could tell were from NY, were cutting in front of kids at amusement parks. Now I'd call that a first class act.

Funny thing about the letter to Bettman is that they're complaining about the same things they do to us. Like your other article said:

"There were dads cursing their brains out in front of little kids. Massive, rink wide "Bleep-hole" chants...Repeated "Po-ti Sucks!" chants. Invitations for Poti to perform sexual acts. All variety of curse words directed at the officials. Homophobic slurs directed at people in Caps gear."

All the same things they were saying. The whole sexual relationship thing with Staal and Girardi, profanity in front of children, homophobic slurs. Looks like Torts isn't the only hypocrite in the New York organization.

Posted by: SarahM28 | April 27, 2009 8:43 AM | Report abuse

I always look to Cindy Lauper for insightful hockey analysis.

Posted by: Lindemann777 | April 27, 2009 8:52 AM | Report abuse

I was at MSG, and my favorite taunt came after the game in front of the subway entrance.

RAGS FAN, (pointing and jabbing a blue glow-stick from game 3): "Hey, at least when you have taxation, you have no representation!" He then turned away and scurried into the subway.

Classic stuff.

Posted by: ThisGuy | April 27, 2009 9:06 AM | Report abuse

There's some insecurity there from the New Yorkers. Can't say I'm surprised by that. And I hate all this "MSG is the most famous arena in the world." I don't buy it. Not to mention, it's a complete dump.

Posted by: CDon | April 27, 2009 9:08 AM | Report abuse

@Ovechwin: Kevin Smith rules!!

Posted by: MikeL-Caps91 | April 27, 2009 9:15 AM | Report abuse

Hey SarahM28-If NYC is such a trashy city,WHY DID YOU GO THERE???I guess you are ignorant and never been to Philadelphia,Baltimore,Detroit,L.A.,Richmond,Atlanta,Chicago,New Orleans,etc.,etc. My friend got held up at gunpoint between the Verizon Center and New York Avenue after the Caps-Islanders game April 1st and took his cash AND HIS CAR!!! I'n not here to put down D.C.,just here to let you know you are an ignorant fool.New York City would'nt accept you anyway! Go back to N.VA. Now,Lets Go Caps!!!!

Posted by: nassauscot | April 27, 2009 9:25 AM | Report abuse

Ovie says that MSG "smells," and Ranger fans take offense. I've been to MSG and Ovie has a point. Despite its storied history, it is clearly elderly. In fact, it reminds me of another famous arena filled with great memories, the Philadelphia Spectrum. But Ranger fans take note -- the Spectrum is now a minor league hockey arena, and MSG is not any better.

Posted by: baruchgershom | April 27, 2009 9:40 AM | Report abuse

Umm.... call me crazy - these were the same fans who were throwing COINS onto the ice in game 3.

Why Coins?

Cause they're so damn hard to notice, but if you skate over them, you'll fall flat on your face.


Posted by: goskinsgo | April 27, 2009 9:42 AM | Report abuse

Umm.... call me crazy - these were the same fans who were throwing COINS onto the ice in game 3.

Why Coins?

Cause they're so damn hard to notice, but if you skate over them, you'll fall flat on your face.


Posted by: goskinsgo | April 27, 2009 9:44 AM | Report abuse

I could hear that ***hole chant on the telecast clear as day. If it was loud enough for me to hear it on my TV, imagine how loud it was at MSG. Classy indeed.

Posted by: Caps1Fan | April 27, 2009 9:46 AM | Report abuse

@ Lindemann777

LOL, got that one right!

Posted by: StanislavNS | April 27, 2009 9:59 AM | Report abuse

@ nassauscot

I never have been there, and I never said I had, genius.

Posted by: SarahM28 | April 27, 2009 10:19 AM | Report abuse

As for Torts, I don't care what was said, they were in fact words and that is all. There was no need for him to spray anyone through the glass or to toss a full bottle over the glass. He is a professional coach and he should have ignored the people, like the Caps have ignored Avery!

There are good and bad fans for every sport, and the way you conduct yourself at a sporting event probably says a lot about the kind of person you are. When you can clear as day hear the profanity on the tv broadcast coming out of MSG it sends a pretty clear message as to the quality of the fans. I don't boo the Caps, I don't scream at the visiting teams that they suck either. To me that might be motivation for them to kick our butts, just like telling a ref he sucks might make him less likely to be Caps friendly! I say rock the hell out of the red, unleash those cow bows and scream your head off for the team, be so loud that they can't hear the whistles, cause a raucous, be a distraction, be loud and be proud to be a Caps fan!!!!

Posted by: ags38 | April 27, 2009 10:22 AM | Report abuse

Oh to add on to my last post, yeah, I've never been to NY so I've never experienced trashiness. I have had friends, however, who have been harassed and treatly terribly in the city.

Posted by: SarahM28 | April 27, 2009 10:26 AM | Report abuse

"But at least we don't live in a city filled with politicians, right?" his friend, John Demase, said hopefully.

Who do you think sends said politicians here? You stupid, knuckle-scraping goomba.

Sh*t, District citizens don't even have a proper representative amongst those 'politicians'.

Posted by: Kev29 | April 27, 2009 10:29 AM | Report abuse


Us too! I turned to my fiance at one point puzzled and asked are they chanting a**hole? Wow, just wow.

Posted by: suzannepdc | April 27, 2009 10:30 AM | Report abuse

Ovechkin = Bigger than Madison Square Garden, haha.

Posted by: BondraMan | April 27, 2009 10:30 AM | Report abuse

"Oh to add on to my last post, yeah, I've never been to NY so I've never experienced trashiness. I have had friends, however, who have been harassed and treatly terribly in the city.

Posted by: SarahM28 | April 27, 2009 10:26 AM | Report abuse "

Dumbest post of the day. I am from DC and now live in NYC. Est coast sports fans are all the same. Wonderfully, obnoxiously into it, and sometimes that crosses the line of good taste...oh well..Both cities have lovely Opera houses if you want civility....

But stop casting idiotic dispersions on the great city of NYC. You sound ridiculous.

Posted by: chrislarry | April 27, 2009 10:57 AM | Report abuse

I grew up in NY and went to many Caps/Rangers games. MSG is a cesspool and home to fanbase at least up until the late 90's was equal to those fans in Philly. Maybe the reason for the change real "Rangers" fans have been priced out of MSG.

Posted by: The_Spear | April 27, 2009 11:06 AM | Report abuse

Rangers fans have "class"...pah-lease. Anyone remember this SI article?

"The Wild Blue Yonder" was penned in 1989, five years before the Rangers beat the Canucks to win their first Stanley Cup since 1940. In it, Plimpton investigates the fans that occupy the upper reaches of Madison Square Garden, known as the "blues." To put it lightly, they are not the most compassionate of supporters.

Posted by: Newtons | April 27, 2009 11:28 AM | Report abuse

Here, here ChrisLarry.

Posted by: suzannepdc | April 27, 2009 11:31 AM | Report abuse

wow, i've never seen such a narcissistic fan base that is so concerned about the perception of them and the other team. Root for your team and get over it! You come off like babies (now i'm waiting for the "we're babies?? your team throws coins on the ice, throws popcorn at people in wheelchairs and kills kittens" argument that will just prove my point).

so you hate NYC? thats awesome, don't come. In every city, people who root on their team come in jerseys and when their team scores, they get up and celebrate and the home crowd taunts them....get over it. You're all so concerned about what the other arena is like and you have reporters going around to get a sense of the crowd and everything, who cares?? Its about hockey...if you win the series, i tip my cap to you but this other nonsense, get over it already, i think as a city you have an inferiority complex...and I don't want to hear it has to do with game 5 because Steinberg and Wise have been jocking Rangers fans and MSG crowds this entire series.

I have no idea what your crowds are like and to be honest, I could care less. And the reason i don't know is because the beat writers I read in NY write about hockey. I want my team to win, you want your team to win and your team is probably going to win. This isn't journalism, this is stupidity but I guess hating on NY is selling papers and getting lots of hits on the web. I suggest you talk hockey and will seem a lot less petty.

And congrats for tying the series, real fans can acknowledge other teams instead of denigrating everything about them.

Posted by: JK111 | April 27, 2009 12:02 PM | Report abuse

I'm from DC, now living in NYC, and to me the Rangers fans are generally boring. That is because with the exception of the 400's, MSG prices everyone out so that many seats in the 300's on down (and certainly most of the 100-200s) are corporate seats. So many of the regular season games are sellouts with a half-empty arena. The 400's are pretty rough and tumble though.

Also, the seats are so far away from the rink that its really not a great arena to watch a game from the fan perspective because you feel so far away from the action even in the good seats (IMHO).

Posted by: justbrewit | April 27, 2009 12:28 PM | Report abuse

Pretty silly to be saying New Yorkers are classy. How many movies have been made about the ole NYC hate. Having been to NYC many a time, to each burrough, its an interesting atmosphere of awe, old, and malice. Personally I really like it.

But name calling and heckling is a long standing tradition, and no player or coach should ever respond to it. Even if the fan gets physical players/celebrities are advised not to do anything and let security handle everything else a lawsuit and bad press.

Caps fans of old have imparted passion into the new crowd, and it makes the Verizon Center feel bigger than MSG. MSG IS america's arena, its a national icon, but what goes on inside matters too. Quiet fans =/= good fans. Unless your a tennis fan.

Posted by: breaklance | April 27, 2009 1:55 PM | Report abuse

Ovechkin > MSG LOL

Posted by: Rhino40 | April 27, 2009 6:35 PM | Report abuse

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