By Thomas Pollari
Last week, while sitting in Madison Square Garden watching the Rangers lose a very winnable game to a Ducks team that had embarrassed them earlier in the season, I found myself in awe of the iconic arena. It wasn't all the renovations (really not that impressive) that caught my attention it was the silence. I'm not here to mock or call out the other Garden Faithful but to point out the decline of what made Ranger games so much fun.
My first game at the Garden so many years ago was like an overload of the senses. It was a back and forth affair. The type of game that gave you an exciting sense of nausea that the winning goal could come from a lucky bounce at any second. The Rangers prevailed over the Ducks (irony) 3-2, but, besides the game, it was Section 409 that got me hooked on being a Rangers fan. Whether or not you believe alcohol fueled rants and borderline offensive chants are a fun part of the game is up to you, to me it showed the loyalty and community that was built in the 400's over the years. They had the ability to take a blowout against the home team and turn it into a few laughs. I'm not saying they were perfect fans (the 300 sections were on par but 100's and 200's were a little too fancy for my taste) because sometimes lines were crossed. But seeing a Devils or Islanders fan think twice about cheering in your section was a pretty awesome sight.
I witnessed plenty of seasons in the early 2000s when the cheers and boos (mostly boos) fell on deaf ears with the players. Then something happened in the Jagr era. The Garden crowd was again helping give the team momentum, which was something they lacked during those dark years. This wasn't just one section helping the team but the whole arena giving them the push they needed.
Flash forward to last season when all of the top sections were disbanded and moved throughout arena. Some 400 sections survived and were cramped under the new over hanging 300s like they were meant to be hidden from the view of the rest of the Garden. Other loyal fans were scattered in the back rows of the upper bowl or the aquariumesque hanging seats (awesome view but a bit claustrophobic up there). The season finally started after another Bettman lockout and the Garden seemed hyped to watch what many people believed to be a Stanley Cup contending team. Of course as we know the Rangers never quite clicked as hope but the crowd never really did either. Yeah they were loud when we scored a goal but it faded away as quickly as they started. There were also long stretches of sickening silence when you could hear Broduer's walker scraping the floor on the way to the bench before the period.
I initially chalked it up to people still getting used to their new sections or maybe even poor acoustics due to construction. However, when this season finally brought us an overdue home game, it was a carbon copy of last year. I even had to listen to a Canadiens fan ( yeah wasn't happy about sitting next to one of those) yapping that a Rangers home opener should be infinitely louder. Hoping for a slight improvement after a few wins, I was again disappointed that night against the Ducks, where besides Del Zotto's goal ( bad news when he's your only scorer for the evening on a rookie goalie) the crowd never got into it.
To me, the real reason for the lack of energy inside the Garden is the renovations. It drove ticket prices through the roof and spread out legions of loyal fans who had bonded in their sections for years. Your inner conspiracy theorist might even say this was done in order to make the arena more family friendly and inviting for visiting fans to invade our house. What I do know is that the prices aren't coming down anytime soon and the seating isn't any better. It's just another money making endeavor for James Dolan. All we can do now is go along for the ride and try as best as we can to return MSG to glory.
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I won't set foot in the place until Silverspoon Dolan is gone, hopefully dead and buried. I will make sure to practice a few moves and drink plenty of fluids so that I can dance and piss on that human slug's grave. That crooked scumbag and his dirtbag father should be skinned alive and boiled in vinegar. They have never ever succeeded in a competitive business and use their constant ripping off of the customers to spend on ridiculous "improvements" that only help themselves. They are just part of the aristocrazation of sports, and their catering to the upper crust and the thieves that run big business have driven real fans to their couches. Just like all the empty field level seats at Yankee Stadium that are merely business writeoffs, so nobody bothers to go, cretins like Dolan only understand and cater to other ripoff artists that populate the boardrooms of America. He can't die a miserable enough death soon enough for me.
The NY fan, in general, has a "what have you done for me lately" attitude. Do well on the ice, field, court, and they'll cheer ... otherwise, you'll find them at the bar... byproducts of being jaded NYers, and the astronomical cost of tickets.
Did you ever think maybe the reason the garden is so quiet is because they get shutout at home all the time...Also, with the new renovations I dont have to worry about missing a goal due to the cotton candy guy walking directly infront of me anymore
Great article. This has been an ongoing gripe of mine. All the talk about New Yorkers being the loudest and toughest fans just seems like bullshit in The Garden anymore.
Its a shame when watching playoff games, and Carolina fans make much more noise than Ranger fans.
The transformation was the death of the Garden and is no longer the great place it once was. Seats are smaller, no leg room, difficult to get around the building. Don't get me started on the freaking BRIDGES OF DOLANS DELUSIONS. THE ENTIRE UPPER BOWL BEYOND ROW 12 is now obstructed from viewing the new scoreboard. If I wanted to watch on TV, I could watch from home. If I hear anymore crap on TV about the freaking bridges I'm going to puke. They destroyed the joy of coming to games, concerts, etc. I
Lifelong Ranger fan living in Southern California. Going to The Garden for the first time since the renovation in December. On TV, it would seem your observations on the lack of "electricity" are correct. The cost of a game is crazy as well. To pay about $100 for "non premium" seating is a price I don't think I am willing to pay more than once a year or so. On the positive side, it appears we will have a brand new Garden in about 10 years anyway. Wouldn't it be nice if Dolan got out of sports, and let a someone with a clue run the show?!
I agree completely but as someone who has seats in the 100s (not actually by choice I'd prefer to be higher up but this was all I can get right now and am lucky I can afford it) I often get labeled as a suit because I come to games straight from work in dress clothes. I will admit I am often one of the few rowdy ones in my section but there are def some diehards in suits down there.
With that said, the vast majority of real fans are in the upper sections and most people in my section don't know wtf is going on in the game or aren't in their seats and it all drives me insane. Like many others have said, like most other sports in this town those seats are filled with people who are there to "be seen" so to speak.
But I just wanted to say, there are some of us down there that bleed blue.
Yes yes yes yes yes. My husband and I used to (20 yrs ago as not rich newlyweds) have a 1/3 shared season ticket in the high 300s. When it wasn't our turn to go we'd sometimes buy tix anyway up in the 400s. Ironic that 20 years later the tickets seem so unaffordable...now when we take our 2 boys (maybe 3-4x a year) it's easily a $600-$700 dollar night, especially if they want to bring a friend...and we all miss the 400 section...I still think of it as the "blue seats!"
Trying to think of some more "outside the box" theories, because $$$$ is the obvious answer to all this, but I wonder how the fact that Dolan owns Cablevision and the Rangers are broadcast on their own station plays in to the finances.
In most of the small to mid markets, teams (I assume) sell their video rights to a local channel, usually some Fox-Sports or Regional Sports broadcaster. They have to compete with getting air time against other sports and other programming, and the deal they cut at the beginning of a contract probably doesn't have many variables to it. So it becomes the team's need to a) put interested fans in the seats who will bring their friends or family, buy merchandise, get hooked, and then go home and drive up ratings for the next time the teams contract is up for negotiations. This creates an environment where the team tries to get die-hard fans and casual fans into seats, and the rich corporations just fill the suites.
But MSG and the Dolans have no need to do any of that. If every seat in the Garden was $500, someone would sit in it, someone would pay, and anyone who got "priced out" would still go home, pay for cable, and add on whatever package would get them MSG. And then you'd sit their, drive up ratings, and force companies trying to advertise on MSG to pay more, too. There's no variable that would cause Dolan to make LESS money.
U have not been to garden Shawn... They show airhead models who are clueless of this wonderful game. I would say at best, 60% of stadium is filled with REAL true fans which is sad... At end of road it's all about $$$
Funny you bring this up because as a Ranger fan going to school in Denver, I went to the Avs Caps game and couldn't believe how quiet the Pepsi Center was (aside from the 3rd period when the crowd and Ovi got into it). But I remember telling my buddy that MSG would never be this quiet, you could hear a pin drop at all points of the game unless there was a goal, Ovi had the puck or the once in a blue moon Varly chant that was induced by the Jumbotron.
You mean they can't hear me yelling at my TV or jumping out of my chair and screaming when the Rangers score a goal and scaring my wife and daughter?
Since many "real" Rangers fans can't afford to go to the games anymore perhaps they need to have some kind of live feed from our homes to pipe in some cheering!
Took the family to the charity game in AC last year and had a blast. May go ahead and take in some games there when the season starts up. Just can't justify the cost of going to a Rangers game right now :(.
True story: I sat in the 100's once and spilled a beer and felt compelled to CLEAN IT UP WITH NAPKINS like I was at someones house. I didn't mean to but it was just my gut reaction being down there. I want to be able to spill a beer and not give a crap (or at least a small crap).
Another story: Another time in the 100's it was the lovely 11-12 season and we were playing the coyotes. Less than 10 minutes left in the game or so and it was tied and no one was doing anything. I had to turn around and give a locker room pep talk in my section and yelled at people. It resulted in a full on LGR chant which was one of my proudest moments ha, but that's honestly what it took to get people going. I almost cried from yelling from my heart.
While we're on the topic, here's a thing that annoys me: Why don't the seats go down all the way to the ice? Every other arena in the NHL there are fans around the glass all over. On the side where the benches are there's a row of folding chairs (or so it looks). It makes the garden look lame. Any other arena has seats right down to the glass, and people wearing jerseys in every seat. You see none of that at the garden. In fact, during the playoffs they have to give people t-shirts to make them wear the team colors. It's sad but true. People always say that the Garden is the greatest place in the world, but I don't really think it is anymore.
I think i just repeated myself a bunch of times.
I'm on board with ticket prices being overpriced but I don't see the garden being any less loud then it was. There are moments when the crowd is quiet but that's because the game dictates the crowds reaction. Also were judging this off the first few games at home when everyone was more worried about the new renovations then the slumping rangers. Tonight will be one loud place
I remember my first game at the garden and holding my dad's hand walking from our seats to the bathroom. Heading through the gate, the cloud of smoke was so thick you could barely make out the faces of the wild-eyed drunken men, all smoking and yelling obscenities at the ice and each other. To an 9-year-old it was like walking into the star wars cantina bar.
Another reaason is the prices are so high season ticket holders have to sell alot games at a profit to afford tickets. Very rare to have the same people in each section every night.
I remember back in the day a friend of mine gave me his tickets to a game and almost everyone in the section asked where he was. Each time he gave me his seats, for face value I might add, same group in the same seats with the same chants of Homo Larry when he got up and danced in front of our section.
Let's not be naive peeps. This is nothing new. This is a trend in sports for many decades. Speaking as someone who has been a NY sports fan since i was a kid in the 1970s (hundreds of years ago) I have seen this happen in all the sports I love and try to attend. Ticket prices/cable prices will NEVER go down. Owners will never care about fans as much as profits - it's sports business 101. They exist to make money - period. They know people will always come back or watch on TV. They never have to worry about that. 3 lockouts since '95, including one that cancelled an entire season! We still comeback. It might be easier quitting heroin than walking away from a sport you love. The Rangers (and hockey) are a serious addiction.
Modern sports teams want the corporate and casual fan in the seats spending the big bucks. It's not cool, but it's inevitable in most cities. The suits will pay premium ticket prices and eat and drink everything up and charge it on a work card. Families from the burbs will park in the lots and buy tons of merchandise. It makes business sense that those are the fans they want. Every team does it. It used to be that they sold/reserved a small percentage of seats - usually the best ones - for the corporate suits. Nice seats are a big bonus for companies that do business with Penn Plaza or advertise at MSG. New York just has so many companies here - Ad agencies, financial companies, banks etc... they get a higher percentage of the tix and over the years that percentage has increased big time. For many years the real fans have been priced out and relegated to the blues/400 sec - those are the best sections for fan experience but lets be honest the sight lines aren't the best. I was lucky enough to have a good friend who would sell me tickets every year for section 411. It was awesome. Then she had to give em up cause the season ticket prices got way too high. What can you do? I just watch all the games at home on cable. I only go to one or two games a year if I can get tix that aren't going to make me miss a mortgage payment on my overpriced Brooklyn apt. Remember when the 300s were affordable?
If you haven't fallen asleep reading this here's the last part: A lot of things are contributing to the Garden not being as raucous a place to see a game. Most (not all) of the suits are just enjoying a perk - or conducting business. The casual fan just doesn't care as much. (although it is nice to look at all the models and/or actual/pseudo celebs walking around or waiting for their PR department arranged shot on the jumbo-tron.) Not to sound ancient but most people can't look away from their phones now anyway. It's awkward to be the only person shouting/cheering loudly when no one else in your section is. As the Garden gets sanitized liked this it makes sense that it's quieter. It sucks. Cursing isn't the only way to cheer but I used to have a lot of fun hearing and screaming crazy things or joining in on hard core hockey chants. If you have't done it, starting an "A-S-S-H-O-L-E" chant in MSG is probably the greatest feeling in the world. There is no denying the arena is nicer (unless you have an obstructed view now) - the food is nicer, the beer is better, the bathrooms are cleaner (in the first period), the monitors and scoreboards are pretty but there is just no replacing the passion the "average fan" has for the teams they love. It means more to us - for good or bad. It's a bigger part of your life so you cheer or scream and laugh or cry more. If we aren't there - who's gonna make the noise? Hell no one even cheers when they put up the noise monitor on the scoreboard thingy!!!
sorry - too much time on my hands today. I don't even think I said half of what I wanted to. Anyway... in conclusion we all need to win the lottery and buy back our seats at the garden so we can bring back the original flavor. Peace!
The only comfort I can take is the that the Dolans with ultimately loose control of the existing garden, when their lease with the city expires in 10-yrs. Whoever is mayor at that time is going to have to relocate the arean elsewhere in Manhattan (most likely), forcing the Dolans to pay (at least a portion) for the bulk of the move/new stadium.
After their most recent money dump into MSG, haven't been their yet this season, but have heard mostly mixed reviews, including the atmosphere in the building, they are just trying to re-coop some of their investment before the building goes away. .
I'm going to my first Rangers Devils game with Brodeur in goal, so I'll have to see whether I agree or not. When I went last year, it was pretty funny hearing the whole arena scream out the improbable chant "we want Marty!" last April. I'm expecting this to be epic. If it is not, and it's just a few scattered fans in the upper seats screaming, I may have to move my seats to a blue collar section. Oh wait .. there isn't one.
Good piece. Sad but true. The prices will never come down again, so we're definitely stuck with that. Seems like most arenas and stadiums are getting to be more and more like the Dodgers and Lakers. I've been to a few Rangers Devils games at the Rock and that place gets pretty loud. They also do a pretty decent job of inciting the crowd. I think MSG plays the same tracks as it did 20 years ago. How about some updated audio-visual to help pump things up?
I went to a few games at the old garden. It was a crazy, loud place. I spent every earned dollar I had for season seats behind the goal up in the blue seats from 1967 until 1974, when life changes dictated that I leave the area. Those years were absolutely unforgettable...the people, the horns, the baloons, the superballs...the atmosphere was electric. The blue seats were filled with parents/coaches in their team jackets and younger fans with team jackets over Ranger jerseys. Quality hockey sticks were hard to find, so a trip to the garden for a game was not complete without stopping by Cosby's for a good stick...which you brought into the arena....and then with your (and others) hot dog wrappers molded into a ball, would play hockey in the stairwells between periods...sometimes with total strangers!! The green seats were a little less rowdy, but not by much...though you could tell the difference looking and listening. The reds were much calmer business types in suits. I've been to the garden many times over the years, and it has consistently gotten quieter and less congenial over the years. Like most everything else, it's just not the same. I still bleed Ranger blue, and watch every single game on directv center ice, and dream of what it meant to be at the game those many years ago.
I have to say. I was at the Sabres game 2 weeks ago, and felt exactly the same thing. You could hear a pin drop at certain points of the game, and this was a game where we were winning. Im not saying that fans should be loud at all moments, but I also think that there should be more than just an occasional LGR chant or the Potvin chant.
This same sort of thing happens at NY Giants games as well. I think the reasons are two-fold.
1) Like many have said, the prices are through the roof and they have priced out the die hard fans. All of the seats closest to the ice are sold to mostly corporate companies that give their tickets to clients who could probably care less about what is going on on the ice.
2) The Rangers, much like the Giants, have an older less rowdy fan base. This is not to exclude any of the older loud fans, but generally speaking, when you have a younger crowd, there is destined to be more people screaming their heads off after a couple of beers.
Nice piece. Good call on the guest posts, Kev -- not that I don't love the NYRB regulars, but a fresh voice is cool, too.
I'm also sad that the Garden isn't louder (I can only scream so loud from the top of Section 223), but my reactions:
1. It's not about being family-friendly -- the vast majority of Ranger fan families can't afford to bring their kids at these prices, and that's a problem -- but it is 100% about bringing in more money. Period.
2. This is not just a MSG or NYC thing. In every sports facility, the seats closest to the field/ice/court are the most expensive, which means they are generally bought by companies and/or rich people, who (except for Spike Lee) tend to sit quietly and drink their gin & tonics for most of the game. I go to a lot of sporting events in and outside of NYC and you see this at every single game. This is not a new phenomenon, nor is it going away.
3. I forget who made the comment that winning the Cup was "the problem," but... no. I mean, I'll happily take that "problem" any time, but it this just strikes me as B.S. It also doesn't seem to have been an issue for Chicago. The UC is crazy loud. Maybe it's that 1 Cup is a problem, but 2 Cups is the solution? GET ON IT, RANGERS. :)
4. Lastly, let's not over-react here. Last season and the first half of this season were so, so, so very painful. But aside from that, let's not fall into the trap of saying "it's never going to be like it was back in the day..." because that is, in my opinion, not being a good fan. The games are still fun to go to. The Garden is still packed (looking at you, NJ, Dallas & south Florida). And I was at the game where Richie tied it with 6 seconds left, and the Garden was absolutely C-R-A-Z-Y. But you can't expect the crowd to be like that when the Rangers are losing 4-nothing to the Devils. If we're forking over larger amounts of cash, you're damn right we're gonna be pissed if the team doesn't make it worth our while. It works both ways.
Just my, uh, 4 cents there.
All these fans who are saying "this is NY you have to earn a cheer" all moved here from Ohio 4 years ago to take a job in finance that daddy hooked then up with. Go back to Toledo boys, the cows need milking!
I used to have season tickets, but I just can't afford to pay for them anymore. It's a business, and as long as the corporations and the people with cash to burn are willing to pay the price, the rest of us aren't going to be able to get tickets.
Ranger fans aren't stupid. We're very sophisticated....we're loud when we need to be. We're not like those fake ass bandwagon fans on Long Island who chant "last place rangers" 11 games into the season and after the second period of a game. We cheer when the team gives us a reason to.
@eric1940 It's actually preferable that Dolan knows enough to stay out of the way, especially after the legendary blunder back in 2002 when he showed up at a NYR practice in Anaheim with skates, much to the disgust of half the team.
Would you rather he be like Flyers owner Ed Snider? Who THINKS he knows what he's doing and muddles a bit too much?
@msena88 How many seats you got? If you even need another diehard in the section, I'm available for the sum of a free ticket. ;)
I'll see ya there, Ranger brutha. I'm a suit, but wind up providing free entertainment to my section (albeit unintentionally sometimes) with my loud commentary. I had a really good one last night. It involved Brodeur, sand, boardwalk fish, and his vagina. The person who laughed the most was a chick.
I grew up blue collar, working class. I worked hard, and earned my suit. I'm proud of that, but I'm also proud of my blueshirts. My heart will always bleed blue.
@msena88 Bless you...scream for the rest of us...we're behind you, and the NYR 100%
@johnnyb3910 The only way is to not occupy the seat. Same for baseball and football. As long as the seat is bought and paid for, it will never end. Shame on us....
@AveryYesBettmanNo I had season tkts in the 300's in '79. cost $7.50 a game and the finals cost $15.00. I still have the stub. have you seen yankee stadium lately? lots of emptys in the cushy sections. maybe even the suits can't afford it anymore.
I hate that I have to agree with you. But I have to agree with you. It's lamentable, but unavoidable. NYC itself has changed so drastically, let's not forget that either. People used to look at you crooked on the subway just to avoid a problem. Now guys in pink shirts and bluetooth sets smile and say hi to you. It's unnerving.
@IhaveawaiteratMSG don't forget to scream/chant "uncle daddy"
@gmen9892 I find the opposite to your 2) point. Usually its the 30 - 50 yr olds who drink and don't care about sh*t that are really loud and sometimes obnoxious. Younger crowds are too busy tweeting....
@gmen9892 To be fair, the Sabres have 7 points. The Sabres are lucky they have people coming to the games, period, and that those people are not throwing things at the players.
@queensbee Don't wake up the people in South Florida! I'm going to see both NYR games versus the lightning, 15 rows from the glass, $90/ticket.
@JordanR114 When I was a graduate student in Ohio, I had never been to a game before where people actually said not to cheer during a fight... I had a partial season ticket plan and was shocked when my neighbor would tell her teenaged son to quiet down during the game. Growing up outside Hartford though, the good old Civic Center was often quiet until Brass Bonanza came on.
@Jamie David cheering only because they give you a reason sounds pretty weak to me. What about giving them the extra boost when the need it? There's supposed to be an advantage to playing at home because of fan support.
@IhaveawaiteratMSG That's great...I ended up a suit too...same work ethic, similar background, Dad was NYPD. Wish I could be there. All the best to you!!!
@johnnyb3910 I'll be at the game in Dallas on the 21st. 11 rows up from the glass behind the benches for $125/seat. I can't wait to mess with Texas. :)