Even if the New York Rangers get to resume playing hockey this season, they face another problem. It appears that their home ice at MSG may not be available for the foreseeable future. New York State had banned gatherings of more than 500 people, which includes venues such as Madison Square Garden. New York City mayor Bill de Blasio said he’d work with the state to enforce the new rule. He added he expects it to be in place for “a number of months.” This means that if the NHL resumes in a month or even two, MSG would not be available. de Blasio was recently quoted as saying that “This ban is for over 500 people, and so they’re never going to have events at those places under 500 people. It’s not a binding commitment, but we’re saying, our estimate is, this will go through September. That’s for six months. I think that’s the right way to think about it right now.”
What would the options be for the New York Rangers if MSG is not available?
We are in unchartered waters here, and probably at this point, nothing is for certain. But we can take a look at some other situations in which teams have been forced from their home arenas, which usually means that most they want their events played at comparable “big league” facilities. Let’s look at three possible options that could be in play.
Option 1: Play at another venue close by.
The problem with this is that many of the other venues close by maybe in the same situation. The Devil’s Prudential Center is closing through the end of the month, so that could be an option. The Sabres and Islanders are also in New York state of course, so they may also have to follow the same ban. Philadelphia, D.C.? Maybe but not likely
Option 2: Play all games on the road.
This may depend on what the NHL does with the schedule. If the cut the number of games down, that could be a strong possibility.
Option 3: Play home games in Hartford.
This may be the most favorable option for the Rangers. The XL Center (formerly known as the Hartford Civic Center) is not only home to their AHL affiliate, but it was also the home of the New England/Hartford Whalers of the WHA and NHL from 1975 to 1978 and 1980 to 1997. It seats 15,635 for hockey, which would certainly make it big enough to qualify for a major arena. It is a rink that many of the young Rangers are familiar with. Relocating to Hartford may not be ideal, but with the current situation at hand, doing the next best thing would certainly work.