The New York Rangers and the NHL Face Some Hurdles Before They Can Return

New York Rangers, Mika Zibanejad

While the New York Rangers are more than happy to resume this season, there are still many details that need to be worked out in order for the Blueshirts and the rest of the NHL teams to return to action. That includes more than just the format that the NHLPA mentioned in their cryptic announcement when they have accepted the league’s proposal to have a 24 team tournament. Here are some of the stumbling blocks:

Testing of Players and Staff

The NHL is facing the same questions that the other leagues are facing if they want to return. How often do we test? What happens if someone tests positive? Are we taking tests away from the general public? How often do we do temperature checks? The first thing to realize is that none of this will happen if we see a spike in the number of cases in the coming weeks. Most pundits believe that if everything is worked out, training camps might begin at the end of June or in early July. There are still some players wondering if they should even return this year at all. A further spike in cases in either country might shut the whole thing down.

Hub Cities and Lifestyle

The NHL will more than likely use hub communities to host at least most of the tournaments. There are locations around the United States and Canada that have been hit less hard by COVID-19 than in other parts. Two of the leading contenders for hubs are Las Vegas and Edmonton. The players are concerned about what life will be like for them in these hubs. Many have expressed a desire to not be away from their families for months at a time. They also may not be too happy with being confined to an area and needing team permission to leave their hotel, like MLB wants to implement for their players.

Most are fairly sure that Rangers players can keep themselves occupied in Las Vegas. But what if they are assigned to Edmonton? Darren Dreger of TSN reports that Edmonton has made a huge push for being a host city, coming up with a plan to make the lifestyle bearable for players and possibly family that might be there. Dreger reported that Edmonton has touted its cooler temperatures, along with providing secure golf courses and setting up outdoor big screens for movies and other games as a way to make their location attractable.

The biggest issue against Edmonton and any other potential Canadian city hub is the mandatory 14-day quarantine that is imposed on anyone entering Canada. Many players have said privately that they would not like to do that.

Where will training camps take place

Will the New York Rangers train in the New York City area before heading off to a hub? The issue could be that some players may have to cross three borders in order to play, something that carries some difficulty. You may see a player travel from Europe to the U.S., and then to Canada, something that many health experts recommend against.

Players’ Work Visas

NHL players who come in from other countries on a work visa will see them expire on June 30. One would think that the respective governments would take care of this but they are quite busy at the time being. It is not a sure thing that it will just happen overnight.

Most believe that all of this will be taken care of and that we will see the New York Rangers in NHL action sometime this summer. It will just take a lot of work to make it happen.

Report: Players Will Approve Tournament that Includes the New York Rangers

New York Rangers

The National Hockey League Players’ Association’s Executive Board is expected to approve a 24-team Return to Play proposal put forth by the NHL according to TSN Hockey Insider Bob McKenzie. At the time of his report, McKenzie indicated that he was informed that the vote was finished, or close to finished and that the players will approve the 24-team format. This format would include the New York Rangers.

The New York Rangers should be in the play-in round

The most recent reports on the return to play format have the teams seeded one through 12, based on points percentage. That would put the Rangers as the eleventh seed, where they would face the Carolina Panthers. Dates, times, and places would not be immediately known, as the league is still working on where these games would be played, most likely in some kind of hub community. It is also not known if the higher seeds would get some kind of built-in advantage, like being awarded a game in the best of five series. Some teams and players have stated that higher seeds should get some kind of advantage in this expanded format.

This may have been why McKenzie stated on Thursday that the NHLPA executive committee conference call got “a little heated at times” and various individual players still have a wide variety of views on the NHL’s Return to Play proposal. However, his sources indicated that at least 18 of the 31 representatives would vote in favor of the proposal, the minimum number needed for approval.

The league is also considering several hub cities as an option to resume play in a centralized manner but has repeatedly said they are not close to determining what locations will be used. The league will have to monitor what local, state, province, and even national governments say about what can be done. One of the biggest barriers, for example, is the 14-day quarantine that is in effect for any person that enters Canada.

This former New York Ranger Gets an Assist in Helping to Start a Trend

New York Rangers

Many New York Ranger fans are familiar with Andy Bathgate who played 10 seasons with the Blueshirts from 1954 to 1963. Unfortunately, Bathgate was frustrated with the poor play of the Rangers during this time and was traded to Toronto during the 1963-64 season and promptly helped them win the Stanley Cup. But it was something that he did in a game that helped start a trend in hockey that continues to this day.

Bathgate had quite a reputation for having an extremely hard slap shot and that was made evident during a game on November 1, 1959, in a game against the Montreal Canadiens. In the first period, Canadiens goaltender Jacques Plante was struck in the face by a shot from Bathgate that required the Canadians netminder to receive some stitches. During the period in the NHL, goaltenders did not wear masks, leaving their heads open to injury. After being stitched up, Plante insisted that he wear a mask, something that he had done during practice but not in a game. Montreal head coach Toe Blake initially refused to allow him to wear it in a game, fearing it would inhibit his vision. Plante told Blake that he refused to play unless he could wear the fiberglass mask. Faced with a decision of letting his goalie wear a mask or try to scrape a goalie out of the stands. At that time, NHL teams did not employ back up goalies. Faced with the choice of letting his goals wear a mask, or the use the EBUG as we now know it, Blake let Plante play with the mask. Plante continued wearing a mask for the rest of his career, starting a trend that continues to this day, with the assist going to Andy Bathgate.

Of course, Bathgate is known for more than his hard slap shot leading to a change in goalie decor. In 2017 Bathgate was named one of the “100 Greatest NHL Players”. During his time with the Rangers, he was awarded the Hart Memorial Trophy for the MVP of the NHL in 1958–59 after scoring 40 goals, which was a great accomplishment during that period of NHL hockey. The Rangers retired his #9 along with Harry Howell’s #3 in a special ceremony before on February 22, 2009. Bathgate joined Adam Graves, whose number 9 had been hoisted to the MSG rafters 19 nights earlier. Graves has been quoted as saying that Bathgate is “the greatest Ranger to ever wear the number 9”.

New York Rangers legends John Davidson and Mike Richter featured on MSG Network

New York Rangers, Mike Richter

Former New York Rangers goaltenders Mike Richter and John Davidson will be guests on MSG Networks “MSG 150 at Home” on Wednesday night.

As part of “Goalie Week”, Madison Square Garden Network will have a roundtable discussion hosted by Steve Valiquette. Richter and J.D. will share some of the fondest memories of their time wearing the famous Rangers sweater. From NHL debuts and rookie seasons, players they looked up to growing up, staying connected to others during this pause, and more.

John Davidson

Davidson talked about the time when he was traded to the Rangers in June 1975.

“My second year I played so well that I got traded to the Rangers after the season. And that was the best thing that happened to me. Aside from my family, that was the best thing that ever happened to me. I was blown away when I got to New York. I had never seen anything like this. Madison Square Garden, New York City, the busy streets, oh baby. It was quite something.”

Davidson was part of the great team that made it all the way to the Stanley Cup Finals in. 1979 where they lost the series to Ken Dryden and the Montreal Canadiens.

The president of the Blueshirts also talked about the current team and how he has been staying connected with the scouting staff and some of the prospects thanks to platforms look Zoom.

Mike Richter

Stanley Cup Champion Mike Richter was asked about his NHL playoff debut during the 1989 playoffs.

“It was good to get the opportunity to play. I’m indebted to Phil Esposito who gave me it. I didn’t expect that I was necessarily going to get in there. I didn’t expect it. I was so thrilled and excited. I had so much energy.”

Esposito was the Rangers General manager at the time but was fired following the team’s elimination for the playoffs in May 1989.

Richter also spoke of the players he looked up to in the NHL, namely Eddie Giacomin. Richters idol was the team’s goalie coach when he was called up to the Rangers.

Two of the last three goalies to reach the Stankey Cup Finals in the last 41 years (Henrik Lundqvist was the third) talk about the great memories playing for this original six franchise.

The show will air Wednesday night at 5:00 p.m. an again at 7:30 p.m.

New York Rangers’ Artemi Panarin nominated for ‘NHL Fan Choice Award’

New York Rangers, Artemi Panarin

The National Hockey League announced it’s nominees for the “Fan Choice Awards” and New York Rangers superstar Artemi Panarin was nominated for Best Celly.

Artemi Panarin had to expect to hear his name mentioned for some NHL hardware after he signed with the New York Rangers last summer. I am not sure the Best Celly Fan Award was what he had in mind but it is something to talk about during hockey’s downtime.

The NHL has created 20 different categories for fans to choose from. There is a large range of different topics, from best team dog, the goal of the year, best dressed, funniest player, save of the year, and my favorite best pregame ritual.

Fans can head over to www.nhl.com/fans/nhl-fan-choice-awards and pick who they would like to see win with voting ending on June 1.

Panarin has some good company in his category. Buffalo Sabers jack Eichel, the Carolina Hurricanes, and Panarin’s former team the Columbus Blue Jackets.

These are all good choices but none are as comparable as the Breadman’s leg kick which has been measured as high as 5.9 feet.

Panarin has been in the Hart Trophy conversation recently. The trophy is awarded to the league’s most valuable player, an accolade that he deserves based on what he has accomplished this season for the Blueshirts. This season Rangers fans have seen plenty of cellies with the Breadman finding the back of the net 32 times along with 95 points.

What The Bundesliga’s Return Tells Us About American Sports Returning

I’ve been a Yankee fan all my life and grew up actively watching both the Jets and Giants. But my introduction to the world of German soccer was… interesting to say the least.

It was during the 2006 World Cup. I had wandered in to find my dad watching Germany in the round-robin stage of the tournament. A young up and coming midfielder by the name of Bastian Schweinsteiger were making his World Cup debut for his country. I heard that Schweinsteiger translated into English was “pig wrestler” and that he played for Bayern Munich of the Bundesliga. Hearing the translation, I proclaimed “THAT’S COOL!” and kept a close eye on the career of the future captain of the German National Soccer Team (Die Mannschaft), from Bayern Munich to Manchester United, to Chicago FC of the MLS. But by this point, I was such a huge fan of Bayern Munich that I kept following the Yankees of the Bundesliga.

With the return of the Bundesliga, including a 2-0 victory over Union Berlin by Bayern Munich, the future of American sports was fully on display in the time of the coronavirus pandemic. Here’s what we can expect.

Testing, Testing, Testing!

When Germany announced that the Bundesliga was returning, testing was a paramount prerequisite. shortly before the season resumed, 10 confirmed Bundesliga players and personnel tested positive for the coronavirus. While it seemed jarring for many, all 10 confirmed cases were asymptomatic, meaning they showed no symptoms. The three players were immediately put into isolation, and the team they played for were all closely monitored before being cleared to play this weekend.

Germany currently has a testing capacity of 860 thousand tests a week, which more than covers the 25,000 tests needed to complete the season. They currently test the players the day before a match, and at one other point during the week. The US will need to up. their game, as the country is currently at a 300 thousand tests a week capacity, and the frequency of testing needs to be determined/revealed for MLB, the NBA, NHL, and the impending NFL season, as well as necessary testing for our college athletes, should a college sports season occur.

No Fans Improve Social Distancing

Players and personnel were under strict social distancing protocols. Soccer teams tend to go out on the pitch together, shake hands, and tackle each other in goal scoring situations. Under the new Bundesliga format, teams got on the pitch individually, no formal handshaking, and they merely tapped elbows. And when they are on the bench, everyone wears a mask, and have to sit 6 feet apart. Your average bench and sidelines in American sports don’t offer that much room to be socially distant. Neither does a soccer bench.

Well, since the stands were empty, the players sat in the stands.

No Fans Is the Most Jarring

These German soccer stadiums fit 80 thousand plus fans. It’s comparable to the average capacity of a college football stadium. But imagine those big rivalry games played to empty stadiums during the college football season.

To continue to curb spreading the disease any further than its spread, going to sporting events for these games will be nearly nonexistent until some point next year. Hearing how much of an impact crowd noise has on a game does take a lot of time to get used to. After this weekend, I’m not completely used to it yet. Whether or not certain leagues follow through on pumping crowd noise into the stadium, it’ll be hard to replicate that feeling of crowds actually being there.

 

NHL Commisioner Gary Bettman looking at mutliple venues when pause is lifted

National Hockey League, NHL

The NHL is looking at multiple venues to play in once the league begins to restart the 2019-’20 season per a report from NHL.com on Monday.

The chatter is beginning to pick up the pace regarding restarting the NHL. Nicholas J. Cotsonika of NHL.com reported on Monday that the league is looking at eight or nine hubs when the season resumes per a comment by Commissioner Gary Bettman.

“I don’t think anybody has a fixed timetable, particularly in North America right now,” Commissioner Bettman said per Cotsonika. He went on to say, “we have been working very hard since we took the pause on March 12 to make sure that whatever the timing is, whatever the sequencing is, whatever physical ability we have in terms of locations to play, that we’re in a position to execute any or all of those options. There is still a great deal of uncertainty.”

The NHL would prefer to use NHL arenas to play the games as they are better suited for multiple games per day and have locker rooms that can handle multiple teams at one time.

Bettman admitted that logistics to restarting the season has become an issue. Players have been quarantining in their home cities and countries since the pause went into effect on Mar.12. The commissioner admitted that 17 percent of the league’s players were outside of the United States.

The league will also need plenty of hotels for players and for COVID-19 testing so that it doesn’t interfere with the testing of the general public.

“I am told that there can be enough capacity, and certainly, over the next couple of months, there will be more capacity,” Commissioner Bettman said. “But that is a fundamental question, and we certainly can’t be jumping the line in front of medical needs.”

The NHL has yet to determine if they will finish out the regular season or go directly into the Stanley Cup Playoffs at the moment. He is aware that fans have a vested interest in this season as he would like to see the regular season completed before the playoffs begin.

Bettman has had no intention of canceling the season and believes that over time sports will return “stronger than ever.”

As exciting as it is to talk about games the pandemic still has everyone involve playing the wait and see what happens game. The health and safety of the players and people, in general, are more important than a return of sports.

A few New York Rangers show the love for nurses treating COVID-19 patients

New York Rangers

The New York Rangers organization has been saluting the many first responders that have been helping fellow New Yorkers throughout this horrific ordeal. They organized the interview to talk about how each of them has dealt with dealing with the virus.

A few of the players surprised four nurses during a virtual interview to tell them how much they appreciate all they have done to help patients during this tough time.

The Nurses were told they were going to do an interview discussing their time dealing with the global pandemic. Coincidently they all happen to be New York Rangers fans so it was no surprise that the conversation turned to the Blueshirts with stories of their memories of great times watching the team play in happier times.

That’s when the nurses received a surprise they so richly deserved.  Ryan Strome, Chris Kreider, and Marc Staal crashed the virtual interview to the surprise of the nurses.

Each of the players spoke to the nurses praising all they have done to help people battling with this silent killer.

Ryan Strome might have said it best, telling the nurses “a lot of us feel really hopeless a times because you can’t really do anything about it, but you guys are able to do that, and not just for us, I think everyone is very appreciative,” as was told to Pat Pickens of NHL.com

Strome, speaking for al three players, then invited the nurses to a Rangers game at the Garden once things get back to normal.

Pretty amazing what a simple video conversation can do to raise morale for both the players and the nurses.

New York Ranger’s Mom Takes the NHL Spotlight on Mother’s Day

New York Rangers

It was just a few months ago that the New York Rangers held their annual trip that saw Ryan Strome’s mother become somewhat of a media sensation when she read the lineups to the Rangers before their victory against the Chicago Blackhawks. She reprised that role in their next road contest against Carolina, despite her son jokingly saying that experience “aged him five, maybe ten years”, which again resulted in a Rangers victory. These were just the first two of what turned out to be five straight victories, cementing the legend of Trish Strome.

Mrs. Strome featured on the NHL networks #HockeyatHome show

Trish Strome is not only the mother of the Ranger’s Ryan Strome, but she is also the proud mom of current Chicago Blackhawk Dylan and Philadelphia Flyers prospect Matthew, so it made perfect sense to feature her on the NHL Hockey Moms segment of the show.

A big part of the segment had to do with the famous reading of the lineup, something that caught Ryan off guard. “I didn’t know they were going to do that, so it really caught me off guard” Ryan explained and also added that “it was quite something and the Internet caught it and it blew up quite a bit”

Even though she may have looked calm and collective during the lineup announcement, Trish Stomme did not have a lot of time to prepare. So her well-quoted lines like “Move..him..the..puck…”, and “I just like saying Shesterkin” was very much improvised. “The gave like 5 minutes notice” she explained, “so I didn’t have a lot of time to be nervous.”

The interview was conducted by Kathyrn Tappan of NBC Sports, who asked Mrs. Strome about what she thought about having the boys home due to the coronavirus pandemic’s and the NHL’s stay-at-home restriction: “I love having them around” but added, “I do miss the hockey.”

The entire segment also features interviews with Vancouver Canucks defenseman Quinn Hughes and New Jersey Devils forward Jack Hughes with their mom, Ellen; and emergency backup goalie David Ayres with his mom, Mary. The episode can be found on the NHL’s digital platforms and will air on NBCSN on Wednesday, May 13, at 5 p.m., as well as on the NHL Network on Thursday, May 14, at 9:30 p.m. ET.

Rumored NHL Tournament to Include the New York Rangers

New York Rangers

As players and fans of the New York Rangers sit and wait to see when the NHL and other sports leagues may resume, recent news from many sources has indicated that the NHL is strongly considering going right into a 24 team playoff that would include the Rangers.

NHL Board of Governors/Return to Play Committee seems to favor heading straight to the playoffs

One of the concerns that the NHL and the players association may have been discussing was the necessity of bringing team officials and players back to play who had no chance of making the playoffs. Then after phone conferences with the board of governors on Monday, and the Return to Play committee on Wednesday, the concept of going straight to the playoffs appears to be picking up steam.

Pierre LeBrun of TSN explained the process this way: “On Wednesday, I’m told that 16, 20 and 24 were again talked about as options. But of those three from talking to people around the league both on the team side and also on the players’ side, 24 teams seems to be gathering a bit of traction, with the idea of a playoff format with 24 teams.”

Darren Dreger, also of TSN explained the rationale for wanting to go to this kind of finish for the season. “you could easily adopt a play-in format that trims 24 down to the traditional 16 playoff teams. And by doing that you don’t have regular-season games. You have three to six play-in games, which means you can get through the process more quickly. The reason behind that would be the preparation for the second wave of COVID-19.”

Trying to finish the regular season means that the NHL would have to start up sooner, rather than later and that leads into complications. There are international travel and US-Canada border-crossing restrictions in place that would appear to be obstacles to a quick reopening. Recently, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau stated that any player crossing the border to enter Canada would have to follow their 14-day quarantine rule. There are at least two cities in Canada being considered as “hubs” for a return to play

It’s going to cost lots of money to restart the season regardless of how it’s done. Considering fans will not be able to attend games and therefore no revenue from ticket sales,  many are questioning if it is even worth it for the league to proceed with the 2019-20 season? Considering that there is up to $150 million at stake in television revenue if the remainder of the regular season is wiped out, the NHL will have to total up the costs of restarting to see if it is feasible to reopen.