Friday, January 13, 2006

A Fine Mess

In the late 70's I was in high school in Connecticut. My dad had just moved us from Cincy to take a job in Manhattan. This midwestern boy immediately started to hate all things northeast. I hated the course dialect and dismissive tone of my summer job boss, Benny Bruno. I tired quickly of the girls who looked and talked like Joe Pesci, the snobbery that permeates New England culture, the failure to appropriately sound out the letter "h" when pronouncing words like "huge." Worst of all was the "We do everything better in New Yoak than youse guys out here in fly-over country," attitude that makes southerners wish those Empire State snowbirds would just go home for good.

The only exception to that sentiment for me was the New York Rangers. I loved JD, Duguay, and Espo, and watched the Blueshirts nearly every night. My senior year art class oil painting was of a Ranger taking a slap shot at Billy Smith with Denis Potvin going to one knee to try and block the shot. I got a B on the project, but my college buddy, the crabby artist, used to ridicule my vain attempt at artistic expression.

When I went away to college, I lost interest in the Rangers, and my interest in NHL hockey hibernated until 1994. In that Cup series, I re-discovered my love of hockey and the Rangers. The guarantee, the hat trick, the deranged UPS driver on acid Canucks uniforms, Mess taking the Cup bar hopping-all are seared in my memory. I lost interest in the Rangers again when Glen Sather started bringing in the high-priced guns who wrecked team chemistry, but I was back as a hockey fan.

Last night the Rangers retired #11 in the type of over-the-top extravaganza you would expect in the Garden. Mess cried until the ice was resurfaced. Adam Graves still can't grow facial hair. Sather got booed, but Neil Smith didn't. Eddie Olcyzk looked lost (wonder why?). Jeff Beukeboom got "Booed" in appreciation, just like the old days.

I've read a lot of mixed reviews regarding Mess the man, especially as his career was ending. No person, let alone hockey icon, lives a life of complete virtue. Mess and the Rangers of '94 restored my passion for hockey. For awhile last night, I was a Ranger fan again. Then Kasparitis took the ice...

Nice article about Mess' influence on hockey and the Blueshirt-nation from Duncan Currie here:

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