Hockey House at Madison Square Garden: The Greatest Place on Earth
This past playoff season, the NY Rangers opened up Hockey House outside Madison Square Garden for the fans. It was filled with memorabilia from the Hockey Hall of Fame, former Rangers, Activities for the fans, Autographs, and Trivia Contests to win Playoff tickets.
Children were able to have their faces painted, fans could have their pictures taken in front of lockers, action-type photos, and later on your head on a Bobble-head type picture.
Fans could try their skills at puck handling, and shooting on a life sized goalie, clad in the jersey of the Ranger opponent for that series. There were table Hockey contests and Q and A Sessions with former players, media members and announcers.
The first time I ventured into Hockey House, the Saturday before Game 5 vs the Flyers, I did what everyone else was doing. Posed for pictures in my Ranger jersey, shook hands and took pictures with everyone there: Sam Rosen, John Gianonne, Ron Duagay, Ron Greschner, and Nick Fotiu.
I was also lucky enough to win tickets to Game 5. The final Trivia Question of the day was: what three Rangers suited up for and played in every regular season game? I listened to those around me who kept getting two out of three right. I waited until I knew who the three were and pounced on the question. My answer, Stepan, Richards and Boyle was of course correct and I was awarded with 2 tickets in the Suite Section for Sunday’s Game 5 at noon.
Unfortunately, I was unable to get anyone to go with me, I was actually 0 for 10 in that department. So, I did what any true Ranger fan would have done; I went back to Hockey House and informed those in charge, that I would like to give the second ticket to whoever could answer a trivia question that they had. The result was that a young college student from Syracuse was able to attend Game 5 and partake in all the luxury of the Suite Section.
There was four sections set up with various types of food, and a cash bar. The rows in the sections had but 4 seats and there was a small flat screen TV in each row. They were the some of the best seats I have ever had to a Ranger game. That, plus the fact the Rangers defeated the Flyers, made that Sunday a great one.
The second time I went, was the Saturday before Mother’s Day and Game 6 vs the Penguins. That day I knew I was going to win tickets to Game 6, but I also knew that it would be a little difficult to attend since it was Mother’s Day and I would be out with my wife, Mother-in-law, Aunt, In Laws, cousins and our niece. But I was still going to try and see what would happen.
Three questions were answered by others and it was then I saw a young girl about my niece’s age with her mom who was in a wheelchair. I had lost my mom a few years before and I said to myself, if I win these tickets, I would give them to this couple.
The question, how many career Hat Tricks did Pete Stemkowski have, was kind of easy; since I saw it online a week earlier. My answer 2, was correct and the tickets were mine. I then turned around and gave them to the young girl and her mom. This was answered with applause and I found myself being congratulated by many fans and staff.
All in all, it was the right thing to do.
Game 6 vs Montreal, was the game in which the Rangers could vault themselves into the Stanley Cup Finals, and it was a game I just had to go to. I called my cousin, who was working in NYC that week and told him to meet me at Hockey House and that we were going to win tickets and see the Rangers win.
Again I used a little process of elimination to answer a kind of difficult question: name the three Rangers who won the Norris Trophy. Many people were saying Leetch and Gretzky, which made me laugh to myself, because Gretzky never played Defense and the Norris Trophy was awarded to the best Defenseman in the NHL. My answer: Harvey, Howell and Leetch, was of course correct and my cousin and I were off to see Game 6.
It was an awesome thrill to watch the Rangers wrap up the series in 6 games and be the first team to qualify for the Stanley Cup Finals.
The last time I went to Hockey House, was the Saturday after Game 2 against the Kings. Even though they were not giving tickets out with the Trivia Questions, I had a great time asking questions of Pete Stemkowski and posing in front of the Vezina Trophy with Gilles Villemure. In fact, I had asked Gilles if we could take a picture in front of the Trophy he won along with Eddie Giacomin back in 1970-71, and he of course said yes. The gentleman from the Hockey Hall of Fame actually moved the Trophy over against a curtained post, and about 25 people lined up after me, to also have their pictures taken with Gilles and the Trophy. Here I am, trendsetter.
It was great to go to Hockey House and interact with the fans, ex-players, media members and just share a common love of the Rangers. I cannot wait until next Playoff Season, it will even be more of a blast.
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