Wednesday, February 4, 2009

The Word Disgrace Just Doesn't Even Come Close. . .

I don't mean this to be overdramatic in any sense, but I refused to comment on the game last night played by the current Rangers in the same space as I commented on the honoring of one of the great and former Rangers. Therefore another blog entry for my other thoughts on last night.

As I watched the wonderful ceremony for Adam Graves last night, I cringed every time they showed the players on the bench. For one it was always Gomez and Drury, front and center, and they all looked about as moronic as can be. I kept saying to myself, really, Drury, keep looking up, keep smiling. There is no way in hell you will ever be among the greatest Rangers ever, so keep dreaming. You too, Gomer.

The fact that those three (sorry Markus, you get lumped in by default) got to go and help unveil the banner for Graves - something for the record I have seen done numerous times in Montreal but was not done once for the other three retirement ceremonies in New York - made me ill. To me, this is something that should not have been done at all (unless Graves personally suggested it, which I doubt) and the fact that it was done for the first time with those untalented and uninspiring yahoos was disgusting. I kept thinking that if it had been Jagr or Straka, players with the type of long and substantial careers worthy of it, I'd have been fine with it. But not Gomez and Drury.

And when they showed Renney, smiling and clapping, I was lucky I skipped dinner. I mouthed "keep f-in clapping moron." Which I'd apologize for, but in all honesty, I really shouldn't have to. The guy has nothing to be proud of. His team is an embarassment and he's apparently chosen to lie right through his teeth about it.

Those complaints, however, were small compared to the bigger picture.

As the ceremony ended, and I wiped my eyes, I said, my gosh, if there is ever a reason for this team to find a way to be pumped up, it is for this night and for this great man. They always say on nights like this, play in a way that would make the man proud.

Adam Graves is too nice a person to ever admit so, but if he were any other man he'd be forced to say the Rangers did anything but honor him and the way he played last night.

In fact, it looks like they, with Renney at the helm, went out of their way to play the most boring, uninspired hockey yet. On a night when they should have been inspired, they were inexplicably flat.

There is no excuse.


I'm not going to comment on Hank or on any one player in particular in regard to the above. Rather I'm going to say that the only two people that looked alive and like they cared at all, were Erik Reitz and Artem Anisimov - the two players who had never before last night ever worn a New York Rangers sweater.

True, that could all be accounted for by saying it was their first games, they wanted to impress. Credit them all you want for that. Reitz looked fired up and was quick to throw the body. Anisimov might just have had the best scoring chance of them all, and he, unlike half this team of drones, actually looked angry when he did not score!

But as much as you can credit them, you have to shake your head at every other player that took the ice last night. If there were one or two examples to the contrary, fine. But overall they were horrific.

If it weren't for an accidental goal with 11 seconds to go in the damn game, they would have been shut out again. And not to the BEST team in the conference, but to the second WORST team in the whole league.

Read that again if you have to. A 1-0 loss to Boston, if played the right way, I'd be willing to say is acceptable. Almost losing to one of the worst teams in the league, in your building, on a night you are honoring one of your all-time greatest, is a disgrace.

And that word doesn't even come close.

Look, you probably saw the game. I won't bore you with details. Of how they made not even Johan Hedberg, who plays well against New York, but Kari Lehtonen look like a king last night. I won't waste time going back into my rant of how this team will not and cannot be anything more than what it is considering they can't play defense like they think they can and now they can't even score one damn goal! But I will say this.

If there was ever a day for this team to get back into any of my graces, they blew it last night.

You just watched a ceremony for and were reminded of how wonderful a person Adam Graves was. That needed no reminder. What perhaps got lost in the thousand of wonderful things we hear about him, though, was the fact that he was the perfect teammate. Not lost to me; I couldn't forget. But apparently lost on those players that dressed last night.

Tell me. Does one of them go out there with that attitude? That passion for the game? That respect for the sweater they don?

Does one of them go out their and protect their teammates, or their goalie as he gets run? Does one of them stand up for themselves? For their team?

Does one of them play like it is their greatest honor in the world to play for one of the most honorable and traditional franchises in professional sports?

I'm sure there are occasions where the answer is yes. But does any one of them do this on a regular basis? Or every single time?

Adam Graves was THAT player. It is a disgrace to me that we don't even have ONE player who I can honestly say does that with even 10% of the grace, humility, and dignity that Adam Graves did.

He made no apologies, but he did not once need to.

And that is why the word disgrace doesn't even come close.

Instead of a marvelous display of what they can do, it was just another boring, uninspired effort from the most boring, uninspired team I have ever come to know.

I spent one year of my life (lockouts not included) not watching hockey. I regret it to some degree, even though I had my reasons. In the wake of last night, I seriously considered boycotting this team. Taking a break, not from hockey, but from them. Instead of spending my rare free nights watching this team, I'd love to watch any other team right now. A team that skates. A team that cares. Forget watching a team that scores. How about a team that understands what it means to play a game they love for a sweater they respect.

At least half the Rangers team just does not get it. That much was apparent last night. The Rangers is a "way of life" to them. The nights out. The paychecks. And yes, there is some hockey thrown in there. If that is not the truth, they are doing a great job of convincing me it is.

To the Rangers, the true RANGERS, like Adam Graves, the Rangers were it. All of it. Putting on the sweater night in and night out was a priviledge. It was a priviledge to play for a team with such pride, passion, and tradition. A team that had been around since the beginning. A team that had some of the greatest players of all time lace up skates and call themselves Blueshirts. They got it. And Adam Graves was the epitome of that.

It's a shame not one person could try, even for one night, to skate with the passion, smile with the pride, and play the game with the conviction that we grew accustomed to seeing during Graves' time. A shame.

I'm not going to spend more than a few sentences on what I am going to say next. And forgive me in advance.

Want to know one player that I think, gets it?

And this is not a soapbox speech here. I'm speaking from what I truly believe.

Adam Graves was the one player always sticking up for his teammates. Adam Graves was the one player that was always smiling. Adam Graves was the one player that got what it meant to play here, and wanted to be here more than anything, and even when things got bad for him personally.

Sound familiar at all?

Petr Prucha, despite his lack of size, always sticks up for his teammates. As much as I love the image of Avery knocking Brodeur down in the crease and Marty falling with all the drama of an Academy Award winner, I love Prucha to his right pummeling Colin White to the ice even more.

And always smiling. There is no other person I know of - and it has been said by almost everyone - that does that more than Petr Prucha. And that is despite all he's been through, personally and professionally.

Prucha, it is often forgotten because he watched from a far, was a Rangers fan. Watched the Stanley Cup Final in 1994, staying up late and falling asleep in class. For him to be a Ranger means more than it does for half of this team, I can guarantee.

That's probably why he doesn't want to leave, and is clinging so desperately to a team he loves and respects, when the people behind the bench have not loved and respected him in the same way.

For the record, and I'll close my argument with this: Petr Prucha is 2-0 in jersey retirement ceremonies. In addition to an assist on Petr Sykora's goal, he scored what might arguably be the most beautiful goal in his career in New York on Mark Messier Night. A goal, it must be mentioned, Jagr had nothing to do with. It was all Pete.

Think Tom Renney thought about that?

There is a list a mile long of players who have played for the New York Rangers.

Some for a single game. Others for many hundred.

Some were booed. Others will be forever loved.

Some would give up when the pressure is on. Others would rise admirably to the occasion.

Some didn't get the chance to be remembered. Others will never be forgotten.

It is quite evident which type of Ranger got honored last night, and which others missed the mark completely.

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