For a brief time, Los Angeles was Long Island West during the Stanley Cup Final. I won’t speak for all Islanders fans, but I’m certain most were not supporting the Rangers during their quest for a fifth cup title and first in 20 years.
It didn’t happen and when the Kings clinched their second title in three years during Game 5 it was a relief for many. Something about the Rangers losing in overtime made the loss even more potent.
I traveled into New York City for Game 4 at Madison Square Garden hoping to see hockey history, but, instead, I saw a damn good hockey game and a 2-1 Rangers victory, which forced the cup-clinching game two days later across the country. Good for all the Kings fans that were able to see their team win the cup on home ice.
Before we go any further and you think this is a Rangers bashing column, because it’s really not, let me explain my disdain for the blue shirts somewhat psychologically. Let’s go back to 1994 when the Rangers swept the Islanders in the Eastern Conference
Quarterfinals. I was 8 years old and took a verbal beating from Rangers fans in the third grade. Sounds like nothing, I know, but it’s something. Just as we are affected by everything else that happens in our childhood, these fan-related incidents were so psychologically damaging to me as a child that it will have a lasting impact for the rest of my life. I dislike the Rangers because of how Rangers fans acted towards me as a young Islanders fan. On the flip side, my devotion towards the Islanders as a child and teen grew even stronger.
This series, all of those feelings came rushing back. Facebook and Twitter didn’t help. For a solid month as the playoffs developed, Rangers fans came out of the woodworks. Everyone who claimed to be a Rangers fan had something to say. The bandwagon was full. I kept relatively quiet until the last two days of the series. By then, the child inside had enough and I was wired to another level. When the Kings won, it evoked feelings as good as if any of my favorite teams actually clinched a title (only the Giants have in my lifetime, for the record).
During Game 4, I sat and observed as a sea of blue shirts rose from their seats to celebrate two Rangers goals. I did not stand and cheer for Los Angeles when they scored. I wanted to get home alive. Everyone erupted around me as I sat in silence, smirking slightly because I knew the outcome of the series would not end in their favor.
Someone on Twitter called me a sore loser for some lighthearted comments I made about the Kings’ victory. I replied with, “Today, I’m a winner!” The Islanders didn’t make the playoffs, barely stumbled out of the basement of the Metropolitan Division, have one season left at the Coliseum before moving to Brooklyn and are as lost as any franchise in professional sports, but for one night, for one brief moment in sports history, the Kings provided an escape that was so brilliant I’ll remember it for a lifetime.