A weekend watching hockey in D.C.

By Mark Nagi

Love is a complicated emotion. You can’t see it. You can’t feel it. You can’t taste it nor hear it. But you know it when it’s real.

I love my daughters. I love my dog, Bailey.

And I love the New York Rangers.

This article might seem like its being written for a very limited audience. How many fellow Rangers fans can there be in the greater Knoxville area?  My friends Craig Bates and Andrew Long will certainly enjoy reading the next 600 words or so… but I think that fans of any team will know what I’m talking about.

I’ve spent more time and money than I’d like to admit watching them play on television and in person. Is it worth it? Depending on the day or the outcome of a game… yes. Or no. Or sort of.

Last weekend I met two of my friends from college in Washington, D.C. to watch our Rangers play the Capitals. This is an annual trip that we started in Detroit back in 2020. The plan was to see the Rangers play in a different city once a year. Then the pandemic hit, causing a three-year break.

More than anything, it gives us a reason to get together. We each live in different parts of the nation, and it gets tough to stay connected. Hockey serves as the catalyst.

I made the nearly eight-hour drive north, passing the Washington Monument and White House before settling in at the downtown hotel.

Over dinner and drinks one of my friends simply said, “They better win tomorrow.”

This should simply be a perfect weekend for each of us. A couple of days away from work, in one of America’s most important and historical places. We saw the Capitol Building, the Washington Monument, and the White House.

And don’t get me wrong. No matter what the results of the game the trip would be well worth the trouble.

But a victory would really be nice.

Saturday morning was a bit of a struggle bus. We are each now in our 50s and it’s funny how a night out is tougher to recover from in your 50s. But we rallied, grabbed lunch, and walked to the Arena.

One of the great things about being a New York Rangers fan is that when you see them play on the road, there are most often a lot of Rangers fans in the building.

On this day it was no different with tons of white and blue jerseys present. Born and bred New Yorkers have found other places across the country to live but stuck with the teams that they grew up with. In this case, it was an easy three-hour train ride from the city.

Every Rangers fan was in good spirits… until the second period began. A 1-1 game turned into a 5-1 deficit. The Rangers looked slow and uninspired. The Capitals looked like the 1984 Edmonton Oilers on their win to a 6-3 win. It was one of the ugliest performances of the season for the Rangers.

There’s nothing worse as a fan than sitting in an opposing team’s building and watching your team get throttled. Tennessee fans that watched the Vols in Gainesville or Tuscaloosa the last 15+ years know this well.

This was indeed a terrific trip. We grabbed dinner and drinks after the game. We talked about our kids and our jobs.

But that trip home the next day was a lot longer because New York lost.

I love the New York Rangers.

They just don’t love me back.

Barring a complete collapse, the Rangers will once again be in the playoffs. But they haven’t won the Stanley Cup since 1994. In fact, they’ve only won that championship once the last 83 years.

My record watching the Rangers in person over the last 30 years is not great. I have seen more losses than wins. But I keep going and will be in Boston or Chicago or Winnipeg or wherever a year from now when I once again get together with my college friends, and I can’t wait for that trip.

Let’s hope for a better result on the scoreboard next time.