Family Time… With the New York Rangers

By Mark Nagi

I love the New York Rangers and I love Madison Square Garden.

Even if they don’t love me back.

I’ve been a New York Rangers fan since 1979. I was 6 years old when the underdog Rangers went on an unexpected run to the Stanley Cup Final. I was hooked, even though games were hard to find on television. The Rangers lost to Montreal in five games.

In 1994 they snapped a 54-year curse, winning the Stanley Cup.

Twenty years after that, the Rangers went on another unexpected run to the Final, losing in 5 games again, this time to the Los Angeles Kings. It was 2014 and my daughters were still little. They watched a lot of those playoff games with me that season. My oldest daughter Lillian took a big interest in her father’s favorite team.

We’ve seen the Rangers play in Nashville, Raleigh, and Columbus, getting to one game a year since 2015. When Covid hit that slowed our roll but now we are back on schedule.

For years we talked about seeing a game in New York City. With Lillian 16 and still waiting for her first trip on a plane, I thought that this would be a perfect Christmas gift.

So, on December 3, Lillian and I flew into JFK, grabbed a shady Lyft into midtown Manhattan, and got ready to see the Rangers play the Chicago Blackhawks.

As a Dad, I bore my daughters to death about “making memories.” Life is made up of memorable moments I tell them, and Lillian’s first plane ride and first time in Madison Square Garden certainly fits into that category.

During our 2+ days in Manhattan we did a lot of shopping, saw the Christmas tree, and skated at Rockefeller Center. I saw a guy on the ice in an Alabama hat and yelled “Go Vols!” while skating away Jalin Hyatt-esque. Later on, I fell and twisted my knee.

Kids, it’s tough to get old.

We ate a lot of slices of New York pizza (I miss it so), walked all around Times Square, and went to the observation deck at Rockefeller Center. The views at night at remarkable. You could be in NYC for a week and never get to 2% of things you’d like to do.

But I’m a sportswriter and you likely don’t expect travel agency articles from me, so let’s get back to the hockey.

We arrived at MSG an hour before the puck dropped. I’ve been there for games maybe a dozen times in my life, and I think I’ve seen them win once. The Rangers had been slumping but Chicago is terrible so I thought that Lillian would get to see a win in her Garden debut.


The Rangers looked slow, playing their second game in as many nights. They hit the post multiple times. Chicago scored on tipped shots and rebounds. The Rangers lost 5-2 and Lillian had the chance to hear what a New York crowd sounds like when things aren’t going well. She laughed, and even though I’m now 50 years old, I laughed too.

We grabbed a Lyft to JFK on Monday, saw our connection flight in Charlotte canceled, and had to stay overnight in the Queen City before finally getting back to Knoxville on December 6.

I’m always aware of how finite our time on this planet is knowing that tomorrow isn’t guaranteed. My youngest daughter Emily isn’t in high school yet, but Lillian will be in college in the Fall of 2024. I don’t know how many more opportunities I’ll have to take a trip like this one with her.

After we got back, Lillian asked if we could do it all again next Christmas.

That made all of this worth it.

Even if my Rangers didn’t hold up their end of the bargain…