Sandy Pens Her Own Chapter Of The Lockout Saga

It’s been two weeks since superstorm Sandy paid a most unwelcome visit to the eastern seaboard.  People in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut are still trying, to varying degrees, pick up the pieces of their lives. For some, it’s figuring out which day they can get gas. For others, who have lost everything, it’s wondering how to feed their children, where they are going to live, how they are going to keep warm as the cold weather sets in for the season. Making matters worse was a nasty nor’easter that dumped record snowfall in areas that didn’t need the added misery.

I consider myself among the fortunate, escaping relatively unscathed save being without power (and by proxy heat) for five days. It was like hitting the lottery to wake up in the dead of night and see my alarm clock blinking and feel the warm air blowing. But as 5 days of trying to dress by flashlight and piling on three heavy layers to keep warm came to an end, there was one more thing I was craving that Sunday:  New York Rangers-Philadelphia Flyers at Madison Square Garden.

It may seem incredibly stupid and trivial to want a hockey game while there are people out there who lost everything trying to get by, but the desire was for one reason and one reason alone: to restore one tiny iota of normalcy to a very abnormal situation.

If you’re a die-hard fan, you itch to get that schedule in the summer. You probably look it over, see which games you want to try and get to during the season. If you’re a season ticket holder, you might start planning which ones you’ll attend and which ones you’ll sell or give away. You might even plan a road trip to a favorite city to see your team play. You weave your team’s schedule into the fabric of your life. Rushing home from work so you can eat dinner before the pregame show comes on may become normal routine.

In times of fear and uncertainty, people look toward the familiar for comfort. The NHL and NHLPA have taken away something familiar from fans, as they continue to bicker over billions of dollars. Comparing Sandy and its aftermath to September 11th and its aftermath is like comparing apples to oranges, but those of us in the tri-state area remember though how cathartic it was to have professional sports return to New York after the terrorist attacks. Rangers fans probably remember the home opener less that one month later, where Mark Messier donned the helmet of a fallen member of the FDNY as the team paid homage to first responders. You could almost see this current team, so reflective of the city’s own resiliency, paying homage to its residents and first responders. Imagine what something akin to that would’ve done for this city, whether witnessed in person, watched on television or listened to on an old-school transistor radio by candlelight.

While NHL arenas remain dark, teams and players are working separately from each other to do what they can to help Sandy’s victims.

Madison Square Garden, the company that owns the Rangers, contributed $500,000.00 to relief efforts and hosted a telethon on the network during the Knicks game on November 9th. The “World’s Most Famous Arena” is hosting a benefit concert on December 12th. The Garden was originally slated to have a Rangers-Montreal Canadiens game that night. CBA agreement that salvages December or not, that’s obviously not happening.

Henrik Lundqvist announced he would be auctioning off his mask for Sandy relief via Twitter.

Scattered around North America and Europe, several Rangers players are working on their own to help out. Perhaps no current Ranger has embraced New York City the way Henrik Lundqvist has. On Halloween eve he shared a photo of himself and his wife dressed as 2 iconic Manhattan skyscrapers – the Empire State Building and the Chrysler Building respectively – for a party. Six time zones away in his native Sweden, Lundqvist announced he would be auctioning off a mask to help the victims of Superstorm Sandy. Along with the mask (staring bid $10,000.00),  available in a separate auctions are his pads, blocker and glove (staring bid $3,500.00). Lundqvist is no stranger to this gesture. Back in January he auctioned off a Winter Classic mask that raised $35,000.00 for the Garden of Dreams Foundation, for which he is an official spokesperson.

Brad Richards has arranged a youth hockey clinic that will be taking place Friday, November 16th at the Staten Island Skating Pavilion with all proceeds going to help victims via the Cardinal Egan Fund. Brian Boyle, Ryan Callahan, Steve Eminger, Marian Gaborik, Dan Girardi, Carl Hagelin and Marc Staal are all taking part as well. On Twitter, Richards implied that there would be a similar event for adults in the future.

It’s not just the Rangers. Teams all around the NHL, including the other NHL teams that call the areas hardest hit by the storm home – the Flyers,  New York Islanders and New Jersey Devils  - have all spearheaded efforts to provide relief for Sandy’s victims. Alumni and current NHLers from various organizations  have also been arranging and playing benefit games to help out.

In good times and bad, the impact of professional sports, both socially and emotionally, is undeniable.  Of course there’s no magic wand that teams or athletes can wave to make everything all better. But it certainly makes me wonder how much more could be accomplished if the NHL labor war wasn’t stopping them from combining their strengths into even bigger efforts.

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About the Author: Likes: Hockey, the New York Rangers, King Henrik, singing the Rangers goal song, "The Save", the sound skates make against ice, heckling Marty Brodeur. Dislikes: 3-point games, front-office mismanagement, Denis Potvin, overpriced arena beer. Interested? Follow me on Twitter: @CC_927

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