I was five years old when I heard the screams coming from downstairs. After rushing down from our bedroom, my brother and I found my father kneeling on the floor, crying. Nothing was wrong. In fact, everything was right.
It was the evening of June 14th, 1994 and the New York Rangers had just won the Stanley cup for the first time in 54 years. When I turned my eyes to the television, I saw what I think is my first sports memory: Mark Messier jumping up and down. I asked my dad "What happened?" All he could muster was "We won!"
Since that day I have seen the replays of the amazing moments that occurred during the playoffs: Messier delivering on his guarantee, Matteau's goal in double overtime, Richter's save against Pavel Bure, and finally the most beautiful four words ever spoken: THE WAITING IS OVER! Whenever I need a boost, a simple Youtube search for "Stephan Matteau" never leaves me disappointed, neither does "Richter vs. Bure."
This moment in sports is so important to me, because it set in motion my love of sports. Only something as majestic and beautiful as watching a beloved team win a championship could bring a grown man to tears.
Reexamining the roster from the 1994 Stanley Cup Champions leaves me wondering "Why did there have to be so much drama?" Messier, Leetch, Graves, Richter, Kovalev. These are four players that will live forever in Rangers lore. The first four either have been or will be inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame.
The Rangers have not one Lord Stanley's Cup since that June day, but the fans have not been any less loyal. Each game at Madison Square Garden is a sellout: 18,200 fans, not one less. Three of the players from that team have had their numbers retired, and one more will join that club later this month.
For the two months that made up the 1994 Stanley Cup Playoffs, God was a Rangers fan. How else do you explain Messier's prediction, Matteau's goal, Richter's save, and the fact that Madison Square Garden didn't disintegrate after being completely abused at the conclusion of Game Seven?
Being unable to watch the games on television, I have resorted to checking scores on my cell phone and refreshing the Rangers homepage whenever I can. Being a New York sports fan is a job in and of itself, but it's one I do with pride.
I experienced the same joy my father felt when the Giants won the Super Bowl last February. I too was on my knees in front of the television, crying.
Hockey is definitely not the most popular sport in America. I believe it ranks somewhere behind soccer and curling. In the City of New York, however, hockey is serious business. The City of Columbus would never stop in time if the Blue Jackets one the Cup, neither would Atlanta or Phoenix (no offense to those cities). In New York, for a single moment on a warm June night everything stood still. And everything was perfect.