For over 40 years, going to Madison Square Garden to watch their beloved New York Rangers has been a rite of passage for hockey fans in the Empire State.
Fans often grow attached to old arenas, ones whose character and rich history makes the lack of modern conveniences tolerable. Seeing those buildings torn down is so emotional because we have such fond memories of the events that took place inside.
Trying to picture the Blueshirts not playing at MSG in its current location is difficult for New Yorkers. After all, the team has played there since the 1968-69 NHL season.
But a new era of Rangers hockey might be taking shape after a decision made by the City Council on Wednesday to oust the club—and its co-tenant New York Knicks—from the building so Penn Station can be remodeled.
Per Charles V. Bagli of the New York Times:
The New York City Council notified the arena that it has 10 years to vacate its 45-year-old premises and find a new home, the Garden’s fifth since it opened in 1879.
By a vote of 47 to 1, the Council voted to extend the Garden’s special operating permit for merely a decade — not in perpetuity, as the owners of the Garden had requested, or 15 years, as the Bloomberg administration had intended
“This is the first step in finding a new home for Madison Square Garden and building a new Penn Station that is as great as New York and suitable for the 21st century,” said Christine C. Quinn, the City Council speaker. “This is an opportunity to reimagine and redevelop Penn Station as a world-class transportation destination.”
No one would be surprised if Rangers owner James Dolan, who's also the executive chairman of Madison Square Garden Company, does everything possible to block the city's plan to move the arena.
Dolan isn't the type of man to give up without a fight. As Bagli notes, the MSG executive recently put $968 million into upgrading an arena that has contributed to the Rangers being the most profitable NHL franchise in the United States, per Forbes.
But even if the Rangers relocated to a different part of Manhattan, or made a shocking move to a place like Long Island as a result of being removed from MSG, the team has a loyal fanbase and an ownership group committed to spending the resources required to construct a winning roster. Their brand would not be significantly weakened.
When famous venues like the Boston Garden, Spectrum and Yankee Stadium were torn down, their teams were able to move on and start a new chapter of success in modern buildings. There's no reason to believe the Rangers would fail to make this same transition successfully, regardless of where a new stadium is built.
Constructing a new arena would ultimately be a great change for the city. A remodeled, more efficient Penn Station and a modern MSG in Manhattan would prove to be beneficial to its growth long-term. A new building would also give the Rangers more ways to make money and give their fans a better stadium experience.
With that said, MSG is a symbol of New York and the most iconic landmark in its sports landscape. Some of the game's greatest players, including Wayne Gretzky and Mark Messier, have worn the historic Rangers sweater at MSG.
Moving it is going to be a difficult challenge for the city's politicians. But even if the current building is torn down and built back up as a modern, state-of-the-art facility somewhere else in Manhattan or the surrounding metro area, it will always play an important role in the Rangers' history.
You can tear down the building, but the incredible memories of Mark Messier in 1994 and all of the other iconic moments will live on forever.
Nicholas Goss is an NHL Lead Writer at Bleacher Report. He was also a credentialed writer at the 2011 and 2013 Stanley Cup Final, as well as the 2013 NHL draft.