This month at Blue Line Station, we are publishing stories on how our writers became fans of the New York Rangers. This week’s story comes from John Williams. An editor here at Blue Line Station, John had a very unique path to his Ranger’s fandom. This is his story…
If it wasn’t for the New York Rangers, I wouldn’t be alive.
While that above statement might sound like a bit of a stretch to some, in a very literal sense, it’s true.
I’ve been a Rangers fan since the day I was born. I have baby pictures of me in my little white Rangers jersey. I was so cute those days. What the hell happened…
Anyways, like a lot of Rangers’ fans, the reason I became a Rangers fan was because of my parents and their love for the team, especially my dad. While that was similar, the way my parents met was very different than the way most other Rangers-baby’s parents met.
My parents met at the Garden at a Rangers game.
Hence, my first sentence.
My First Season
I love my Rangers. Although the first sports team I ever followed closely was the Yankees–who I still love with a passion–when I started watching the Rangers play on a regular basis at the beginning of the 2005-2006 season, I fell in love. Of all the players I loved from that team–the Straka’s, the Kasparaitis’ the Colton Orr‘s of the world and pretty much the rest of that roster–the three that I loved the most were Michael Nylander, Jaromir Jagr and Tom Poti.
Nylander was a stud. He scored just under 80 points in his breakout season at the tender age of
33. Jaromir Jagr was just the man, on the ice and off of it, and I’ll get into that a little more later. Tom Poti is the one of the trio I mentioned who most people are probably wondering, “what the hell?”
The reason I loved Poti wasn’t because of his on ice performance, but because of the life he had to live. Because he was allergic to peanuts.
Ever since I was three years old, I have had life-threatening allergies to peanuts and tree nuts. These allergies nearly took my life when I was a little kid. Although they have gotten a little bit better over time, when I was growing up they were so bad that I couldn’t be in the same room as them. They were as bad as a food allergy could be.
I still have those allergies now and while now I realize that, while they do suck, I could be allergic to worse. As a kid though, it’s really tough. Tom Poti was a bit of inspiration for me as a guy who overcame it.
All of this leads up to the greatest day of my life.
Going to the Garden
Due to my horrible food allergies, my allergist always suggested to my parents not letting me go to sports games, due to peanuts and peanut shells being all over the place. It made a lot of sense since my allergy was airborne. But all I wanted in life was to go to a Rangers game.
One day I sat down at my kitchen table and wrote two letters, one to Rangers’ owner James Dolan and one to Jaromir Jagr. I wrote essentially the same thing in both of them, “is there any way that there could be a peanut free game?”
I also did this for the Yankees as well–those letters went to Steinbrenner and Mike Mussina, my all-time favorite Yankee.
While I did hear back eventually from the Yankees, they said they couldn’t do anything like that, but were nice enough to send me a lot of cool stuff. The Rangers, however, had other plans.
After a decent amount of collaboration between people in the organization and my parents over the course of a year, I got a phone call from a member of the Rangers organization.
They asked me, “John, do you want to go to a Rangers game against the Montreal Canadiens?”
10-year-old John couldn’t even speak.
The Rangers gave me, my family and a bunch of friends a luxury box, away from all concessions so there were no peanuts or tree nuts anywhere around us.
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I remember walking into the Garden for the first time on that Thursday, April 5th, 2007. I was mesmerized by the history and the buzz of the most beautiful place on planet earth. As we were walking around, I remember seeing two guys in suits coming off the elevator. After they walked away and we got on the elevator, I realized; holy crap, that was just Ron Dugay!
I was five feet away from a former New York Ranger! I couldn’t even handle my excitement. When I got up to our box, there was a long, wood thing on the marble counter top. It was a hockey stick. I remember telling the employee guiding us to the box, “I think one of the players must have left this up here.”
She turned to me and said, “no, your buddy Mr. Jagr left that here for you!”
I looked at the blade of the Sherwood stick to see the signature of one Jaromir Jagr.
Just thinking about it now gives me chills, as I stare at that stick, hanging above my closet door while typing this article.
If that wasn’t great enough, the Rangers went on to win the game 3-1 against Jaroslav Halak‘s Habs.
One thing I have learned in my years of being a Rangers fans is they are going to disappoint you on the ice and in the front office at various points every now and again. It just wouldn’t be the Rangers’ way if they did anything the easy way.
But throughout all the bad times and all the good times, of which make you feel more elated and excited than anything else, the memory of that beautiful April night will always be with me for the rest of my life.