The Last Day Off (for now)

Go Rangers!

Tomorrow, I am back to work after a welcomed Christmas/New Year’s break. I was able to catch-up on well deserved rest especially after the hectic last few months at work as I have mentioned in previous post.

I got to catch-up on sleep, DVR, Netflix, and being with my family. I got some awesome presents and new gizmos including better Beats by Dre Headphones which are Studio High-Def quality and a iPad!  I got to catch a Rangers and even a Devils game! Helped a friend with her cats. As always, I also got to try new foods including this amazing Chicken Parmesan sandwich I had at Zito’s, a new sandwich shop in Park Slope.

Today, was my last day off before I go back to work tomorrow.

Usually, especially the day before  going back to work after a vacation.

I prefer to just stay at home in my pajamas and just relax the whole day and watch TV and try not to do much to save my energy for tomorrow, especially since I won’t be able to have a day off other than MLK day for probably, the next few months pending getting sick and being unable to get work.

Today, I decided to not stay home despite the freaking cold weather because of one and only one reason, THE WINTER CLASSIC!

The NHL Winter Classic is the marquee game of the NHL season before the playoffs and it’s normally played on New Years. It’s when Professional Hockey is played Outdoors usually at a Baseball or Football Stadium. Seeing Hockey Outdoors is such a beautiful thing to see and NHL and NBC do such a great job with presentation. NBC also has one of the best Play by Play men in professional sports in Doc Emerick. Only him and Gus Johnson can elevate a game for the viewers.

This has been one of the most genius/progressive things the NHL has ever done and I think a signal of futre progress though the NHL Comissioner, Gary Bettman is an imbecile in my humble opinion.

This year’s game is even more special this year. My team, the NY Rangers are playing against their hated rival, the Philadelphia Flyers in Philadelpia. The Rangers are having a great season after an influx of younger, grittier players and finally some smart free agent signings. I hate the Flyers, it’s an organization that prides it’s self on dirty play dating back to the Broad Street Bullies Stanley Cup teams. To be frank, it’s a team full of assholes including Scottie Hartnell, Chris Pronger, and Danny Briere.

I decide to catch the game in the city at a bar. I eat some Honey Bunches of Oats Cereal, taking a shower while screaming out the lyrics to Boyz II Men’s “I’ll Make Love to You”, get my Rangers Limited Edition T-shirt on with a thermal shirt underneath (factoring the cold weather), on top of that I put my brand new and beloved Alternate NY Rangers “Callahan” jersey on, my limited edition Rangers Winter Classic Wool Cap (as mentioned I am a diehard Rangers fan!), and my Uniqlo Coat on and I am on my way to the city.

I wasn’t sure what bar I was going to go to in the city for the game. I have some regular Sports Bars I go to but they are mostly, Football-Focused and today is a bunch of College Football Bowl Games today, so they might not have the Winter Classic on.

I decide to try, my favorite place, Croxley Ales in the Lower East Side of Manhattan. The crowd is always great, it’s crowded but you can find seating and the food is freaking amazing especially the burgers and wings!

But to my disappointment, it’s ALL COLLEGE FOOTBALL there looking at the event board and the crowd is all decked out in football, I decide to pass.

I decide to go to preferred destination #2, Professor Thom’s in the nearby East Village. Now one of the immediate negatives of Professor Thom’s though also a great sports bar with great food is that it’s a “Boston Fan” bar…Not good for a NY Rangers, Yankees, Knicks and Jets fan like me. They are also ALL COLLEGE FOOTBALL! which drops them.

I am freezing my ass off but decide to keep moving forward with my focus on Midtown nearby Madison Sqaure Garden (MSG) where the Rangers play their home games.

But before I look for a bar, I drop by the Modells and see if they are selling the Blue/Orange Tebow Broncos jerseys that I have been seeking for weeks. Unfortunately, they don’t have but they have a sale on Gym Socks!

I try Stout, a bar that has had Rangers viewing parties in the pass, but they are also ALL COLLEGE FOOTBALL! ugh. I love College Football, but other than the Rose Bowl and the Fiesta Bowl being played later that day I had no interest. I want to see the Winter Classic.

I go to the bar next door, Blarney Stone which does say they are going to air the Winter Classic! (woohoo). I was about to go in but then I remembered something. There is an actual “Hockey-centric” bar nearby MSG called “The Flying Puck”. I have never been there and I looking at my iPad for the Yelp reviews and they have mixed reviews which makes me kinda nervous…

But I decide to give it a shot.

I go inside and see everyone in the bar with Rangers jerseys on, tons of LCD TV’s with the Winter Classic Pregame on, and they have Nachos! something the Blarney Stone didn’t have… which is like a Scarlet Letter to me…What kind of Sports Bar doesn’t have Nachos?… WOOHOO! I get a stool at the bar and start a tab.

My beer of choice today is a Hoegaarden which is a Belgian White Ale that feels light and always has a orange slice with it….

I order the Chicken Nachos… while looking at the pre-game coverage. I flashed back to when I was kid on my block in the Bay Ridge Neighborhood of Brooklyn when I was like 11 in 1994, coincidentally, the last time, the NY Rangers won the Stanley Cup.

I would get in epic 1-on-1 Roller Hockey battles with a kid up my block, Danny Watts. He was one of my early childhood friends. I have memories playing Tecmo Bowl at his parents apartment and seeing the Houston Oilers blows a 31-point lead in the playoffs against the Buffalo Bills while eating Dominos and with my little brother, Tony. His dad was a shrink who had an office at the building next door. Danny was memorable to me because he was a diehard Cowboys fan who was born and raised in NY.

We each bought a small goal from Toys R’ Us placed the goals between the two neighboring buildings on the Sidewalk and play… with the building walls in play though if the puck goes in the street and no goalies. You lose possession. We would play for hours and it was always an even match-up. I think he might have won 1 or 2 more than me but the games were always close.

Danny was more skilled than I was and faster but I was much more physical, deadeye shot with a hockey stick and I had this killer saucer shot I would launch from my goal and made in his net, that would drive him crazy cause it was cross court and I knew how to bounce it off the wall…

His parents divorced, a few years later and he ended up moving to Staten Island and I never heard from him again… Back in the mid-90’s, Facebook didn’t exist 😦

Thinking about it now, I just facebooked him now and happy to know his life turned out all right and is a Lawyer. A lot of those friends from my block got into a lot of trouble as the years passed with a few being criminals, one getting sick mentally and passed away at a young age, too young under mysterious circumstances.

The only two friends who ended up having good lives is Danny and another friend, Michael who I believe is a school teacher now.

Ahhhh memories… Now back to the game watching experience!

I am watching the pregame while eating my nachos and drinking my Hoegaarden. Then all of a sudden, the pregame show has Wheel of Fortune host Pat Sajak on to talk Hockey. At that moment I had the itch to ask the bartender if I could buy a vowel…

Anyway, the game is about to start and this hot girl starts flirting with me. Before you jump to conclusions, she has a boyfriend :-(. Her name is Racquel, she has a tight Messier jersey on which every guy especially her boyfriend is appreciative of.

We begin chatting, she grabs my Rangers Wool Cap and puts it’s on and buys me another Hoegaarden and my mojo is actually working (My mojo works 10% of the time like AT&T phone service…zing!), she’s laughing at my jokes and she is intensely engaged with talking with me in front of her boyfriend who I was kinda suprised wasn’t disturbed by it. Ugh, If I only met this girl when she was single! 😦

The game starts! First Period is pretty much a “feeling out” period like Middleweight boxers in the first round of  a boxing match. Both competitors want to feel each other out, not take a big swing and concede to an opponent. That’s what happens, other than a few opportunities for both teams to score, not much happens. The first period ends with a 0-0 tie.

Racquel focus goes back to her boyfriend, as I go downstairs for bathroom break #3. I almost get my head cracked on the bathroom door when a douchebag runs into the bathroom like a maniac as I was about to open the door, fortunately I backed away in the nick of time.

Period 2 starts, I go back to talking with Racquel. I am genuinely suprised given the nature of our discussion and her really being touchy-feely with me, her boyfriend doesn’t want to tell me to “fuck off” or challenge me to a duel or a breakdance fight. Either he’s one zen dude (he did look high) or I am not a threat to him I guess, which makes my mojo feel lesser 😦

The freaking Flyers get on the board first! SHIT! Thanks to a rebound put-in…. People at the bar are pissed. Then five minutes later on a breakaway, the freaking Flyers score again! 2-0 Flyers!

I am really pissed, we are the better team this year and this is a big game as we are near the year’s midpoint!

BUT, Right off the faceoff in about 20 seconds, Mike Rupp of the Rangers scores a goal by wisely shooting with the Flyers goalie’s view being blocked by his own teammate and the puck is in!

2-1 Flyers! The 2nd period ends. I say my goodbyes to Racquel who is leaving with her boyfriend to meet up with some friends at another bar. She kisses me on the cheek and gives me her Twitter handle in front of her boyfriend, who is pretty cool about it.

Yes, I immediately follow her on Twitter afterward. Now, I want to say this in her defense, she was not acting like a slut. She was just feisty and playful and she wasn’t being overtly sexy or anything to that extent. Trust me, there is a difference between that and slutty.

After bathroom break #5 and Hoegaarden #5, the 3rd period starts! Mike Rupp again scores! with a nice feed by Brandon Prust. RANGERS TIED THE GAME! Everyone in the bar is going nuts! I miss Racquel 😦

A few minutes ib, Brad Richards, the big free agent, The Rangers signed this year scores the go ahead goal off a rebound! RANGERS IN THE LEAD! Everyone goes crazy and starts chanting the Rangers goal chant which is something to this effect…”Ooooooo ooooooo oooooooooooo…HEY! HEY! HEY! HEY! HEY!”

Rangers are up 1 in the final period, which is not a safe lead because the Flyers have players who can score goals easily and the referees are screwing us over with terrible calls against the Rangers that even Stevie Wonder would agree was bullshit!

The bullshit calls affect the end of the game… The freaking referees give the Flyers,a penalty shot with 19 seconds left in the game!

I am not worried though cause we have the best goalie in Hockey, Henrik Lundqvist! He is Swedish and Awesome! Flyers pick their shooter, Briere. I hate that dude. He gets ready to take the shot, and I immediately can tell by his body language as he moves the puck is that he’s going to shoot “5-hole” on Henrik. “5-Hole” means the spot between the legs of a goalie between the ice floor and the Goalie’s “Junk”. Lundqvist sees it too and STONEWALLS HIM! RANGERS WIN!

RANGERS WIN! 3-2! They beat Philly in Philadelphia to win the Winter Classic, and maintain  first place in the Eastern Conference, which I think has been the best spot the Rangers have been in since there 1994 Stanley Cup Season. I pay my tab and go home!

Tommorow I go back to work. I had such a great vacation! Let’s do it again in about 3 months, sometime around my birthday 🙂 Now I am gonna listen to some Billy Ocean and go to sleep!

-V. for Vinnie

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