Opening Day in baseball is virtually a national holiday. Week 1 of the NFL season invokes feelings of Christmas morning in men who long ago stopped believing in Santa Claus. The start of the hockey season, on the other hand, generates slightly less excitement than a run-off election for comptroller.
This season, that's not the Rangers' fault. They're battling for space with a pair of 3-0 football teams and the Yankees triumphant return to the postseason. On top of that, the geniuses at NHL headquarters scheduled their first games on a Friday night, when staying home and watching hockey is fairly low on the list of entertaining things to do in New York City.
Give them credit for trying to get some notice. They read the Top Ten List on Letterman on Wednesday night, although you get the feeling they were only asked so they'd be available to serve as props for Madonna later in the evening. At least they weren't on Thursday's show, which meant people at least paid some attention. Still, it's good publicity and there were a few good laughs in there.
You get the feeling that line readings like Chris Drury's and Ryan Callahan's go a long way toward explaining why hockey has never quite captured the American imagination.
Are the Rangers worth watching this season? They certainly made some bold acquisitions. Marian Gaborik is a staggeringly talented offensive player when he's healthy. He's healthy about as often as your average intensive care patient, however, so he's definitely a high-risk, high-reward kind of player. Donald Brashear was another big offseason move and it has the added benefit of pissing off the team's loyal fanbase. When last seen, Brashear was breaking former Rangers forward Blair Betts' face in the playoffs and he's been greeted by boos at Madison Square Garden during preseason games.
There are some other new faces, notably on defense, and players like Drury, Sean Avery and Henrik Lundqvist return from a team that barely eked into the playoffs last season. Things probably set up to unfold a similar way this time around, with the bonus of being a lot more entertaining than the team that played boring, defensive hockey for the first 7/8ths of last season. John Tortorella's coaches an exciting brand of hockey, which should make for a more watchable brand of mediocrity.
So keep that in mind whenever you do start paying attention to hockey.