RSS Feed for this Blog

Saturday, October 08, 2011

Game On (Spelet kan börja!)...In Stockholm

The most impressive thing about the Ericsson Global Arena in Stockholm, where, on Friday night, we saw the Rangers open the season against the LA Kings, is its ceiling, and the sheer vertical size of the place. I know this photo doesn’t at all properly capture its enormous scale. It almost recalled, if only in its dimension, the majestic structures we’d seen last year in Paris such as Notre Dame or the Pantheon. In fact, the huge round dome was visible from afar in parts of Stockholm. At first I thought it was something like the old Elmhurst gas tanks in Queens! Then, the Head Chef noted that it most be the arena. As in ‘global….arena....'oh, yeah. I’m not sure what the purpose of its enormity is, other than perhaps just as an impressive architectural feat. I’m sure it doesn’t do any favors to bands like the Red Hot Chili Peppers who play there next week.

Also extremely impressive were the sightlines for the game. We were sitting up in the first balcony, pretty high up on that level, but felt right on top of the ice. I imagine it was probably a better viewpoint than any you might find at the Garden, which is absolutely just the worst, and will remain so after the renovation, I'm sure.

Otherwise, it was really just your run-of-the-mill arena, without much character and featuring pedestrian services and refreshment stands (and not nearly enough of them). There were a couple of bar areas on our level. Seemed they tried to create some kind of American décor in those, to sometimes-humorous effect. Hard to imagine a more hysterically incongruous combination than the Pep Boys with Frank Zappa!

There were the usual luxury boxes, thought they didn’t look all that luxurious from an outsider’s point of view; and a restaurant up atop one of the end zones. But the Prudential Center in Newark, this was not.

It was a strange atmosphere to be sure. The majority of the fans were ostensibly rooting for the Rangers thanks to the presence of native hero Henrik Lundqvist; Norwegian-born Mats Zuccarello also had a following, having played in the Swedish professional league for two years, and winning the MVP in 2010. But it was pretty quiet for the most part, sometimes eerily so. Some drunken Swedish fans started some ‘Let’s Go Rangers’ chants; a handful of what I guess were “real” fans from New York did a couple of Potvin Sucks chants; and the Kings dopey looking mascot banged on his little drum. Even though it was technically a Kings home game, the Garden’s PA announcer was there, and they played the familiar rah-rah videos that we see in the Garden (with Sean Avery carefully edited out). We were even subjected, after the two Ranger scores, to the insufferable “Goal Song”, which really needs to be sent to the scrapheap (along with the stupid 18 minute bell at Saratoga).

The Rangers’ goals were greeted with cheers from the majority of the fans, but hardly the really heartfelt ones we hear at home. There were less Kings fans, but I had the feeling that they were genuine fans who had traveled from the States to the game, and what they lacked in numbers, they made up for in enthusiasm. The loudest cheers of the night were reserved for the introductions of the former Swedish NHL stars in attendance, including Mats Sundin, Anders Hedberg, Markus Naslund, Mattias Nordstrum (more of a B list guy, but still an enthusiastic response for him), Borje Salming, and Ulf Nillson (here, I explained to an indifferent Head Chef that it was Denis Potvin’s notorious, though totally clean, hit on he which inspired the chant that won’t go away, and which now spans the continents). A local singer named September also got a nice reception.

And the most enthusiastic crowd response of all during for the singing of the Swedish national anthem, which followed the Star Spangled Banner; it attracted a heartfelt and lusty chorus of accompaniment from the local crowd. That was really cool to hear.

There was a fight in the second period; one of those so-called ‘”staged” fights which occurred right off a faceoff. I’ve always been, if not an “advocate” of fighting, one who readily accepts them, and sees it as a relatively harmless and cheekily humorous aspect of the North American game. I admit to being a frequent visitor to However, with the tragic events of the offseason past, I’m starting to reconsider. And here, I found myself hoping that the players would show some respect for their local environs, where fighting is not permitted in the professional league (nor in international play), and forgo that little bit of frivolity for this particular occasion.

Nonetheless, the fans seemed to really enjoy it, though they didn’t know quite how to react. At one point while Brandon Prust and the Kings’ Kyle Clifford slugged it out (I gave the advantage to Prust), they broke into a round of rhythmic applause! (As they did during the lone Rangers power play. We might consider doing that at the Garden if the home team doesn’t improve in that aspect of the game, lest we fall asleep.) (And I see that they went 0-7 in Saturday's shootout loss to the Ducks.)

And, in the end, I ended up feeling completely at home, since the Rangers wasted a late lead and lost (albeit in overtime, thus earning a loser’s point). The Broadway Blueshirts (unfortunately wearing their home whites for this occasion) have been one of the worst home teams in the league the last couple of seasons, so walking out shaking my head is quite a familiar feeling. Being that they will still play their complete allotment of 41 home games at the Garden, we’ll still have plenty more opportunities to experience that feeling. Unfortunately, those games at the Garden will hardly measure up to the unique and exhilarating experience of seeing them play in this setting. Here’s a few more photos from the evening.

Ryan Callahan was one of the bright spots, playing his usual energetic game in his first game as the Rangers' captain. Easy to see why he was so badly missed when out with an injury during the playoffs last year.

1 Comment:

jk said...

I wonder if Ulf participated in the Potvin Sucks chant.