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A Rangers Fan Talks Devils

Matthew Blittner shares his story of growing up a Rangers fan and the Hudson River Rivalry

by Stan Fischler / NewJerseyDevils.com

In order to get an even-balance on this Devils-Rangers debate I asked author Matthew Blittner, a lifetime Blueshirts booster, to add his money's worth to the debate.

Blittner is in an interesting position having written a book about the Rangers, as well as books on the Devils and Islanders.

Here's Matthew's take on the see-saw of supporters:

"I had a weird relationship with hockey growing up, but that changed when the Rangers met the Devils in the 2011-12 Eastern Conference Final: and that's when I finally fully embraced the sport.

"Having been semi-informed by my parents about the 1994 Rangers (I was a 1-year-old at the time of that classic series), I went out and bought THE BOOK about that classic 1994 Eastern Conference Final between the Rangers and Devils - Battle on the Hudson: The Devils, the Rangers, and the NHL's Greatest Series Ever - and read the whole thing in two days' time.

"Now fully informed of the bitter rivalry between these two teams, I passionately watched every game of that 2012 Eastern Conference Final and hoped and prayed for a Blueshirts series victory.

"I had just come home to Brooklyn following the spring semester of my freshman year of college at SUNY Albany and along with watching every game, I was also planning my 19th birthday festivities. My birthday is May 25th and for those of you who would remember, on May 25, 1994, Mark Messier delivered upon his "Guarantee" in one of the most legendary games of his career. I turned 1-year-old that night.

"A good 18-years later, May 25, 2012, was approaching and I eagerly looked forward to celebrating my 19th birthday with my friends at a local establishment where people could go to socialize.

"But first, the Rangers found themselves down in the series, three-games-to-two, entering Game 6. And as I recalled, Game 6 was the same Game number in which Messier had jolted the Rangers back to life. So, I fervently hoped the current Blueshirts captain, Ryan Callahan could and would do the same. And, I was surrounded by my family and friends, who had come over to watch the game before we could go to the aforementioned establishment.

"It was gut-wrenching to watch the Devils go up 2-0 in the first period on goals by Ryan Carter and Ilya Kovalchuk. I swore I wouldn't go out after the game if the Rangers couldn't come back. I swore I'd never wear the color red ever again (not that I wore it much to begin with. I usually wear blue).

"The Rangers briefly calmed my rage when Ruslan Fedotenko scored shortly before the mid-way point of the second period to cut the Blueshirts deficit to 2-1. And then, 'Captain Cally' answered my prayers. His goal with 6:19 to go in the middle period tied the game and had me envisioning a Messier-esque third period.

"That didn't happen and the game went to overtime. Surely the Rags would pull this one out? They had to! It was my Birthday. They couldn't lose. And not to the Devils of all teams.

"Um, about that.

"I can still hear Doc Emrick's energetic voice as Henrik Lundqvist was placed under siege by the Devils in the opening minute of the overtime period.

"Fed onto Kovalchuk and Kovalchuk a shot that's carefully played away by Lundqvist. Now Ponikarovsky with it. THREW ONE IN FRONT! BLOCKED THERE! SCRAMBLE FOR IT THERE! THEY POKE AWAY AT IT! Still it's loose! Poked at by Kovalchuk...THEY SCORE! HENRIQUE! IT'S OVER!

"I fell back in my seat, stunned, drained of any and all joy. Aside from the cursing by some in the room, you'd have thought my living room was the site of a funeral.

"Nobody, myself included, wanted to go out and celebrate my birthday after that. I began texting some friends, who were supposed to meet us at the said establishment, that we weren't going. Eventually though, my mother convinced us all to go out and enjoy the night.

"Well, we did go out. I can't say we 'enjoyed the night,' though.

"I couldn't stand the Devils after that.

"Much like a player on the ice, I would get extra pumped when the Rangers would have a game against the Devils over the course of the next few seasons. There were some wins and some losses. I hated the losses. To me, it was the hockey equivalent of Yankees-Red Sox.

"I never liked it when the Rangers lost a game, no fan does. But some losses hurt more than others. And then there were losses to the Devils. Those were the worst. 

"Personally, I ranked losing to the Devils as worse than losing to the Islanders. (I viewed the Islanders as equivalent to the Mets. Yes, I know it's not a good comparison. The Yankees and Mets don't play in the same Division or League while the Rangers and Islanders do. But, the Devils were the hockey version of the Red Sox, so they were Enemy No. 1).

"It wasn't until I became a credentialed writer at the start of the 2016-17 NHL season that I learned to put those feelings of animosity aside. I even wrote a book about the Devils - Unforgettable Devils: Games and Moments from the Press Box, Ice and Front Office. And I've enjoyed the Devils games I've covered as well as the interviews with various Devils people that I've conducted.

"However, there was one interview that got the gears turning a bit.

"During the 2017-18 season, the Devils traded Adam Henrique to the Ducks and while covering a Rangers game the following year (2018-19) I had the opportunity to speak with Henrique. The interview was a normal one; nothing to see here folks. After it was done, we got to talking for a minute and I decided to casually bring up how he ruined my 19th birthday with his overtime goal. He chuckled and said he would not apologize.

"Let's just say, I didn't wear the color red again for several weeks after that!"

And now you have a Ranger fan's view of the Rivalry.

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