Just after Rangers head coach Tom Renney had been introduced by MSG Network’s John Giannone at the 2007-08 Season Subscriber Forum at the WaMu Theater Lobby on Monday night, a fan in the back of the room bellowed, "We want the Cup!" Without missing a beat, Renney leaned into a microphone and said, “We hear ya’!”
As the assembled crowd of Rangers Season Subscribers cheered and laughed, a relaxed tone was set for the two hour get-together with Renney and two of his three assistants, Perry Pearn and Mike Pelino (goaltending coach Benoit Allaire was not able to attend the event).
The three coaches fielded questions from Giannone and Rangers radio analyst Dave Maloney about their personal lives, hobbies, and past experiences in hockey before the fans lined up to fire mostly nuts-and-bolts hockey questions at the coaches.
One fan, who identified himself as residing in Section 419, noted that Rangers winger Sean Avery
, while out with an injury at the time, had spent an evening up in his section.
While rolling his eyes in exaggerated fashion, Renney deadpanned, "Yeah, we heard about that."
Another fan pointed out that he has been a Rangers Season Subscriber for 35 years, and that "the best of times" for him took place when the Maloney brothers played for the Blueshirts in the late '70s and early '80s -- with "Don on the ice and Dave in the penalty box!"
Dave quickly pointed out that "without me sitting in the box so often, how do you think Don would have scored all of those shorthanded goals!"
The Season Subscriber Forum afforded these devoted fans a chance to see a more personal side of the Rangers coaching staff, as the coaches answered questions in both playful and serious tones.
While detailing the specific areas of responsibility for each coach, Pearn noted that "we all cross over into one another's territory, share the responsibility. And we all make sure that Tom's well dressed for the games!"
In fact the sartorial splendor of the Rangers became quite a topic as the coaches were asked who were the best and worst dressed players on the team. Pelino gave the thumbs up to Colton Orr and Scott Gomez as the best dressed, noting that Avery had taken Gomez shopping and bought him a new wardrobe so that "he’s no longer New Jersey. He now dresses the part of a New York Ranger!"
The coaches were all in agreement that there was no "worst dressed" Rangers player; and Maloney added that the Rangers staff was the best dressed coaching group in the entire NHL.
While there was much laughter on the night, all three coaches at various times grew serious and discussed their dedication to their job and the Rangers organization. And all three expressed deep appreciation for the support of their respective families.
Pelino, the only Rangers coach whose family travels to New York and lives with him during the season, said, "They have to make more sacrifices than we do. This is the first time my son (who is 11) has been at the same school two years in a row. It's pretty gratifying, though, the way they are embraced by the fans in New York and at the games."
Added Renney, whose family resides in Calgary, "I think we all have unbelievable ladies and families that realize that it is an extended family we work with. And if we are able to work with our passion and love what we do the residuals will show up at home, too."
Often viewed as an intellectual strategist, Renney was asked if he has ever tuned over tables or laundry bins in a locker room tirade.
"I've certainly thought about it on occasion," said the Rangers head coach. "But I get my point across with the words I choose to say to the players."
Many of the fans were interested in the Rangers strong crop of younger players, including 2006 first-round draft pick Bobby Sanguinetti and winger Nigel Dawes among others. Renney pointed out that Sanguinetti could be on the fast track to New York, but preached patience with the young defenseman, similar to the path the Rangers successfully took with current rookie defenseman Marc Staal
As for Dawes, the Rangers bench boss noted that he believes the young winger will become an NHL regular after he develops a bit more consistency in his game. Renney also pointed out that a current stint with AHL Hartford could be a turning point in Dawes’ career.
Speaking of Rangers prospects in general, Pearn added that, "there are probably seven, eight, even nine guys at Hartford that are legitimate players of the future." He also stressed the importance of these prospects "growing as Rangers and coming up together to make the Rangers a good team for years to come."
The opportunity to attend Season Subscriber Forums such as Monday night's are one of the unique benefits afforded to Rangers Season Subscribers. There's no doubt that Monday night 's event was a treat for the fans, and it was only fitting that one of the questions focused on the team salute to the crowd after each home victory.
Renney was asked how this popular post-lockout tradition began.
"It wasn’t prompted by anything the coaching staff came up with at all. It came from their group, the players as a team decided to do that," answered Renney. "Coming out of the lockout, and being as spontaneous as it was, I don’t know if you could have married a team better to its fan base than with what our guys chose to do."
Before leaving the stage at the end of the event, Renney promised the fans that he will continue to give everything he has in order to bring another Stanley Cup to Broadway.
"We have the best fans in the NHL," Renney said. "And we will do everything in our power to reward them."