You paid your money for a ticket to Saturday’s game. In fact, you probably shelled out your hard-earned green for this one long before the air turned cold and you were salting the ice on the sidewalk. You saw the New York Rangers on the schedule, and you knew at least a couple players on that roster you wanted to see, and I don’t mean Michal Rozsival with all due respect.
So, this isn’t a diatribe to instruct you how you should react on Saturday night when you see the Rangers’ #10 or #94 (he wore 24 for the Wild). You do what you want to do, short of entering the playing area or throwing things. But, let’s look at some of the history we have with Marian Gaborik and Derek Boogaard before I offer some friendly suggestions for Saturday.
Last year was supposed to be the homecoming for Gaborik, who was going to face his team for the first time since leaving the Wild as a free agent in the summer of 2009. Ironically, he didn’t play, due to a “lower-body injury,” which was the crux of all the arguments for why a large chunk of Wild fans wanted him gone.
Some interpreted his injuries as a sign that he did not care, and wasn’t willing to “gut it out.” That’s a pretty intense accusation, especially toward a guy who, despite missing at least 17 games in four of his eight seasons here, still ranks as the franchise’s all-time leader in every major offensive category. He was loved enough for fans to elect him to the Wild’s Year Ten All-Time team as the only non-current member.
A lot was expected of “Gabby,” considering he was the first Entry Draft pick of Minnesota in 2000. And in many ways, he delivered. The hat tricks, the five seasons with at least 30 goals, the five-goal game and the unfathomable speed bursts down the wing.
But when a player is so talented, his shortcomings are often magnified. Just ask Joe Mauer. Some fans bemoaned Marian’s finishing touch on breakaways, although a betting man would pick him as having the most breakaway goals in Wild history (although that stat isn’t officially kept).
Others pointed to his lack of production in the playoffs, but they’d be forgetting his 17 points on nine goals and eight assists through 14 games against Colorado and Vancouver in the team’s remarkable run to the Western Conference Finals.
And yes, there was some acrimony with the front office, and a lot of rumors of dissent between him and Head Coach Jacques Lemaire. But hard feelings between players and management are common. Gaborik never had ill will for Wild fans, and that was obvious with the way he refused to leave the ice after his last game in a Wild sweater until he paid his proper respects.
While the world was expected of Gabby, his good friend “Boogey” had very few expectations. As a seventh round pick who’s own mother didn’t believe he was drafted, the only expectations were “beat guys up” or “put someone through the glass.” And he did both of those things, although the body he put through the glass was his own on this play in a Prospects Tournament
. Other than a handful of losses to guys like Georges Laraque, Donald Brashear and Eric Godard (who memorably injured Boogaard’s knee in the process), Boogey won a lot more than he lost.
The fact that he emerged victorious so many times may have been something that hindered him. His dominance of other NHL enforcers meant very few willing participants in a dance with the Boogeyman. Inevitably, his role was severely diminished, and was probably a major factor in the Wild not re-signing him in the offseason.
While nobody questioned Boogaard’s toughness, the Wild’s problem last year was the lack of guys able to take on the middleweights. Boogey and John Scott honored the code, and wouldn’t take on smaller antagonists like Ryan Kesler, Daniel Carcillo or Theo Peckham.
Of all the players to depart the Wild after playing here for some time, none were as heavily debated as these two guys moving on to the bright lights of the Big Apple. And even though they are now playing in a city filled with people who probably think they’re better than us, there should be a few instances where we can cheer these guys. Again, you’re paying customers, and you get to do what you want (within reason). These are just suggestions:1. When their names are announced prior to the game
: Cheering is encouraged and acceptable. However you feel, let’s remember these guys brought a lot of great memories in the first 10 years of Wild hockey.2. If Gabby scores a goal:
This is where the cheering stops. There’s never a time to cheer for an opponent scoring a goal in front of his old fans, unless that guy is dividing up his year’s salary for the fans at the rink if he lights the lamp. Even then, it can only happen after the Wild has built an insurmountable lead.3. If Boogey scores a goal:
This completely contradicts rule two, but we’ve only seen Boogaard score a goal twice in his NHL career. Both came at Xcel Energy Center, and both plays ended with Boogaard on his kiester. Those smug Ranger fans have already seen him score, and he stayed on his feet afterwards. We still haven’t seen that, so if he scores and remains on both skates, give him some props.4. If Boogey gets in a fight:
Anytime gloves hit the ice, the fans are going to cheer. It may be unlikely unless Matt Kassian
is called up for this one. If Boogaard is fighting one of our guys, he’s trying to beat him up. We have to defend our own, and we will not pull for him to win a bout in what is now enemy territory.5. If Boogey and/or Gabby is a star of the game:
Should this happen, it’s likely the Rangers won the game. If that’s the case, you should be hightailing it to the nearest local establishment for some postgame sorrow drowning (provided you’re 21 years old and have a designated driver). Cheering shouldn’t be an option if these guys are on the ice after the game.