A Tip of the Cap to NHL Fans

During the playoffs, I’ve had the chance to host many Rangers events, particularly at #RangersTown Square.

There I have met so many passionate Blueshirt die-hards, who literally bleed blue. It’s very easy to start a “Let’s Go Rangers!” chant in there and have people sing along to the Rangers goal song. The passion is contagious.

Saturday night, I was at The Garden when the Rangers eliminated the Habs in 6. If there was any concern about the crowd noise at The Garden for Games 3 and 4, it dissipated quickly as soon as the national anthems were sung. As Don La Greca noted on ESPN Radio after the game, that was a near Stanley Cup level atmosphere. Can’t argue with that: It was fever pitch, from start to finish. Fantastic atmosphere and passion. When the Rangers scored, the roof blew off The Garden.

The atmosphere and passion didn’t let up after the final whistle sounded, it definitely spilled into the streets.

As a general hockey fan, of course you’re watching the other games in the playoffs as well and you can feel that passion across multiple fan bases. Especially in this first round, there were three teams in particular that stood out to me and sucked me into the game even more. The barrier of television didn’t stop the good vibes and love to surround you. In that moment, even if brief, you suddenly find yourself cheering for that team, or happy they won.

NASHVILLE PREDATORS

NASHVILLE, TN - APRIL 20: Fans of the Nashville Predators cheer during the second period against the Chicago Blackhawks in Game Four of the Western Conference First Round during the 2017 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at Bridgestone Arena on April 20, 2017 in Nashville, Tennessee. (Photo by Frederick Breedon/Getty Images)

The imagery of fans coming together in unison for a powerful image is magic. The Washington Capitals have done this with red glow sticks. Others use rally towels. Many teams do this with shirts and jerseys (including several on this list).

The Nashville Predators have a distinct yellow color as their foundation, and on a broadcast, this creates a very cool wide shot.

The fans inside Bridgestone Arena are loud and became louder as the series progressed. Partly because they were playing their rival Chicago Blackhawks, who had eliminated them from the playoffs twice in the last seven years. Partly because in their franchise history, the Preds have never moved on past the second round of the playoffs, and many pundits around the league, despite saying the Preds were a better team than in previous years, still gave the edge to the Hawks.

NASHVILLE, TN - APRIL 20: Gnash, mascot of the Nashville Predators, holds a broom after a Predators sweep of the Chicago Blackhawks in a 4-1 Predator victory in Game Four of the Western Conference First Round against the Chicago Blackhawks during the 2017 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at Bridgestone Arena on April 20, 2017 in Nashville, Tennessee. (Photo by Frederick Breedon/Getty Images)

But when Game 3 began, with Nashville up 2-0 in the series, two back-to-back shutouts (and memes floating around the internet that goaltender Pekka Rinne, with two assists, had more points than the entire Blackhawks team in this series), the crowd was buzzing. The support only swelled up from there into Game 4, as Nashville secured an overtime win in Game 3, and ran away with it in Game 4. The monkey is off their back and the fans are as supportive as ever.

EDMONTON OILERS

EDMONTON, AB - APRIL 12: Fans of the Edmonton Oilers celebrate after a goal during Game One of the Western Conference First Round during the 2017 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs against the San Jose Sharks on April 12, 2017 at Rogers Place in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. (Photo by Andy Devlin/NHLI via Getty Images)

Since the NHL lockout of 2004-05, the Predators have only missed the playoffs three times. The Oilers went to the Stanley Cup Final in the year after the lockout, but haven’t qualified for the playoffs since. So, you can imagine that this team, led by the MVP favorite Connor McDavid, had a fan base hungry for playoff action going into Game 1 of their series against San Jose at the brand new Rogers Place.

New building, new team, new vibe.

Edmonton is dubbed Canada’s “City of Champions” and the Oilers are ready to once again live up to that name, with their boisterous fans in tow.

The fans are so much a part of the team and the atmosphere that they have a name: #OrangeCrush. Much like the wide shot created in Nashville, a sea of Orange shirts and jerseys makes for a stunning visual.

EDMONTON, AB - APRIL 12: Edmonton Oilers fans cheer on their team against the San Jose Sharks in Game One of the Western Conference First Round during the 2017 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at Rogers Place on April 12, 2017 in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. (Photo by Codie McLachlan/Getty Images)

In Game 4 of this series (back in San Jose), the Sharks, Cup finalists the previous year, trounced the Oilers 7-0. You’d think this would be a demoralizing loss for any team, but you definitely wouldn’t have been able to guess it from listening to the crowd in Game 5 back in Edmonton. If there is truly such a thing as fan passion and energy shifting momentum, it definitely was on display here, as the decibel level in the arena didn’t lower for pretty much the entire game, and the Oilers won the game in overtime.

TORONTO MAPLE LEAFS

TORONTO, ON- APRIL 17 - Leafs fans erupt as Toronto Maple Leafs right winger William Nylander (29) ties the score at threes as he slips the puck past Braden Holtby as the Toronto Maple Leafs play the Washington Capitals in game three of their NHL first round play-off at the Air Canada Centre in Toronto. April 17, 2017. (Steve Russell/Toronto Star via Getty Images)

Ask certain die-hard Leaf fans about the fan base that attend games at Air Canada Centre and you’ll uncover the belief that the arena (especially the parts visible on TV) is filled with corporate types in suits that are there more to impress clients or fellow executives. If that’s the case, maybe it took the playoffs to break the mold, because you’d be hard pressed to try and find a suit there today.

Like Edmonton, there is definitely a playoff hunger in the city — since the lockout, the Leafs have made the playoffs only once, in a shortened season, and famously collapsed in Game 7, squandering a 4-1 lead to the Bruins and losing in overtime.

That is now a distant memory.

At the start of the season, with a redesigned logo and a redesigned team full of young breakout talent, the Leafs have exceeded expectations and made the playoffs, with the entire city of Toronto cheering them on. A hashtag was adopted (created by Jeff Veilletter) and even became a Snapchat filter for a period of time: #TheLeafsAreActuallyGood.

TORONTO, ON - APRIL 17: Fans cheer outside the arena before the Toronto Maple Leafs play the Washington Capitals in Game Three of the Eastern Conference First Round during the 2017 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at the Air Canada Centre on April 17, 2017 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. (Photo by Mark Blinch/NHLI via Getty Images)

There was so much attention and passion for this team in that city that the overflow of fans that wanted to watch the game together spilled into Maple Leaf Square, immediately outside Air Canada Centre, complete with a giant screen to view the game. Thousands congregate here on home and away games to create a playoff atmosphere on the street that matches the vibe in the arena.

Leaf fans have even rallied around an unofficial poster fan of this playoff run: Jason “Dart Guy” Maslakow. Many Leaf fans on social media have changed their profile pictures to #DartGuy. #DartGuy was even invited by the Leafs to attend Game 3. Gone are the days where Leaf fans are making self-depreciating jokes with paper bags covering their heads.

TORONTO, ON - APRIL 17: Tyler Bozak #42 of the Toronto Maple Leafs celebrates his game winning goal in the 1st overtime against the Washington Capitals in Game Three of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals during the 2017 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at the Air Canada Centre on April 17, 2017 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. The Maple Leafs defeated the Capitals 4-3 in overtime and take a 2-1 series lead.(Photo by Claus Andersen/Getty Images)

To the passionate fan bases like these, cheering loudly, waving the towels, wearing the colors, willing their team to win, you make watching these playoff games as a neutral hockey fan even more fun. So thank you.

Side Note:

Who is the guest on #TheApod this week?

We have a very fun guest for you this week: Lacey Mark, big-time Devils fan and contestant on the most recent season of “The Bachelor” gives us an inside look on becoming a contestant and the process from start to finish.

If you’ve ever been curious about how a reality show like “The Bachelor” works, definitely check this one out!

The Garden of Dreams Foundation helps kids facing obstacles in the Tri-State area, including Rangers fan Taylor Ryan who is battling a rare blood disorder called Langerhans cell histiocytosis.