Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Stick and puck

Much like a bad odor, there's something about a really bad lead that really just turns people off. And as those who’ve ever had the displeasure of smelling the fetid stench of sweat-soaked hockey equipment will attest, there’s nothing about the nasty aroma that draws people to be spectators of the sport.

But this was the visceral imagery the Post Star’s business reporter chose to start off her article about the New York Rangers’ first training camp in Lake George in more than a decade.

Going by the fan-on-the-street article that made it to print, the writer clearly has no appreciation for the sport of hockey, as she failed to grab the true essence of what an appearance by the Broadway Blueshirts means to either hockey fans or the area. Here’s a quick hint: it has nothing to do with “sticks and a hard blob of rubber” or the pungent aromas percolating through the arena.

Professional hockey will never be as big of a draw as other headline sports such as football and baseball. But having a team like the Rangers in the Adirondacks is tantamount to the New York Giants of the National Football League holding training camp at the University at Albany: it’s the equivalent of an adrenaline shot for stalwart fans and area businesses alike.

For businesses in Lake George already smarting from a dismal summer, the Rangers’ appearance is a quick shot in the arm before leaf-peeping season. Even if 1,000-something spectators only hang around the area for lunch, the Rangers and their entire staff will be spending time and money in the area for a solid four days.

More importantly, however, is the effect the Rangers’ appearance up north has on the region’s diehard hockey fans, which for the first time in nearly three decades will go without having either a professional or semi-professional team in the Adirondacks. Judging by the standing-room only crowd that attended the Rangers’ camp as well as an exhibition minor league hockey game hosted Friday by the Glens Falls Civic Center, this is a pretty big detail to ignore.

Yet another angle that ignored by the reporter is the connection that some of the diehard Ranger fans attending Tuesday’s camp identified: the last time the Blueshirts traveled to Lake George was just prior to their legendary run for the Stanley Cup during the 1993-1994 season. Back then, former General Manager Neil Smith chose to hold camp up north because he seen the area and facilities while working in the head office of none other than the Adirondack Red Wings.

True, there aren’t too many local hockey fans that would make the association between the Rangers of yesteryear and the team that laced up this week at the Forum. But at least this angle makes a slightly more interesting story than the stink of sweat and finger smudges on the glass surrounding the ice.

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