When you are a team that plays in New York, it doesn’t take much for those outside of the Big Apple to start to dislike you. When any of the professional sports franchises in the city make an extended post-season run, you can bet that most neutral fans will cheer against New York, well, just because its New York.
In the case of the New York Rangers however, the team has become an extremely easy target to play the role of villains.
With a style of play that offers little in the way of excitement, and a head coach that is as likable as a flat tire, the Rangers have certainly not concerned themselves with making friends during their longest playoff run since their Cup victory in 1994. A physical team that prides themselves on their defensive play and toughness, the Rangers have seemingly taken a page out of the Boston Bruins book from last year and have made a consistent effort on proving that they are the biggest and baddest cats on the block.
This was proven no more than in last night’s Game 4 loss to the New Jersey Devils when Rangers tough-guy Mike Rupp decided to take whatever frusturation he might have had out on the Devils future Hall of Fame goaltender Martin Brodeur.
After throwing a big hit behind net, Rupp was incensed that he was whsitled for a roughing penalty in which he deemed to be a clean check. Upon skating past Brodeur after the whistle, the 6’5, 245 pound Rupp threw a left hand to the throat area of the unsuspecting Brodeur. Rupp’s glove was still on and the punch wasn’t all that hard but it was still enough to rattle Brodeur briefly and of course cause a big scrum in the Devils crease.
Following a heated exchange of words between Rangers coach John Tortorella and Devils coach Peter DeBoer, and Rupp’s almost immediate expulsion from the ice surface, there was surprisngly not much in the way of rough stuff following that incident, but the play seemed to be a stand-out example of why the New York Rangers have become so easy to cheer against. After all, who takes a cheap-shot at Martin Brodeur of all people, one of the nicest, most approachable and most respected players in the league? Brodeur said after the game that he rarely yaps at players and laughed at the idea that he would antagonize a player of Rupp’s size, so the act was unprovoked and simply a Rangers player trying to be a bully once again.
While no team that advances this far in the grueling NHL playoffs can claim to be saints, the city they play in and the way they have gone about their business has seperated the Rangers from the other three remaining teams in the dislike department.
This of course will matter very little to Rangers players and fans alike, but for the neutral spectator, the team from New York is as usual becoming the team you would least like to see win.