A drive from Madison Square Garden to the Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum may only take about 45 minutes without traffic, but leaving Manhattan during rush hour is cause for being slammed with cars on the Long Island Expressway, as sports fans everywhere leave their daily job in the city for a drive home to their families in the suburbs.
It’s not hard to argue that the state of New York, Manhattan and Long Island are one of the best places in the world to live and no one knows that better than the average sports fan. You may only live a block down the street from one of your best friends, but that little difference determines whether a hockey fan is a die-hard Islanders fan or a Rangers fan.
And no one understands the New York sports atmosphere better than the coaches and the players, who thrive on the rambunctious crowd cheering them on. Monday afternoon’s game will be the first of six meetings the Islanders and Rangers will see this season, just like 2009-10 when the clubs finished the series at .500, winning three games each.
Islanders head coach Scott Gordon called the atmosphere inside the Coliseum on the night of a Ranger game very similar to that of a playoff game, adding that many of the players who are a part of the storied rivalry have the dates when these two teams meet circled on their calendars.
“I know (our fans) are really pumped,” said Islanders forward PA Parenteau. “I was on the other side of (the rivalry) last year and it’s pretty intimidating when you come to Long Island because you know the fans want the Islanders to win big time against the Rangers, but it’s always a fun game. It’s always really intense and it’s fun for the players. It’s fun for everyone. I think everyone is looking forward to that game and we have to come with a big win tomorrow (Monday).”
Parenteau is really looking forward to the game because last year, the Chicago Blackhawks traded him to the Rangers just after the season opener and the forward was finally given his chance to play in the National Hockey League. Parenteau saw time in 22 games (3 goals, 5 assists) for the Rangers last season and this year he is looking at the rivalry from different perspective.
I’m pretty excited. I mean, it’s going to be a big game, it’s a big rivalry. I was part of it a bit last year, it’s going to be fun to play against all these guys because they’re the first team that gave me a real shot in the NHL- PA Parenteau
“I’m pretty excited,” said Parenteau. “I mean, it’s going to be a big game, it’s a big rivalry. I was part of it a bit last year, it’s going to be fun to play against all these guys because they’re the first team that gave me a real shot in the NHL.”
Saturday night, the Islanders opened the 2010-11 season at home and got to feel the energy vibrating throughout the Coliseum first hand as the fans watched their favorite sports team tie up the game with 2:39 left in regulation.
“We were skating, we were forechecking and we were pressuring their D men,” Parenteau said about playing Dallas on Saturday night. “I think by the end of the game, they (the Stars defensemen) were really tired back there and we made the best of it. We had a lot of chances, we tied the game and besides that penalty, I think we looked pretty good in overtime too. So it’s a good sign for this hockey team. We have a lot of speed and a lot of character.”
While the Islanders lost 5-4 in the shootout, that is no reason for the team to feel defeated.
“I think we had the feeling on the bench that we were never out of the game yesterday (Saturday),” Parenteau said. “We had so many shots, so much opportunity and guys just kind of stuck with the plan and it worked out good for us. So definitely going in to this game tomorrow (Monday), at one o’clock, we’re carrying a lot of momentum and it’s looking good for us.”
Playing the Rangers is unlike any other rivalry in sports and the Islanders are definitely ready to show the league that they will surpass everyone’s expectations and predictions this season. Coach Gordon is first to admit that his squad didn’t have the best first period on Saturday, but the momentum they built throughout the rest of the game will carry over into Monday.
“It’s good to have momentum going in to the next game and I felt last night (Saturday) we did a lot of good things, particularly in the third period. We kept building as the game went on. (It was) not the ideal start that we wanted, but I think the guys really responded well to the rest of the game and that’s the kind of momentum you want to build not only through a game, but through the course of the season. (We want to) keep getting better and hopefully that will carry over into to Monday against the Rangers.”