So what’s it like to catch a Rangers game in Carolina?
Last Thursday I traveled with my wife and son to Raleigh, Carolina, to see the Rangers take on the Hurricanes. Some have called Carolina the sixth borough, because of the amount of Rangers fans that attend games at PNC Arena in Raleigh. And Thursday night was no exception. The announced crowd was 11,404, and at least half or more were Rangers fans. Some are transplanted New Yorkers, and some made their way down from the metropolitan area. I spoke to one former Queens resident named Larry, who said that if it was a weekend game “it would have been closer to 75% Rangers fans”.
There are a lot of great reasons to go on a road trip to Carolina. Number one, it’s very economical from every aspect. I was able to get 3 round trip tickets from JFK to Raleigh Durham airport for under $400. Your time in air is just over an hour there, and an hour exactly back to NYC. I rented a full size car for $27 a day, and my hotel was $125 a night, which included a very extensive breakfast buffet each day. I bought tickets thru seat geek in section 101, row J, 10 rows off the glass, for $90 each. My partial season tickets in section 209 are $92 each. So, for a change, I sat almost rink side, in a section that was predominantly Rangers fans.
Getting to PNC arena was very easy. My hotel was 4 and a half miles away, and a very simple drive. No traffic at all. Parking was $15, and a lot of Rangers fans tailgated in the lot. “Let’s go Rangers”, could be heard all over, as fans started making their way in. The employees of the arena couldn’t be more friendly and courteous. The food options are plentiful and also, much less expensive then MSG. I recommend going with North Carolina bbq fare (definitely avoid the Italian food, you will be disappointed). Pulled pork, pulled chicken and prime rib sandwiches at a carving station are top options.
If you go to the pre-game warmup a half hour before the game, unlike MSG, they will let you go all the way down to the glass. Rangers players tossed many pucks to fans populating the area around the zone the Rangers were skating in. Also, the Rangers backup goaltender, Brandon Halverson on this night, was seated in front of section 123, and kind enough to sign autographs to Rangers fans seated in sections 123 and 124 before the start of the second and third periods.
The game itself wasn’t the best played game I have ever seen, but was pretty exciting, and of course controversial. Fans took turns chanting for their favorite team. I have heard some horror stories about traveling to Philadelphia and dealing with abusive fans, but this environment was safe and friendly.
The Rangers power play finally did some business, as they scored 3 goals up a man or two. But, the penalty unit let them down with two third period goals against. As we all know, the tying goal should not have counted. It happened right in front of me. I could clearly hear one referee screaming at Antti Raanta, then at the Rangers coaching staff, “He was not in the paint!”, repeatedly. That this same official, gets to review his screw up, and makes the whole league look like a Mickey Mouse operation. Different eyes in Toronto or New York, or wherever, should be reviewing that. Especially, after that official was so vociferous it almost seemed personal, when making a call that should have been reversed.
The bottom line is rather then any referee or linseman review a call on some 10 inch tablet, have off ice officials who aren’t in the thick of the game, determine the coaches challenge. I mean, there is a review room that buzzes down if a puck went into the net and play never had stopped. Adding to that responsibility wouldn’t be hard.
I have traveled to Montreal, Tampa, and Buffalo, (as well as Long Island and New Jersey), and all were unique and fine experiences. I will say that Carolina was surely the most economical. The weather was great too. When we landed and it was 76 degrees, and sunny, and the following day it was 67 and sunny. It felt good to escape the low temps in NYC for a few days. The only downside to me was the small crowd. It seemed to me every section in the arena was half full or less. I know I would surely go back there to see a Rangers game.