NEW YORK, NY - MAY 14: New York Rangers fans cheer from the top of a New York Rangers tour bus prior to Game One of the Eastern Conference Final against the New Jersey Devils during the 2012 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at Madison Square Garden on May 14, 2012 in New York City. Photo Credit: Paul Bereswill/Getty Images
Two important questions we need to ask ourselves today, sports fans:
1. Can you tailgate at a hockey game?
2. Can you tailgate during a game?
Both of these questions could be pretty daunting. Mostly because this is as much as I know about hockey:
In Sega’s NHL 95, the Chicago Blackhawks were the best team. They had Jeremy Roenick, Steve Smith, Steve Larmer, Chris Chelios and Michel Goulet. That was their starting lineup, anyway. If you played without line changes (a feat which, at the time, I didn’t realize was impossible in real life), then you’d swap out Goulet for Tony Amonte, since Amonte’s 74 overall rating beat out Goulet’s 67. Oh, right! They also had Ed Belfour. That team was unbeatable.
Sometimes I would put myself in the game. Even back in the mid-90s, you could create your own character. And since I was in the driver’s seat, I maxed out stats: 99 everything (including aggression and fighting). I put myself at left wing because I’m left handed (that’s an actual decision I made. I actually have no idea if handedness plays any part whatsoever in what position you play in hockey). “Video Game Me” was such a disgusting, violent, pornographic force of nature that he finished the season with 70 more goals than the second-best goal scorer in the league. Even worse? He got in so many fights that he only played 1/3 of a season, meaning that his schedule was roughly: 4 goals, punch Jaromir Jagr in the face, 4 more goals, check Mario Lemieux through the glass. Lather, rinse, repeat.
And that’s it. Those are all the things I know about hockey. Part of it could be sour grapes — I haven’t had a strong urge to follow the sport ever since my beloved Hartford Whalers left town in 1997. Or it could just be that I’m too dumb to follow the sport with any kind of coherent understanding.
Photo Credit: Grant Halverson/Getty Images
It probably comes as a surprise, then, that I could find a way to enjoy a hockey tailgate. But I’m getting ahead of myself. Let me start from the beginning.
A good friend of mine works for the NHL. The other day, he happened to be passing through town, so he invited me out for a beer. I met up with him, we bought a couple rounds, caught each other up, then turned our attention to the TV screens to waste the evening away. Now, my friend took particular offense that this bar was showing the Heat-Bulls game, not because he hates the NBA — he does, but that’s besides the point — but because the New York Rangers, who were playing some 16 blocks away, weren’t on a single TV. (In the bar’s defense, they did change one of the TVs. In the bar’s offense, it was at our 4 o’clock, making it almost impossible to watch.)
So, my friend took to Twitter, and asked his considerable list of followers whereabouts he should go watch the game. The answer was resounding and unanimous: The Flying Puck.
If you’ve never heard of The Flying Puck, it’s billed as a hockey bar and restaurant. Not a sports bar, mind you: specifically a hockey bar.
And it is the loudest bar I have ever been to in my entire life.
The Flying Puck (Photo Credit: Brian Cullen)
The question that’s probably on your mind: can hockey even have a tailgate? I submit that it can. After all, it’s an event, it brings out a rabid fanbase, and I have to imagine that some crazy fans in Calgary or wherever are grilling out before a game. In fact, tell you what… let’s Google this action right now and see what comes up:
Ok, so that seems comprehensive enough. Internet Rule #487 is that if at least two people are doing it and talking about it on a website, it’s a thing that exists. Funny enough, that’s also the definition of Rule #34. But we never, ever talk about Rule #34. (seriously. Don’t search for that within 50 miles of your work computer).
But besides all that, the actual fervor in this room was ridiculous. The Flying Puck is located just two or three blocks from Madison Square Garden (which, so far as I’m concerned, counts as a parking lot, since Madison Square Garden doesn’t really have one otherwise).
Madison Square Garden (Photo Credit: Paul Bereswill/Getty Images)
But I swear that this crowd was more raucous than any that could have been in MSG. Maybe it was because everyone was cramped together in some pretty close quarters. Maybe this is just how hockey/Ranger fans are in general. I don’t know. All I know is that there should be no doubt that these guys were tailgating.
Of course, this might break the typical conventions of, you know, needing a car and a parking lot. But given the circumstances, I think this was as close as you could get for a Rangers game. Just because MSG doesn’t have a lot of parking space, or (I would suppose) liberal parking lot grilling laws, should they be denied the heavenly joys of tailgating?
Absolutely not. As we’ve stated here before, the joy of this activity is acceptance, and the fostering of a community. I suspect that these people took to the Flying Puck because it was their only possible means of tailgating for the game.
This leads, then, to the other question at hand: I arrived during the second period. Usually, tailgates are reserved for before (and, sometimes, after) the event. Can a tailgate rightfully happen during a game?
This question comes at something of an unfortunate time. If we’re going to be scientific about how far we’re stretching the boundaries of tailgating, what we should have done is create a perfect “control” tailgate, and tested a new variable each week. But now, we’re concluding that hockey games in bars can be tailgates, and then wondering if those tailgates can happen during games.
The Flying Puck (Photo Credit: Brian Cullen)
Well. The Nobel Committee won’t be giving me any citations any time soon. But whatever.
Here’s what I think — the answer to this one is yes, with a BIG FAT ASTERISK on it. I think you can tailgate during a game, only if the following conditions are met:
1. You do not have tickets to the game.
2. You have taken every reasonable step to procure non-bankrupting tickets to the game.
3. You are within close proximity to the stadium. Preferably a ½ mile or less.
4. You are one of 10+ people tailgating. It’s gotta be a big crowd. (I’ve “tailgated” with two people during a Giants game. That doesn’t count.)