Fans Slap Happy that Hockey Comes to Yankee Stadium
By Howard Goldin
BRONX, NEW YORK, JANUARY 24- Preparations are currently underway for the construction of a hockey rink on the field of Yankee Stadium that will serve as the “playing field” for all three local NHL franchises, New York Rangers, New York islanders and New Jersey Devils.
Each of the three rivals will have an opportunity to play an outdoor NHL game at the legendary baseball stadium. A Saturday matinee beginning at 12:30 pm on January 26 will feature the Rangers and Devils in a regular season contest. Three days later at 7:30 p.m., the Rangers will return to the ice to face the Islanders. Both games will be hard fought contests as they will count in the regular season standings, and thus, have a direct effect of the teams qualifying for the playoffs.
The intricate and time consuming work of setting up a hockey rink on the Yankee stadium grass is being supervised by Michael Craig, the NHL’s senior manager of facilities, who remarked with awe of his surroundings, “Yankee Stadium is a bit of a fairy tale. I’m from a small town in Western Canada, so to be standing here in New York at Yankee Stadium is pretty special.”
Craig was not the only NHL employee thrilled to be at Yankee Stadium. Matt Moulson of the Islanders, who was at the August 8 Yankee Stadium press conference during which the games were publicly announced, expressed his excitement, “I grew up in Toronto but I go to a lot of games at Yankee Stadium. When the Yankees aren’t playing the [Toronto] Blue Jays, I cheer for the Yankees. Every time you come here it’s exciting. We’ll be a little part of the history of Yankee Stadium.”
A veteran of the Devils since the 2006-7 season, Travis Sajac, spoke of his joy in making his first visit to Yankee Stadium, “I’ve been with the Devils for eight years and never been to Yankee Stadium. I’m kind of excited about that. You hear all about it and I love following the Yankees, but I’ve never been to a game.”
There will probably be several thousand hockey fans attending the games that have never been inside the showplace on 161st Street before and will also feel the thrill of bring inside the world renowned sports venue.
To add to the excitement of the debut of NHL hockey at Yankee Stadium, the 161st Business Improvement District (BID) has scheduled Winterfest, an exciting day of related activities, from 10 a.m.- 4 p.m., on 161st Street. Placards posted in the neighborhood announce an ice statute of Yankee hero Mariano Rivera, free autographs, games and food.
The statue was commissioned by the BID, in the words of its executive director, Dr. Cary Goodman, “to honor the pitcher, celebrate the renaming of River Ave. in his name and enhance the beauty of the district.”
The other fun and interactive events were scheduled because, according to Goodman, “We want the neighborhood to be part of this historic event.”
Those attendees who never viewed hockey in person previously will be seeing it played at a very high level and outdoors, the manner in which youngsters in Canada first experience learning the game.
The Coors Light NHL Stadium Series, in the Bronx, televised nationally one week before the starts of the Winter Olympic Games, will also enhance the interest of people in the borough and the entire country in the sport that will be played in February in Sochi.