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2024 Stanley Cup Playoffs

Being on Stage at Madison Square Garden has Florida Panthers ‘Jacked’



Madison square garden

There is a reason why Madison Square Garden is called, ‘The World’s Most Famous Arena.’

It’s big, noisy, and home to two of the most visible hockey and basketball teams in the world.

In good times and bad, the Garden is sold out for hockey.

It’s in New York, the media capital of the world.

For hockey enthusiasts, it is home to the loudest, most vocal, and sometimes most obnoxious fans in the league.

Some of hockey’s protocols today stemmed directly from events at the Garden.

Covered tunnels to protect players as they go to and from the dressing rooms came after a near riot at a Rangers-Bruins game in 1979.

Before the electronics age, goal judges flipped a switch while sitting behind the end glass to signify a goal.

Their location was enclosed for protection after a 1964 incident at the Garden.

All of which brings us to 2024 and the Eastern Conference final between the Rangers and Panthers.

Most players, home or visitors, say there is something special about playing at the Garden.

There is, just like it is a special place to view a game.

Evan Rodrigues is very familiar with Madison Square Garden. He spent seven of his eight NHL seasons in the Eastern Conference.

“I think it’s just MSG,” Rodrigues said. “It’s a pretty loud building—loud anthem, loud fans, a raucous goal song. It’s just a really cool place to play.

“I think we’ll embrace the challenge. I look forward to it.”

Rodrigues said that energy in the building, albeit for the opposition, can boost the adrenaline.

“It talks to the closeness of our team,” he said. “When you get into a loud building like that, it can feel like everyone’s against you. I think that we’re so close that the 18, 20 guys that are on the bench – we almost have the ability to feel louder than the 19,000.

“Obviously, it’s not actually louder, but we’re able to pump each other up. We can drown out the noise and stick to our game.”

Matthew Tkachuk observed that this will be a special series for the Panthers.

The ambiance has a lot to do with it.

“We’re the only game on the nights we are playing,” Tkachuk said. “There’s nobody else on so all eyes will be on us. That just adds on to the whole New York City – MSG – playing the No. 1 team in the league.

“It all adds up right now. This is a very exciting time of year to begin with, no matter who you are playing. To be playing the New York Rangers just adds so much to it. This is a huge stage for our team. It’s different from last year, so we’re really looking forward to it.”

Brandon Montour added: “It’s not only the conference finals, but to play in New York, I think the guys are pretty jacked up about that.”

Paul Maurice looked at it from an overall perspective rather than just this series.

“You just love coming to the rink,” he said. “It’s not so much the bigger stage for the coach as a person, or the player, but for the game. You want the game to be promoted. To do it in Madison Square Garden. I mean that’s the spot.

“You feel like you get to be a part of the game when  you work in the National Hockey League. It’s a dream. To play in a conference final and open in MSG. That’s exciting.”

New York hockey fans are not generally known for their interest in the arts, but they get revved up the moment Grammy award-winning opera singer John Brancy steps on the ice for the national anthem.

Let the games begin.

For the most in-depth coverage of the Florida Panthers:

  • When: Wednesday, 8 p.m.
  • Where: Madison Square Garden, New York
  • National TV: ESPN
  • Streaming: ESPN+/Hulu
  • Radio: WQAM 560-AM; WPOW 96.5-FM2; WBZT 1230-AM (West Palm Beach); WCTH 100.3-FM (Florida Keys); WCZR 101.7-FM (Treasure Coast); SiriusXM
  • Panthers Radio Streaming: SiriusXM 932, NHL app
  • Series Schedule — Game 1: Panthers at Rangers, Wednesday, 8 (ESPN); Game 2: Panthers at Rangers, Friday 8 (ESPN); Game 3: Rangers at Panthers, Sunday May 26, 3 (ABC); Game 4: Rangers at Panthers, Tuesday May 28, 8 (ESPN): Game 5*: Panthers at Rangers, Thursday May 30, 8 (ESPN); Game 6*: Rangers at Panthers, Saturday June 1, 8 (ABC); Game 7*: Panthers at Rangers, Monday June 3, 8 (ESPN). (*) — If Necessary.
  • How They Got Here: Florida d. Tampa Bay 4-1, Boston 4-2; Rangers d. Washington 4-0, Carolina 4-2.
  • Last Season vs. Rangers — Regular Season: Rangers won 3-0
  • This Season (Panthers Won 2-1) — At Florida: Panthers 4 Rangers 3 (Dec. 29). At MSG: Panthers 4, Rangers 2 (March 4); Rangers 4, Panthers 3 OT (March 23).
  • All-time Regular Season Series: Rangers lead 61-34-8, 6 ties
  • Postseason History: Rangers Lead 1-0 (1997 1st)

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