You probably saw a lot of bleary-eyed New Yorkers walking the streets on Thursday morning. That’s because the New York Rangers gave us a night to remember on Wednesday, as it took three overtime periods for the Blue Shirts to take a 2-1 Eastern Conference semifinals lead over the Washington Capitals. This is the kind of stuff that sports fans live for, and people who don’t watch sports can’t understand. The best way I can explain it is that when you watch sports, you never know when something special is going to happen. I am sure everyone who watched Wednesday night’s epic game will remember exactly where they were and who they were with when Ranger forward Marian Gaborik snuck the puck between the legs of Washington goaltender Braden Holtby (especially if the Rangers go on to win it all this year…). New York is one of the best towns in the country for sports, and this is just one of numerous moments that have brought New Yorkers to their feet. It would be a little too much to countdown the top moments in the city’s history, so I will cut it down a little bit. I give you the top five New York sports moments of the past 10 years (literally, since May 4, 2002).
5) Rangers win Game 3 of the NHL Eastern Conference Semifinals
Okay, maybe I’m still feeling the adrenaline from this one. Even so, it’s hard to leave it out. Both the Rangers and the Capitals scored early on in the second period of regulation. From then on, it was nothing but hard-nosed hockey. This game had everything – hard hits, injuries, drama – and best of all, it ended with a Rangers win. Will it mean anything if the Rangers don’t survive this series and move on to bigger and better things? Only time will tell. But I have a feeling people will be talking about this one for a long time either way…
4) New York Mets’ Endy Chavez Robs Cardinals’ Scott Rolen
This one is tough to think about for Mets fans because it came in a losing effort, but WOW what a play it was! There is nothing quite like a Game 7 in any sport, and with the Mets and Cardinals both a game away from going to the 2006 World Series, tension was high. It was in the sixth inning, with the score tied at 1-1, that Cardinal third baseman Scott Rolen hit a fly ball that cleared the Shea Stadium fence in left field. However, Met left fielder Endy Chavez managed to bring it back with an amazing “snow cone” catch over the wall. The Mets would go on to lose, but the play will live on forever.
3) Yankees Win 2009 World Series
It’s hard to pick just ONE moment from this whole playoff run. There isn’t anything that necessarily stands out – just the New York Yankees bringing back what all Yankee fans feel is rightfully theirs: a championship. The Yankees had been suffering from a World Series drought (and I use the term lightly) since 2000. But after missing the playoffs completely in 2008, the team added a new cast of characters. Burly staff ace CC Sabathia, the emotional AJ Burnet and coveted first baseman Mark Teixeira all came to the Yanks prior to the 2009 season. That mixed with the resurgent playoff bat of controversial slugger Alex Rodriguez equaled a 27th World Series for the Bombers (FINALLY!).
2) Aaron (bleepin’) Boone
This still gets me pumped when I think about it. What’s better than going to the World Series? Getting there by beating your arch rival. The Yankees and Red Sox had fought a bitter battle against each other during the first six games of the 2003 ALCS (including a shocking on-field brawl in Game 4). Now in Game 7, the Yankees found themselves down 5-2 in the 8th inning. Still, they managed to rally and tie the score at 5-5 against the hated Pedro Martinez to send the game into extra innings. It was on the first pitch of the 11th inning that scrub infielder Aaron Boone launched a Tim Wakefield knuckleball into the left field seats to send the Yankees to their then 39th World Series appearance.
1) The Great Escape and the Helmet Catch
If you approached a Hollywood producer with a script about Super Bowl XLII he’d laugh you out of the room. The New England Patriots seemed unstoppable in 2007. At 18-0 they were one victory away from becoming the second perfect team in NFL history. Enter the lowly New York Giants – after a roller coaster season, they still managed to make the playoffs on the back of their smash mouth defense. Now they found themselves in the Super Bowl against the Patriot machine. Down 14-10 with less than two and a half minutes left in the game, Giant quarterback Eli Manning led his team down the field to take a 17-14 lead. Of course, the drive was highlighted by Manning’s escape from what appeared to be a sure sack and his gunslinger throw down the field to wide receiver David Tyree, who secured the ball for the catch against his helmet while blanketed by three New England defenders.